Nordic Voices is an internationally acclaimed six-voice a cappella ensemble praised for the depth of its programming and its extraordinary vocal skills. A technically brilliant ensemble, Nordic Voices made a quick sensation in international vocal circles and is now acknowledged as a leader of the a cappella artform. The group’s repertoire spans the Renaissance to the contemporary, on disc and in performances across Asia, Europe and North America. Nordic Voices is unrivaled in the fine art of sophisticated music-making and stylish performance, and as a result have been hailed by international critics for their live appearances and remarkable recordings.
“Such mesmerizing talent is rare…. Whatever language, it was the group’s astonishing range of sonic vocabulary… that thrilled the senses and sent an emotional message no listener could miss” (Washington Post)
One of Nordic Voices’ main goals is to be in the forefront of research into vocal art. The group explores new vocal techniques and new ways of using the classically trained voice. The singers can produce a wide range of techniques, from refined classical sounds to Mongolian overtone singing. The group’s talents were on display at Carnegie Hall’s Weill Recital Hall in New York — “an exquisite performance… a unique ensemble” Read the full review.
Read more in The New York Times.
In performance from Kyoto to New York, and from Munich to Toronto, Nordic Voices has plied a wide spectrum of musical expression, from plainchant to newly works commissioned from leading Norwegian composers, including both the most sacred of religious texts and the decidedly profane. The group’s programming revolves around themes, for example historical figures or textual links, bringing the music to life in sometimes unexpected ways. Their path connects the extremes: Lassus rubs shoulders with Ligeti and Norwegian contemporary composer Henrik Hellstenius, and Dufay with Huber and Nystedt. In a recent programme, Nordic Voices made their first foray into the world of electronics, with works exploiting not only electronic amplification, but sampling, mixing and video-art.
Chandos released the Nordic Voices recording, ‘Lamentations’ in 2009 to quick critical acclaim: “sublime performances…Top class work from Norway’s leading vocal ensemble.” (Classic FM Magazine). The release tour included concerts in Oslo, Bergen and Haugesund in Norway, as well as Stockholm, Helsinki and London. Chandos has also released ‘Reges terrae’ – featuring 16th century music from the time of Carlos V – which was enthusiastically received and was nominated for the Norwegian Grammy Award (Spellemannprisen) in 2007; followed by “Djånki Don”, featuring contemporary music by various Norwegian composers (also nominated, in 2008). The group’s first CD, Sense and nonSense, was released on the Jonathan Digital label in 2002. The CD celebrates a focus on different approaches toward text in vocal music, from the use of abstract phonemes to pictorial storytelling. The group’s latest recording, ‘Himmelkvad’ is “A marvelous disc of Norwegian folk-inspired music performed with extraordinary virtuosity by Nordic Voices” (HRAudioNet). Released in 2012, it includes the opus 42 of Lasse Thoresen, written especially for Nordic Voices, and which won the composer the very highly regarded Nordic Council Music Price in 2010.
“their clear, radiant performances, full of character, are vividly captured by the DSD recording… the music is sumptuously textured and elegantly phrased in these gorgeous realisations.” (BBC Music Magazine)
A recent sampling of their performance schedule includes: a North American tour featuring their Canadian debut at Soundstreams/Northern Encounters Festival; their Japanese debut in Kyoto at the World Symposium on Choral Music; a project with the Norwegian Chamber Orchestra and performances at the Fartein Valen Festival, the Greek festival Modelo in Patras; and a set of seven concerts in five days at the Hardanger Musikkfest in Norway followed by the Festival in Noirlac, France.
Based in Oslo, Norway, the members of Nordic Voices were educated at the State Academy of Music in Oslo and the National Academy of Operatic Art in Oslo, where they specialized in opera, composition, church music and pedagogy. In 2014, Nordic Voices was honored with the Artist of the Year award by the Norwegian Society of Composers.
Nordic Voices is:
Tone Elisabeth Braaten, soprano
Ingrid Hanken, soprano
Ebba Rydh, mezzo soprano
Per Kristian Amundrød, tenor
Frank Havrøy, baritone
Rolf Magne Schmidt Asser, bass
Nordic Voices and the Gryphon Trio will join forces for selected dates featuring a newly commissioned work for piano trio and six voices by acclaimed Canadian composer Jeffrey Ryan with text by Canadian poet Michael Redhill. In a fascinating concert program, audiences will hear the “ringing, clear timbres and impressive blend” of Nordic Voices and the “virtuosity” of the Gryphon Trio [Gramophone].
