El Hambo – Jaakko Mäntyjärvi (b. 1963)
Älä lapsi paljon laula – Juha Holma (b. 1960)
Kolme Karjalaista Kansanrunoa Karhusta – Teppo Salakka (b. 1959)
Miss’ on otso synnyttery
Koirani keränä vieri
Luulin käen kukkuvaksi
Metsän kuninkaalle – Leevi Madetoja (1887 – 1947)
Die Erste Elegie – Einojuhani Rautavaara (b. 1928)
Ave Maris Stella – Edvard Grieg (1843 –1907)
Sommarpsalm (En vänlig grönskas rika dräkt) – Waldemar Åhlén (1894 – 1982)
Och jungfrun hon går i ringen – arr. Hugo Alfvén (1872 – 1960)
Heyr, Himna Smiđur – Borkell Sigurbjörnsson (b. 1938)
Sofđu unga ástin min – Borkell Sigurbjörnsson
Second Eve – Ola Gjeilo (b. 1978)
Trinity – Ola Gjeilo
Ubi Caritas II – Ola Gjeilo
Bumblebee – Anders Edenroth (b. 1963)
Chili con Carne – Anders Edenroth
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The lure of Scandinavia finds a voice in music from Finland, Sweden, Norway, and Iceland. From sacred expressions of faith to nonsense syllables, the texts originate in 13th-century poetry, personal explorations of mysticism, Latin hymns, and the fertile, mischievous minds of contemporary composers.
Charles Bruffy and the Chorale have a demonstrated affinity for the works of Jaakko Mäntyjärvi, particularly in their recording of the composer’s Four Shakespeare Songs of 1984. Pseudo-Yoik and El Hambo, however, are a different kettle of fish, allowing Mäntyjärvi’s wry sense of humor free rein.
Born in 1963 in Turku, Finland, Jaakko Mäntyjärvi is a professional freelance translator and a semi-professional musician with around 100 published works. For five years Mäntyjärvi was composer-in-residence for the Tapiola Chamber Choir.
Regarding El Hambo, from 1996: with tongue firmly in cheek, the composer explains that the hambo is a Swedish folk dance in ¾ time; his “augmented” hambo is “something of a tribute to those folk musicians whose enthusiasm much exceeds their sense of rhythm.” Mäntyjärvi was inspired by Norwegian choral folk song arrangements and “of course,” he says, “the Swedish Chef in The Muppet Show.”
Älä lapsi paljon laula (Do not sing, child) by Juha Holma
Currently Artistic Director of the Finnish Male Choirs’ Union 62-year-old Juha Holma was classically trained in clarinet at the Sibelius Academy, with a degree from Jyväskylä University.
Älä lapsi paljon laula was commissioned by the Finnish chamber choir Cantinovum in 2005, using text based on Finnish folklore and The Kalevala, a compilation of epic poetry describing the country’s national saga and mythology.
Kolme Karjalaista Kansanrunoa Karhusta (Three Karelian Poems) by Teppo Salakka
Multi-talented musician Teppo Salakka (b. 1959) plays clarinet, saxophone, piano, tuba, guitar, accordion, and bass as well as leading two Finnish brass bands, conducting male choirs, arranging, and composing.
Metsän kuninkaalle (The king of the forest) by Leevi Madetoja
A well-traveled Finnish composer who studied in Helsinki, Paris, Vienna, and Berlin, Leevi Madetoja was born in 1887 and died in 1947. In his music remain the traditional sounds of his home in Ostrobothnia and the romanticism of Sibelius.
Die Erste Elegie (The First Elegy) by Einojuhani Rautavaara
In 1993 the Finnish composer Einojuhani Rautavaara finally set The First Elegy of Rainer Maria Rilke to music, after considering it for decades. “I still associate it strongly with the mysticism surrounding the ruins of post-war Vienna,” Rautavaara writes in his notes. “(The angel elegy) had evidently matured in my subconscious in the interim, since the process of composing the work was swift, eager, and fluently self-assured.”
One of the great names in contemporary Finnish classical music, Rautavaara studied composition at the Sibelius Academy, receiving from Jean Sibelius himself a scholarship to study further with Vincent Persichetti at Juilliard, as well as with Roger Sessions and Aaron Copland at Tanglewood.
Rilke was a poet born in Prague in 1875 – this Elegy was one of his last two works, written in Switzerland in 1923, just three years before his death.
Ave maris stella (Hail, star of the sea) by Edvard Grieg (1843-1907)
Ave maris stella is a plainsong Vespers hymn to the Virgin Mary from an anonymous source., popular in the Middle Ages and through the centuries as musical inspiration. Norwegian composer Edvard Grieg’s version was written in Copenhagen in 1893, at a time when he was re-exploring his country’s folk music.
