Jo Freya Solo
…true, to a certain degree. I am often booked by clubs who have a ‘traditional’ stereotype label. They book me because of my legacy and background and often they are as dreadfully frustrated by the labels as I am. They are always keen to say ‘anything goes’ – or almost anything – and as what I do is live, is not noisy and has firm groundings in traditional and contemporary music, I can live up to many reviews which say ‘there’s something here for everyone’.
It is what it says on the tin, my duo with my sister. I had better explain that I was originally Jo Fraser but changed my name when I joined Equity as they already had a Jo Fraser, Freya was the nearest I could get.
We don’t gig very often but when we do it’s lovely. There is something special about sibling voices and we play tunes as well as sing.
The only reason we don’t do more is that Fi works full time and I am torn in many pieces as it is but we have never actually stopped and there is an intention to do a Fraser Sisters CD to add to ‘The Fraser Sisters’ (sadly no longer available) and ‘Going Around’.
Each year new material becomes the main part of the shows but old favourites have to be revisited as there are many beautiful carols that are only sung by us. The repertoire is either sung in a cappella four part harmony or accompanied on various instruments including piano, soprano sax, fiddle, accordion and traditional flutes.
Every year several people say - "Christmas starts with you” and they seek out a place to come and see us often willing to travel far to do it.
Our CD Hark Hark was described in EDS as “ A recording for life, not just for Christmas. As good as that.” and fRoots: “ A seasonal frolic with a special blend of voices that is lusty in both character and attack. Yes Hark Hark fulfils its function, furnishing us with a feelgood festive feast” - These comments aptly describe the live experience. Contact Jo to book.
Where have we been I hear you ask.?
Well there have been illnesses – and a number of babies – but we have never stopped and don’t really intend to. So, if you run dances in your area, how about it? There is me, plus Alice Kinloch, who is truly impressive on tuba and trombone, Jo May on percussion, Heather Horsley on keyboard, Linda Game and Fi Fraser on fiddles (although Fi plays clarinet too) and Jackie Allen playing a bit of fiddle and some sax.?
We do our own calling, thus ensuring that the dances fit with the music. We have a party on stage and that tends to communicate to the audience.
The Lal Waterson Project
Well, despite the wonderful response to the CD and the live gigs, it’s a hard – and large – act to sell. Whilst it is listed here in the archive section it is hoped that we will perform again.?
We came together because I wanted to showcase the wonderful work of Lal Waterson. The band was just fabulous. In addition to myself there were, from Chumbawamba, Jude Abbott on brass and vocals, Harry Hamer on cahon and tablas, and Neil Ferguson on bass and guitar, as well as Jim Boyes on guitar and vocal, Fi Fraser on sax, clarinet and vocal, and Mary Macmaster on electro and acoustic harp and vocal.?
It resulted in one CD - Lal - which was described as ‘’A’ for art’. Not everyone liked it, because it wasn’t Lal of course, and there truly was no-one like her, but I feel happy knowing that we brought new people to Lal's music who subsequently went on to track down Lal’s recordings. What more could you want?
This was a British/Breton collaboration that Dave Groom funded initially and which lasted a year and a half. Sadly not long enough to make an album. It included myself, Mary Macmaster as mentioned above, and then the Bretons: Yan Fanche Peroche on accordion, Helen Brunet on guitar and Brigitte Kloereg singing with me in Breton and French.
Not wanting to let a good thing go unheard, I borrowed Helen for my CD Female Smuggler – and some of the music, too – which has resulted in some great duets between myself and Jude on trumpet when we play them in the Freya Abbott Ferguson trio.
FreyjaThis was a mad, crazy idea to have a euro band. A nightmare to administrate and organise but wow, did we have fun! The first incarnation had Anne-Lise Foy on hurdy-gurdy, Belen De Benito on guitar, Gabbi Mayer on fiddle, Nicola Marsh on percussion, Eva Vavrinecz on double bass, and me.
The second incarnation swapped the percussionist for Jo May (see Token Women) and Maria Jonsson on fiddle. The result was two CDs – Freyja and One Bathroom.
At the time Anne-Lise was only 21 and rather dramatic-looking. This resulted in an offer of marriage in our first sound check at South Hill Park in Bracknell, and in Brittany she had 6 sound engineers all trying to plug in her hurdy-gurdy while we all stood by and watched … how we laughed! Very happy times and many happy memories.
I also take traditional material and play around with it … ooops! Naughty girl! However, some of those naughty re-writes turn out to be very popular, e.g. Female Smuggler and Betsy Walton.
But my composition skills are much wider than that. Whilst the influence of traditional music can always be heard in my work, the end results of my larger compositions are much broader. I have had a couple of opportunities to perform pieces live and they involve me singing and playing live, using a loop and playing to a backing track I have created myself. There aren’t many platforms for this type of work and none of it has been formally recorded.
Also, I am commissioned (as with the Sa Fire project) to write and these commissions can be done to fit specific briefs. I love doing this; it stretches me musically and technologically as I learn to manipulate sound to create the effect I want. The songs that I get commissioned to do also cross musical genres, and the latest one, called Sa Fire, is one of those. I am hoping to get it recorded (or a version of it, anyway) soon.
So if you want music for a new play or show, both instrumental and choral, I’m your gal. I am told I write ‘memorable’ tunes, so I may be just what you need, albeit in my own quirky way.