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November 20, 2006

Church Abuzz With the Sound of Medieval Music

New York Times (NY):

The divine voices of Trio Mediaeval entranced a rapt congregation on Sunday afternoon at the intimate Corpus Christi Church in Manhattan. Presented by Music Before 1800, this a cappella trio from Oslo — Linn Andrea Fuglseth and Torunn Ostrem Ossum, Norwegians, and Anna Maria Friman, a Swede — performed an enchanting program that included two of their three specialties: medieval music, both polyphonic and monophonic, and traditional Norwegian songs.

Staying true to the title of the series, the singers ventured into their third strand, contemporary music, only once, with a piece by the Norwegian composer Lillebjorn Nilsen. The program opened with somber English medieval music honoring the Virgin Mary. These items, said to have been revealed to the 12th-century hermit St. Godric in a dream, are the oldest surviving songs in the English language, according to the program notes.

Using just the faintest hint of vibrato, the singers immediately demonstrated their immaculate blend and nuanced control, and the beauty of their clear, fluid voices.

A highlight of the program (and there were many) was “Dou way Robyn/Sancta Mater,” an intriguing 13th-century motet. Ms. Friman and Ms. Fuglseth sang an ostinato phrase in English that sounded like a lullaby, while Ms. Ossum’s voice soared brightly above them singing a Marian hymn in Latin. They performed this tricky piece with graceful precision, fading to a whispered pianissimo.

Their lithe dynamic shading was notable in other works as well, like the 14th-century English song “De spineto nata rosa.” The women all have fine high soprano voices, and Ms. Ossum adds a rich lower range. Their individual timbres are finely balanced. The program also included a Ukrainian song and Norwegian numbers based on hymns, psalms and folk tunes, many arranged by Ms. Fuglseth. They had a soulful, almost plaintive quality to them.

As an encore the trio gave the delighted audience a gracefully spirited rendition of a Norwegian wedding march. Wearing elegantly smocked dresses and high-heeled brown boots, their auburn, blonde and brunette hair cropped short, the women looked as lovely as they sounded.

Posted by acapnews at November 20, 2006 11:25 PM