(The Gryphon Trio courtesy of MKI Artists.)
The Bee Madrigals CD incorporates ecological perspectives in new music. Composer Bjørn Bolstad Skjelbred has written music for Nordic Voices that calls for action, and trumpeter Nils Petter Molvær is guest of honor on the opening track. Still in Silence – watchThis six song cycle focuses on the concern over the mysterious condition called Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD). Bees, as we know, are essential for vast pollination work throughout the flowering world. CCD seems to have many causes, but one of the most significant is the use of chemicals in agriculture. Composer Skjelbred has turned this gloomy development into beautiful and wistful music for six voices alone, specially written for Nordic Voices. Still in Silence – watch
For its latest all-Victoria CD, Nordic Voices has been nominated for an International Classical Music Award. The new Nordic Voices Sing Victoria CD (Chandos/Chaconne) celebrates the extraordinary polyphonic music of Tomás Luis de Victoria, a Spanish composer whose music has continued to move people for more than 400 years and crosses geographical, cultural, and even religious barriers.
Nordic Voices to warm hearts and souls Saturday at Chorus of Westerly Westerly Sun
“Nordic Voices is a polished sextet of performers who stretch the boundaries of vocal music in intriguing ways.” “brilliantly conceived…sung with real sensitivity and commitment.”
“Nordic Voices’ execution was magisterial.” [More]
Classical Voice America
“The performances were all one could ask for, as the extended vocal techniques and rhythmic complexities were handled with consummate skill and ease… an exquisite performance”
“a unique ensemble”
New York Concert Review
“Nordic voices is a mixed, six-voice ensemble with ringing, clear timbres and an impressive blend.”
“…the group charged the evening with entirely unaccompanied singing no less than extraordinary – even far beyond the basic yardstick measurements. Intonation? Impeccable. Ensemble? Unfailing precision in phrasing, dynamics, color – everything finely tuned for a succession of works ever-changing in style and expressive meaning.”
“…staggeringly inventive choral music” “This is some of the most fearless singing I have heard; the singers throw themselves into this difficult music as if it were the easiest repertoire in the world to perform.”
“Specialists in all kinds of vocal expression, this ensemble’s control of intonation and phrasing is absolute. Their default ensemble colour is warm and deep, though they do of course create a remarkable range of texture and timbre.”
Music Web International
“a sonic landscape ranging from luscious Renaissance polyphony to quacks, whistles, groans, and overtone singing, all with great sophistication and ensemble balance.” “expert singing… impeccable intonation…an extraordinary evening.”
Oregon Arts Watch
“…the richness of the Nordic Voices flooded the immensity of the concert hall….left everyone in the audience with the perfect blend of sensations reminiscent of this emotional experience, a mixture as varied and delightful as the evening’s performance…”
The China Post (Taipei)
“Impeccable intonation combined with incredibly dulcet melodious phasing permeated this performance.”
Yellow Springs News
“Nordic Voices are a force to be reckoned with, as much because of their adventurousness and range as because of their specialty and expertise in choral music.”
The Live Music Report
“The singing was excellent, sharp as a knife, and the balance was beyond reproach.”
Morgunbladid, Reykjavik, Iceland
“The a cappella ensemble combined modality and atonality, and text-setting styles ranging from the sublime to the delightfully ridiculous, into a seamless argument – that Scandinavian choral music is a beautiful world unto itself.”
‘With its virtuous and humor-filled interpretation of Ligeti’s “Nonsense Madrigals”, Nordic Voices seizes any audience.”
Stavanger Aftenblad, Stavanger
“…the songs open up many possibilities for creating nuances and making musical points. Nordic Voices never missed any of these opportunities, but let blessed Monteverdi and Gesualdo appear with all the resounding rhetoric ever desired.”
“The Church Music Festival seemed to have reached new heights this year, and the concert by Nordic Voices was no exception. Every soloist had an exceptional voice, all of which combined to make the perfect instrument.”
