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“Northern Lights”
Frode Fjellheim and Chistophe Beck: Vuelie
Frode Fjellheim: Dona nobis pacem – Northern Lights – Winter’s Night – Sacred – Aejlies – Njoktje – Kyrie – Psalm – Pater noster – Night Yoik
Hans Adolph Brorson: Mu vaibmu

Frode Fjellheim (Male vocals), Sarah Brandwood-Spencer, Paulette Bayley (violin), David Aspin, Pete Whitfield (viola), Nick Trygstad, Simon Turner (cello), Dan Storer (double bass), Martha Hardman (oboe), Eimear McGeown (flute), Cantus Choir, Tove Ramlo-Ystad (conductor)
Recording: Ora Studios, Trondheim, Norway and JC Music, United Kingdom (2017) – 51’
Decca 4814814 – Booklet in English

Norwegian yoiker/composer Frode Fjellheim predominates this CD with music reflecting images of a population situated atop Scandinavia’s Northern Circle. This thoughtful display ranging from contemporary “modern” to Norwegian folk music, “Northern Lights” also adds an indigenous element, that of yoikes (translated as traditional “songs”) of the Sámi population.

Back in 1986 Tove Ramlo-Ystad assumed leadership of these pristine voices, excelling in a display that’s made a name for themselves. Cantus recently catapulted to world-wide popularity when The Disney Company took a tour to the terrain for an upcoming 3D-animated movie. Mr. Fjellheim’s lead song, Vuelie, was the exacting entrée to the Burbank-based corporation’s highly lucrative 2013 movie, Frozen, which fantastically touched lives outside The Magic Kingdom. Since then, Cantus has been riding a high wave of success…and with just reason.

The opening selection has a raw, unadulterated element of earthy domain, similar to Native American music or, for that matter, the sounds stemming from New Zealand’s Maori tribesmen. What can be said about Cantus is their ability to blend so beautifully, so naturally that the listener almost experiences the feeling of “time standing still.” This all-female 32 amateur member choir molds with a sense of understated grace, poised to push crescendos and retreat where required, yet never overreaching beyond practicality.

From this reviewer’s perspective, one of the loveliest and most innocent melodies is Frode Fjellheim’s own creation: Dona nobis pacem, Latin for “Grant us Peace.” This fitting nomenclature takes us back to John William’s lovely theme song from the Stephen Spielberg 1987 movie, Empire of the Sun with luxuriant legato and simple harmony. Mr. Fjellheim also has his own solo moments, a style conjuring that of shamanistic values. The composition is irrefutably compassionate and endearing.

But impressions of Norway’s climactic harshness envelope another dimension of music. Inside the snowy Winter’s Night we hear a sense of cautious temperament. These female voices dreamily blend into a flurry of sparkling kindness. Somber yet lilting, the piece features harp glissandos and sounds of remote loneliness via Martha Hardman on oboe.

Inside the Kyrie we feel an omnipresence of sacred solitude. There is something majestic and organic that presides. Both Mr. Fjellheim and the Cantus choir incorporate use of striking grace notes likely signifying a style and technique found inside this remote and faraway semi-nomadic culture.

Personally having roots buried deep inside Norway, there’s a realization of how these songs are performed which truly taps at the hearts of these reserved, yet most polite people. Simple and decorous, the message Mr. Fjellheim and Company sends is that of civility, warmheartedness and caring through the medium of music. Superbly constructed.

Christie Grimstad




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