Elysian Fields, Australia’s only electric viola da gamba ensemble, was formed by Jenny Eriksson, Matt Keegan and Matt McMahon in 2015. The band is an ongoing experiment in creating new improvised and composed repertoire for the electric viola da gamba – of which Eriksson is believed to be the only Australian exponent.

Jenny has performed and recorded with jazz and world music artists for many years. Prior to Elysian Fields, her collaborators included Llew and Mara Kiek and Steve Elphick from the Mara! band, horn player and composer, Paul Cutlan, Matt McMahon, Joseph Tawadros, Kevin Hunt and Matt Keegan as well as Susie Bishop and Emily Rose Sarkova from Chaika.

The back bone of Elysian Field’s set list consists of original works written specifically for the line-up by Matt McMahon, Matt Keegan, Jenny Eriksson and bassist, Siebe Pogson. The band’s covers range widely from Eriksson’s unique arrangements of several songs by Marin Marais to charts and folk songs reflecting Jenny’s Scandinavian heritage from the likes of Swedish jazz/fusion guitarist, Mats Norrefalk, e.s.t. and Norwegian pianist/composer, Jan Gunnar Hoff. Joe Zawinul also makes an occasional appearance!

Elysian Field’s influences are as broad as its member’s eclectic interests and include e.s.t., Herbie Hancock, Jaco Pastorius, Tord Gustavson, Victor Wooten, Mats Norrefalk, Jean-Luc Ponty, Weather Report, Mara!, traditional Indian music, Irish and Swedish folk song, Jordi Savall, Marin Marais, John McLauglin, Steve Hunter, Pat Metheny, Jan Gunnar Hoff and Joni Mitchell.

Key achievements

  • In 2015 Elysian Fields appeared live on Radio National’s “The Music Show” and were interviewed by host, Andrew Ford
  • In January 2017, Elysian Fields performed alongside Eriksson’s acoustic viola da gamba band, “The Marais Project” in the first gig of its kind in Australia where acoustic and electric viola da gamba ensembles appeared on the same program
  • In May 2017, the band were guest artists at the “Vivid New Music at the Con” series curated by Dr Damian Ricketson
  • in September 2017, partly supported by a crowdfunding campaign, the band went into the studio to record their first CD
  • November 2017, Sydney International Women’s Jazz Festival
  • Noted in the Sydney Morning Herald, January 2018, as one of critic John Shand’s 2017 “surprise packets”
  • January 2018, appeared with early music gurus “The Marais Project” in a joint performance titled “My Heart So Grieves” which explored music and poetry of the 16th century using the acoustic and electric viola da gambas

Elysian Fields is

Susie Bishop – vocals and violin
Matt Keegan –   saxophones
Matt McMahon – piano
Jenny Eriksson –  electric viola da gamba
Siebe Pogson – bass guitar
Finn Ryan – drums

Media

  • “Here was a head-spinning dialogue between half a millennium ago and now, and a sound as foreign as dreaming someone else’s dreams. It emanated from Jenny Eriksson’s electric viola da gamba, the only example in Australia.” (Sydney Morning Herald May 2017)
  • “The electric viola da gamba sound combined very well with the soprano and alto saxophones played by Matt Keegan and throughout the program the two instruments often played well-blended duets…this inventive program traversed some widely separated musical styles and was warmly received by the sizable audience.”  (Sounds Like Sydney, January 2017)
  • “McMahon’s “For Thomas Wyatt,” the 16th century innovative English lyrical poet, courtier and lover of Anne Boleyn, is eloquently elegiac, its melody Celtic, its tone dark; electric viola da gamba, piano and bass guitar in melancholy embrace… (this concert) certainly conjured other ways of being for the viola da gamba, especially in its electric incarnation—releasing a greater range of sound: double bass and cello-like, firm but warm—in Jenny Eriksson’s more than able hands.” (Real Time Arts, Dec 2014)