While it was a bit more tranquil than the bonfire parties one might normally expect at Midsummer festivities, Scandinavia House celebrated Summer Solstice on Monday with impressive performances from three outstanding musical acts: CALLmeKAT, Samuel Hällkvist and Sæunn Þorsteinsdóttir. In an effort to simulate the ambience of an outdoor Nordic Midsummer evening, the venue had a projection of a gorgeous Danish forest sunset on the side wall, and the terrace was open and refreshments served. Yet with the seating and lighting – there were overhead lights and it was daylight for much of the evening – the setting was more recital than rock concert but no less entertaining.

First up was CALLmeKAT, Danish singer/songwriter Katrine Ottosen who is currently residing in New York while working on a new record. Playing a variety of keyboards and samplers, and all the while charming, CALLmeKAT breezed through a set of dreamy and often melancholic songs with a style ranging from electronic lounge to experimental pop. In addition to her playful and at times sultry vocals, there were whistled verses and even a kazoo in the mix, and the set was peppered with amusing little anecdotes about airports and the music industry. “As a Scandinavian who comes to New York, I’ve had encounters with the American music business,” she said, “but at least I got this angry song out of it,” before launching into the upbeat “Tigerhead.” Others songs included “My Sea,” “Drawn Directly,” “Going Home,” which Ottosen said she wrote while waiting at the Newark Airport, “a very romantic place.”

Next up was a solo performance from New York-based Icelandic cellist and noted chamber musician Sæunn Þorsteinsdóttir (Saeunn Thorsteinsdottir). Playing a cello made in the 1790s, Þorsteinsdóttir captivated the audience with an emotional performance and a selection of classical compositions, including a suite by British composer Benjamin Britten, as well as one of her own arrangements of an old Icelandic folk song.

The evening ended with an engaging set of avant garde music from Swedish guitarist Samuel Hällkvist. Performing as a quartet, the line-up included saxophonist Joel Wästberg, bassist Johannes Burström, and drummer Knut Finsrud. Blending jazz, rock and country, with radio samples in the mix, Hällkvist’s songs have a cinematic feel, with some sounding as though they could have been the score to a David Lynch film.

–Teresa Sampson, Photo by Teresa Sampson

CALLmeKAT will be appearing with Au Revoir Simone at the Northside Music Festival at Warsaw in Brooklyn on June 24, and at Mercury Lounge on June 29.