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Ullern Chamber Choir at St Michael and All Angels' Church, Watford*****
11:34am Tuesday 12th June 2012 in Freetime
If you wanted a refuge from the European Song Contest, you could not have done better than attend this concert in Watford given by the Ullern Chamber Choir from Norway. The choir comprises some 40 highly skilled singers with well balanced excellent voices. This was the last concert in a tour of famous churches in London and elsewhere.
The style was set by a traditional song in Norwegian, 'Bruremarsj fra Valsoyfjord'. Throughout the concert, it was consistent though subtle in harmony, rhythms and even key. The conductor, Gjermund Brenne, controlled the choir very carefully, even to the details of how they stood when not singing. The acoustics of the church were also very suitable.
The second item, by Arild Sandvold (1895-1984) was a setting of Latin words; as in various areas of Lutheran worship, it seems that traditional Latin words are sometimes used, wich makes the music more accessible here. Similar works by Trond Kverno and Knut Nystedt followed. This music has a traditional feel (whether based on actual folk music or not) with modern compositional methods, speaking effectively to the audience. Brenne then played a group of organ solos by Bjarne Slogedal with a characteristically Northern European simplicity of registration.
Edvard Grieg (1843-1907) was of course much the most familiar of the composers performed in this concert; his interest in Norwegian folk music is well known, and comparable with that of Vaughan Williams in England slightly later. The choir sang Four Psalms, with Bard Bratlie as the baritone soloist.
Experienced in modern opera, he showed himself well able to deal also with the special kind of exposure in traditional religious music, especially with its folksong revival character. There was good balance with the choir and a fine climax.
The concert ended with another sacred Latin work, Unicornis captivitatur by Ola Gjeilo. Again reminiscent of folksong, it brought the concert to an expressive end.