Morgunbladid, Reykjavik, Iceland
“The vocal ensemble Nordic Voices, showing off a clear and secure intonation, virginal pureness and lots of temperament, performed three songs of the eccentric Italian composer Giacinto Scelsi.”
Värt Land, Oslo, Norway
“The ensemble’s blend was seamless and the purity of sound crystalline.” [premiere: Jeffrey Ryan’s Scar Tissue, with Gryphon Trio] ArtsFile
“Such mesmerizing talent is rare…” Washington Post
“heady listening…” More… “exquisite and beautifully performed.” thewholenote.com
“a force to be reckoned with” livemusicreport.com
New York Times “Are You Ready for Some… Nordic Voices?”
NY Concert Review “an exquisite performance… a unique ensemble”
Fanfare Magazine “six remarkable voices” “staggeringly inventive choral music”
Washington Post “Charged with fire and energy… rock-solid vocal technique”
HR AudioNet “the singing of all concerned is incredible”
Oregon Arts Watch “a sonic landscape… all with great sophistication… extraordinary”
Music Web International “…this is another remarkable, indeed stunning disc.”
Washington Post “extremely refined, balanced, nuanced, and impeccably in tune.”
Classic FM Magazine [CD Review, Chandos 0763] “sublime performances…”
MusicalCriticism.com [CD Review of Chandos release CHAN0763]
Review Excerpts [CD Reviews of Chandos CHAN0673] International Record Review [CD Review of Chandos CHAN0673] “compelling and beautifully moulded performances”
Music Web International [CD Review of Aurora release ACD5055]
Musical Pointers [CD Review of Aurora release ACD5055]
The Live Music Report
Wilhelm Stenhammar: September – listen
Skelbred – Still in Silence – watch
Stockhausen – Stimmung – watch
Shara Nova – Two Lovers – watch
Thoresen – Solbøn – listen
Thoresen – Solbøn – watch
Thoresen – Diphonie – listen
Thoresen – Himmelske Fader – watch
Arvo Pärt: Magnificat – listen
Ablinger – Tog, Viftereim – watch
Luciano Berio – A-Ronne (segments) – watch
Special Project: SCAR TISSUE is a new work for vocal ensemble and piano trio and is available on tour with Nordic Voices & the Gryphon Trio. SCAR TISSUE is the centerpiece of a series of performances that the Gryphon Trio will present over the next several years with Norway’s acclaimed a capella ensemble, Nordic Voices. Every scar – whether physical, emotional, geological, environmental, or cultural – is the end of a three-stage journey. When the body is wounded, it responds with a series of biological processes. Yet, when the healing is complete, it is not returned to its original state. No matter the cause, the resulting scar represents a third state, a “new normal” which allows the body to continue while carrying with it the memory of the past wound.
SCAR TISSUE for six voices and piano trio takes the listener from unity through disruption to healing. Michael Redhill’s concise and evocative poetry unfolds in two parallel processes. Its nine movements are a mirrored mathematical pattern of lines and syllables, while Redhill’s own words are increasingly interwoven with lines from other poets, artfully blending emotion and science to reflect the universality and interconnectedness of this journey. The music has a similar trajectory, beginning with the entire ensemble moving together (“This is who I am, this body”), then gradually separating into various combinations as growth (“Change is the nursery of music, joy, life and eternity”) leads to disturbance, wound, and a central movement of chaos (“A breach opens. In becomes out”). The debris begins to clear in a moment of fragmentary beauty for voices alone (“How we all swiftly, swiftly unwrap our lives”). A “lost arpeggio” and “singing mouths” announce the biological processes of recovery, summoning relicts of musics past. An unlikely lullaby (“Phosphatidylinostol is… like a music that plays under everything”) leads to the final movement of recombination which embraces the “new normal” with a dancing celebration of life (“Eros comes nowhere near this bliss”).
We all carry scars, for in life we have all been wounded in some way. SCAR TISSUE evokes that process through words and music, celebrating the body and its capacity to heal.
SCAR TISSUE was commissioned by the Gryphon Trio in partnership with Chamber Factory for Nordic Voices and the Gryphon Trio. It was made possible with support from Joyce Miller in honour of the Gryphon Trio’s 25th anniversary, the Canada Council for the Arts, and the Sounds of Science Commissioning Club. Jeffrey Ryan jeffreyryan.com