Rick and I were high-fiving each other after flying from London to Copenhagen, getting through Passport Control with our U.S. Covid documentation (We thought there might be an issue.), and finding the train station, printing tickets, and getting on the right train to Lund, Sweden. What a breeze the travel was!
And then the train stopped at a little town. “We have a falling-down wire across the track and must wait for the professionals. The doors are locked because it is not safe for you to leave the train.” An hour and a half later, during which time there was no fresh air (A Covid concern), no working toilets (a different kind of concern), and we observed all kinds of people safely walking by us on the platform, we were still locked in our train car. The passengers and I became extremely restless (Rick calmly continued to read his Dorothy L. Sayers novel.), and I called the police; it was exciting to be part of an insurgency!
Without warning, the doors opened, and we all fled that wretched train. The wind was so strong it blew the glasses off my head. Somehow we called an Uber and made the rest of the journey to Lund, Sweden in a Volkswagen Golf in time for a quick supper (Swedish meatballs, what else?) and a brisk (because we were freezing) walk to the Lund All Saints Church to hear the Norse Solistkor and their rockstar conductor, Grete Pedersen.
I have been a fan of their recordings and videos for many years, first encountering their wonderfully fresh interpretation of the Brahms Zigeuenerlieder, Op. 103. Later, I began stalking Ms. Pedersen on YouTube and found wonderful examples of her considerable body of work — everything from Bach to Berio. To say that I am a fan-girl is an understatement.
The program, Orphic Songs, consisted primarily of works By Orjan Matre and Hans Werner Henze. They were breathtakingly complex, and the performances felt a bit tentative to me, particularly the Matre. A number of singers were using tuning forks to find their pitches as the piece progressed. I would love to hear the pieces and the choir again when the choir had more time on the Matre, and when, perhaps, my ears are better prepared, and I would love to be able to see a score. They closed with several beautiful arrangements of Norwegian folk songs performed in the round.
The overall sound of the sixteen singers is simply beautiful. If a sound can fit its surroundings, that of the Norske Solistkor does — simple, clear, free, and a bit stark. And these are truly solo-quality singers as was demonstrated many times throughout the program.
Ms. Pedersen was in command throughout with strong, elegant, expressive conducting. She made a number of comments between sets, not a word of which I could understand, but which she delivered with ease and apparent humor. My fan-girl allegiance is not misplaced.
It goes without saying that that this is one of the world’s great professional choirs, and I would say that I can now check them off my bucket list except that when you check something off it means you are finished with it, and in the case of the Norske Solistkor, I want to hear them again…and again…and again.