Icelandic ensemble Umbra was formed in 2014 by four female professional musicians bound together by a passion for ancient and new music: Alexandra Kjeld (double bass and vocals), Arngerður María Árndóttir (celtic harp, organ and vocals), Guðbjörg Hlín Guðmundsdóttir (violin and vocals) and Lilja Dögg Gunnarsdóttir (lead singer, percussion and flutes). From the beginning their vision has been to craft their own musical world with a distinct sound and unique delivery in performing both ancient and new music. The ensemble's repertoire features sacred and secular medieval tunes from Iceland and continental Europe, as well as traditional songs, performed to the ensemble's original arrangements. In addition to that they have been performing Icelandic contemporary music by some of the country´s most prominent composers.
Umbra has already performed at numerous concerts and festivals all over Iceland and in Copenhagen and on a regular basis also collaborating with improvisation artists, visual and dance artists.
Their first record, “Out of darkness” was released early 2018 by independent music label Dimma and followed later the same year by their second album, “Solstitium” which won Record of the Year at the 2018 Icelandic Music Awards.
Umbra is critically acclaimed as “one of the most interesting ensembles” in Iceland, particularly for their musical ambition and “outstanding arrangements” in the field of ancient and traditional music.
“On the album Solstitium, Umbra takes the audience on a transcendental musical journey through dark winter days. The songs, some well known but others less, are formidably arranged and performed by this great ensemble of female musicians. An album of an extraordinarily high quality.” (The Icelandic Music Awards 2018, review of the jury)
Alexandra Kjeld studied violin and double bass at the Reykjavík College of Music and FÍH school of music and completed a degree in Musicology at the Sorbonne University in Paris. She has performed with an array of ensembles, orchestras and choirs, e.g. the Icelandic Symphony Orchestra, the Hallgrimskirkja Motet Choir, Schola Cantorum, and has regularly performed at festivals such as Iceland Airwaves, Reykjavík Culture Night, Folk Music Festival of Siglufjörður and Skálholt Summer Concerts. Throughout the years, Alexandra has also been a member of several music panels and been actively involved in music publishing, writing and concert production.
Arngerður María Árnadóttir studied piano at the Reykjavík College of music and at the Aalborg University in Denmark. She then studied organ at the National Church‘s Music School in Iceland and has for the past years served as Musical Director and Organist at Víðistaðakirkja Church and at Laugarneskirkja Church in Reykjavík. In 2017, she took a sabbatical year to complete a MA degree in Composition at the Iceland Academy of the Arts. Arngerður has also hosted programs on the Icelandic National Broadcasting Service, directed choirs and accompanied a number of choirs, singers throughout the years. She was an active member of the Icelandic medieval ensemble Voces Thules and has also performed with prominent choirs in Iceland such as Schola Cantorum, Kór Áskirkju and Hljómeyki.
Guðbjörg Hlín Guðmundsdóttir studied violin at the Sigursveinn Music School in Iceland and at the Utrecht Conservatory of Music and the Fontys Conservatory of Music in Tilburg. She furthermore studied baroque violin performance, folk music and improvisation with leading performers. Guðbjörg is a member of the Brák Baroque Ensemble and early music ensemble Symphonia Angelica and has toured extensively in Europe, USA and Asia with indie pop bands Seabear and Múm. She has also performed with a number of string quartets, charmber ensembles and symphonic orchestras in Scandinavia and in the Netherlands. During Sigur Rós‘s world tour 2012-2013, Guðbjörg was accompanying member of the band with the Okkr Ensemble.
Lilja Dögg Gunnarsdóttir, mezzosoprano, studied singing at the Reykjavík Academy of Singing and Vocal Arts and completed a MA degree in New Audiences and Innovative Practice from the Iceland Academy of the Arts. She regularly performs as a soloist in early music, 20th century and contemporary projects. She is member of prominent chamber choirs e.g. Melodia and Schola Cantorum, vocal groups Elfur and Harmóníur, and is the co Musical Director and co Conductor of the Katla Female Choir with singer Hildigunnur Einarsdóttir. Lilja is an active arranger for choirs and vocal ensembles and regularly records and serves as Music Director in college and conservatory music productions.