Christmas Music to Write By – A Scandinavian Playlist

Because it’s almost Christmas, and because it’s been a while since I’ve posted some Nordic music on my blog, I thought I’d put together a short little Scandinavian Christmas playlist. Enjoy!

Sissel Kyrkjebø – “O Helga Natt” – Norway

 

Frostrósir – “Fegurð Heimsins” – Iceland

 

Tarja Turunen – “Maa On Niin Kaunis” – Finland

 

Secret Garden – “Fionnuala’s Cookie Jar” – Norway (and Ireland)

 

God Jul, Hyvää Joulua, and Merry Christmas!

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Music Review: “Just the Two of Us,” Secret Garden

After nearly 20 years of composing and performing, the Norwegian-Irish New Age group Secret Garden is going back to the basics, as it were. Secret Garden’s latest album is titled Just the Two of Us, and features Rolf Løvland on the piano and Fionnuala Sherry on the violin.

Even though Rolf and Fionnuala have performed with other musicians, singers, and orchestras for all of their other albums, a duo of piano and violin was always at the heart of their music. For their ninth album, they created a simpler, more intimate experience for their listeners.

Every melody on this album is a delicate resculpting of tunes that would be familiar to long-time Secret Garden fans: “Awakening,” “Song from a Secret Garden,” and “Papillon” are some of my favorites on this album. Two new pieces are featured for the first time here: “En Passant” and the title track “Just the Two of Us.”

There aren’t any of Secret Garden’s upbeat Celtic jigs or songs with full choirs on this album. This easily could have been called “Ode to Simplicity,” as one of the tracks on the album suggests. I feel that Rolf and Fionnuala achieved what they set out to do – create new life while revisiting the past.

If you’re looking for a soothing instrumental album, full of variety but without any jarring musical surprises to interrupt relaxation or enjoyment, then I would highly recommend Just the Two of Us.

Secret Garden’s website

“Song from a Secret Garden”

Music Review: Live Concert – Eivør

I’ve written several music reviews on this blog, and I think I might like to make a habit of reviewing live shows, as well. For that to happen on a regular basis, I’d need to either travel more to find my favorite bands (that would be awesome), or have them come closer to me (that would also be awesome).

This past week, one of my favorite singers did indeed come to me. Faroese singer/songwriter Eivør performed in Washington, D.C. as part of a Nordic exhibition at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. (I reviewed Eivør’s most recent album Room a few months ago).

The concert began gently, as Eivør came onto stage alone—barefoot, wearing white, and silent. She began with the Faroese lullaby “Rura Barnið,” played on the kalimba (thumb piano). The bell-like tones of the thumb piano transitioned seamlessly into the musical intro to “Green Garden.”

Songs from her latest album Room was the theme of the show—she sang “Boxes,” “True Love,” “Eg Veit,” and others. “Rain” was one of my favorites from this concert. Before beginning the song, Eivør announced that she was going to try something she’d never done before, and laughingly apologized in advance if it didn’t work.

The audience sat alert in anticipation as she adjusted the microphone on her mandolin, and then bent over the instrument and sang into it. Using the mandolin’s mic to capture the wailing chant that is the intro to “Rain” was a success, and after a delighted grin to the audience, Eivør played back the track and launched into the song.

I wish I’d been fast enough with my camera to capture that moment. Most musicians sing with their instruments—but leave it to Eivør to take music to a new level of unique by singing to her instrument.

The gentle Nordic fairy that is Eivør on stage disappeared briefly during songs like “Nu Brenner Tu I Mær.” Suddenly she was an angry Viking goddess, full of power and passion.

And just as powerful—maybe more so—was her performance of “Trøllabundin,” another of her classic Faroese songs. For this song, her accompanists left the stage, and Eivør had to fill the space with just her voice and a frame drum.

And fill it she did. Part way through the song I realized that I had closed my eyes. Her voice—quiet and mesmerizing, then loud and primal—enchanted me to a place far beyond the city of Washington.

“Falling Free” was the final song. Eivør’s lingering voice hung in my mind like an eternal free-fall long after the song was finished. The concert ended as it had begun—in beauty and pure music.

If you get a chance to attend one of Eivør’s live concerts, I would highly recommend doing so. And put in a good word for me to ask her to come back to the USA sometime, too. I’m sure she gained some more American fans after her D.C. performance!

Eivør’s website: www.eivor.com

Kennedy Center Feb 046