Sommarpsalm (En vänlig grönskas rika dräkt) by Waldemar Åhlén
One of the best-known and well-loved works in Swedish music is Sommarpsalm (Psalm of Summer, or The Earth Adorned) by Gustav Waldemar Åhlén, a Swedish teacher and composer born in 1894. Ahlén served as organist at Stockholm’s St. Jacob’s Church for many years, and died in 1982.
Åhlén’s setting of an old tune uses text giving praise both to the beauties of nature and to God, written by Carl David af Wirsén, a poet and secretary of the Swedish Academy born in 1842 (d. 1912).
Och jungfrun hon går i ringen (And the Maiden Enters the Circle), arr. by Hugo Alfvén
Hugo Alfvén said, “My best ideas have come during my sea-voyages at night; and, in particular, the wild autumns have been my most wonderful times for composition.” Alfvén (1872-1960) was also a painter, conductor, and violinist who attended the Stockholm Conservatory. For 53 years he led the Siljan Choir, and for 29 years he was music director of Uppsala University. Alfvén is best known for evocative orchestral works like Midsummer Vigil and Spring in Roslag, but his choral folk-song arrangements are equally popular, including the dance tune Och jungfrun hon går i ringen.
Þorkell Sigurbjörnsson (also known as Thorkell Sigurbjörnsson)
Heyr, Himna Smidur (Hear, Heaven’s Maker)
Sofðu unga ástin mín (Sweetly sleep, or Sleep, my young love)
From Iceland comes the lullaby Sofðu unga ástin mín, with text by Jóhann Sigurjónsson (1880-1919). Sigurjónsson was a playwright and poet partial to the philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche, and he died of tuberculosis at the age of 39.
Sigurjónsson’s words were set to music by his countryman Þorkell Sigurbjörnsson, a teacher, critic, pianist, and composer in various genres, born in 1938. For over 30 years he specialized in broadcasting new music on Iceland National Radio, and he teaches at the Reykjavik College of Music and the Icelandic Academy of Arts.
For Heyr, Himna Smidur, Sigurbjörnsson used verse written by the ancient Icelandic chieftain Kolbeinn Tumason, reportedly a devoutly religious man who wrote the hymn on his deathbed in 1208.
Ubi Caritas II
Though still in his 30s, Norwegian-born composer Ola Gjeilo has gained an enviable reputation as a pianist-composer thanks to his albums Stone Rose and Piano Improvisations. A past composer-in-residence for the Phoenix Chorale, Gjeilo married choral conductor and former Chorale soprano Laura Inman last May, and they currently live in Atlanta, Georgia.
After studying at the Norwegian Academy College of Music, London’s Royal College of Music, and Juilliard, Gjeilo wrote commissions for the Edvard Grieg Society, St. Olaf College, and Barbara Bonney. In 2012 the Phoenix Chorale released the critically acclaimed and bestselling Chandos recording Northern Lights, devoted entirely to Gjeilo’s music.
Second Eve, formerly known as Secrets & Prayers was written in 2008 in New York City, commissioned by John Byun and the Chamber Singers of Riverside City College (California). An appeal to the Virgin Mary, the work builds to a final majestic, stately phrase and a moving line in the altos.
Trinity is a setting of verse by Metaphysical poet John Donne (1572-1631), dean of St. Paul’s Cathedral in London.
Ubi Caritas II was written for the celebrated ensemble Cantilena and conductor Bjørn Vevang while Gjeilo was in Phoenix this past March. It’s a setting of the centuries-old Latin text “Ubi caritas et amor, Deus ibi est” – “Where charity and love are, there is God.”
Chili Con Carne
Swedish composer Anders Edenroth, who wrote both music and lyrics for Chili Con Carne and Bumble Bee, also founded and arranges music for the professional vocal jazz a cappella ensemble The Real Group. Edenroth’s singing style includes a mellow falsetto, a sound emulating screaming guitars, and his own vocal percussion effects.
As for Bumble Bee, written in 2009, Edenroth explains, “The creative vision I had was to place the pure and simple poem in an effortless and ever-flowing musical world…creating an impression of a bumble bee eagerly flying in a sunny meadow, where the key changes indicate her visit to different flowers.”
Chili Con Carne, from 2006, spins a delectable recipe together with spicy rhythms.
– Katrina Becker
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After earning a degree from Northern Arizona University and working in operations for The Phoenix Symphony, violinist Katrina Becker spent ten years as Public Affairs Coordinator, on-air music host, and producer at all-classical 89.5 KBAQ. She currently continues voiceover work and freelance writing, including program notes and magazine articles.