Photo credit: Gerard Collett


æðelfrìth (noun)
pr/ ‘æð εl-fr ıð/  or  / ‘eı dеl-fr ıð/

brass ensemble based arts project, exploring connections between Anglo, Celtic and Nordic cultures, involved with both the celebration of existing heritage and the creation of new repertoire and artworks.

The first questions we’re always asked:

Where does the name come from?

æðelfrìth is an original name, derived from the name of a 7th Century Anglo-Saxon, King Athelfrith of Northumbria. It is adapted for exclusivity, and also to reflect the languages of the countries it represents; ‘æ’ from Norwegian or Danish, ‘ð’ from old English/ Icelandic, and ‘ì’ from Gaelic.


This King lived at a time when Britain was the centre of a struggle between Celts Saxons and Vikings, and so it reflects the focus of the group’s artistic output – the examination of Anglo/Celtic/Nordic connections, both ancient and contemporary.

How do you say it?

Correctly, it is pronounced /æð εl-fr ı ð/  (a-th-el-fr-ith)  – the ‘ð’ (eth) is old English, derived from old Norse. It is still used in modern Icelandic.

Alternatively,   /eı dе l-fr ı ð/  (ay-dle-fr-ith) if you prefer. Or even (add-el-fr-ith) if you must!

Thematic Context:

The forging of English culture through the nation’s turbulent history and blending of neighbouring Celtic and Nordic cultures will provide the themes and mysteries for æðelfrìth to explore and draw inspiration from as an artistic collective.

England in the Dark ages was a place of oppression and instability. The fall of the Roman Empire left the country vulnerable to reclamation from the Celtic tribes that remained and had been pushed north and westwards by the invaders. There were further invasions from overseas, from Saxons, Vikings and Normans. AD 1066 saw the last successful territorial invasion before England was once again brought into civilised rule, towards the path of its own global conquests and the subsequent formation of the British Empire.

The complexity and eclecticism of English culture is owed to this layered heritage. The language itself is understood to be one of the hardest to learn, due to its complex blend of Latin, Celtic, Norse and Norman, which continues to evolve in the modern world. When defined as ‘British’, one must also acknowledge the inclusion of Welsh, Scottish and Northern Irish influences and a wider range of cultural variance still. Therefore the modern idea of a multicultural Britain is nothing radical, just that the input is evermore international as the world becomes more connected.

It is against this historical context that the ideas behind this project have been set, primarily to explore the cultural relationships between the modern-day Celtic, Nordic and Anglo regions. There is much more yet to share between these cultures, especially of what is born out of their spectacular and diverse landscapes; from the rolling green hills and forests of central England, the rocky highlands of Scotland, the jagged coastlines of Cornwall, to the spectacular fjords of Norway and the natural frozen wonders of volcanic Iceland. The influence of these landscapes is still to be heard and seen in artistic interpretations, from pastoral English music and painting to cold minimalist electronic sounds from Reykjavik, sounds and imagery that depict the surroundings of the artists that created them.

There is a great legacy of mythological tale with far reaching and continuing inspiration, such as the Norse Sagas, the legend of Beowulf, King Arthur and his knights of Camelot, and the Celtic warrior Queen Maeve of Connacht. These stories have been told many times in their original form, but have been adapted too by writers to form the basis of their own stories, notably Wagner’s ‘Der Ring des Nibelungen‘, and J.R.R Tolkein’s ‘Lord of the Rings’ are both imaginative adaptations of the Nordic ‘Saga of the Volsungs’.

The medium of brass instrumental music is the offering to this context (at least initially), mostly because it is the field in which the project founders already operate but also because it offers versatility to cover a wide of range of styles, particularly when blended with other appropriate sounds. There are other significant cultural links here though – that is, the brass band tradition (of c19th British origin) from which æðelfrìth has in some ways been spawned from continues to thrive, especially in Britain and Norway. The sound of brass is therefore not misplaced within this context, but yet it is felt there is imagination to have something much new and different to offer.

2 thoughts on “‘æðelfrìth’”

  1. Just heard radio3 performance and liked what I heard, enchanting, thank you.
    Please let me know your gig list and of available recordings
    I live in winchester

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