The members of Nordic Voices are graduates of either the Opera Academy or the Norwegian Academy of Music in Oslo. - Photo by Guri Dahl

A cappella group hits the Nordic sound

Humans' tendency to create and sustain conflict and their contrasting capacity to do good are the themes presented by a cappella group Nordic Voices in its upcoming performance "Lament and Consolation."

Chamber Music Concerts will present Nordic Voices in concert at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Feb. 26, in the Music Recital Hall on the Southern Oregon University campus, 1250 Siskiyou Blvd., Ashland.

Formed nearly 14 years ago, the vocal ensemble from Oslo, Norway, has gained world recognition for its sophisticated musicality and clear timbres. The groups' members, including Tone Elisabeth Braaten (soprano), Ingrid Hanken (second soprano), Ebba Rydh (alto), Per Kristian Amundr7/8d (tenor), Frank Havr7/8y (baritone) and Trond Olav Reinholdtsen (bass), all are graduates of either the Opera Academy or the Norwegian Academy of Music in Oslo.

The group demonstrates a command of overtones and microtonality, simply described by Braaten as the ability to hit the note missing between keys on the piano. Their repertoire ranges from Renaissance to contemporary works.

"The a cappella style of Nordic Voices has a quite traditional platform, derived from the a capella style of groups like Hilliard Ensemble, King's Singers and so on," writes Havr7/8y in an e-mail. "But Nordic Voices has a vocal style that also comes from the sound that is often referred to as the 'Nordic sound,' which means a very pure, well-balanced sound with a distinctive control of vibrato. Together, this sound suits very well the early repertoire from the Middle Ages and into the Baroque era and also contemporary music."

The group's program, specifically the first half, includes songs from its 2009 album "Lamentations," featuring works by 16th- and 17th-century composers Purcell, Victoria, Palestrina and Gesualdo. These works are based on Old Testament verses penned by the prophet Jeremiah during the fall of Judah. The musical message is that conflict and human suffering are topics as relevant today as they were then, says Braaten.

"In the first (half), the music is more dark, and you can hear the suffering," says Braaten.

In contrast, the second half of the program is more uplifting, highlighting lullabies and comforting texts by several Norwegian composers. One such song, "Solb7/8n," is a prayer for help and consolation for everybody, says Braaten. This theme of "Consolation" is, more or less, a naive Norwegian belief that there is good in humankind, she says.

Songs included in the program are sung in Norwegian, Latin or English.

In addition to the performance, Nordic Voices will offer a voice master class featuring students from SOU's voice studios. The free class will be held at 1 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 26, in the SOU Music Recital Hall.

Tickets to the show cost $27 and $32, $5 for full-time students, and are available online at www.chambermusicconcerts.org or by calling 541-552-6154.

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