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November 24, 2008

Harmony enriches Trio Mediaeval's austere melodie

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (WI)

Trio Mediaeval, a female vocal ensemble from Oslo, Norway, brought an entrancing program of traditional Norwegian folk music to a packed house Friday evening at All Saints Cathedral. Presented under the Early Music Now Series, the three vocalists were joined by percussionist Terje Isungset, who served as something of a medieval backup band, playing ram's horn, jaw harp and an intriguing collection of simple percussion instruments.

The singers, Anna Maria Friman, Linn Andrea Fuglseth and Torunn Ostrem Ossum, are as respected for their work with contemporary music as with the early music. Friday's program consisted mostly of folk songs arranged for their voices.

The women sing with exceptionally clear, mostly non-vibrato sounds. Singing in harmony, they lock pitches and allow the overtones of the pitches they're producing to create resultant tones. The result is a richly layered sound that gives the impression of more that just three voices at work. At times, the women blended softly articulated sounds to create a ringing swell that resembled the "humming" of crystal wine glasses.

They used the natural acoustics of the performing space to amplify this effect, facing away from one another or strolling through different corners of the church as they sang. The program ranged from snappy, up-tempo tunes with precisely executed lyrics to a tender lullaby, a spirited ballad and some haunting prayers and wordless melodies, many of which segued gracefully into the next selection.

In addition to presenting numbers featuring their trademark a cappella sound, the women accompanied themselves with hand-held chimes on several selections and were joined by Isungset on quite a few tunes as well. Isungset played a colorful mix of ancient-sounding percussion instruments that ranged from familiar drums, bells and tambourines to pieces of wood and bones suspended like chimes, and small stones struck together or scraped across one another for various effects. His jaw harp, one of the oldest musical instruments in the world, added an earthy sound to several numbers.

Many of Isungset's contributions to the concert, including the timeless wail of a ram's horn, added an ancient, earthy flavor to the crystalline sounds of the vocalists. But a few times over the course of the evening, the rattles and clicks of the instruments became more clutter than musical enhancement.

Posted by acapnews at November 24, 2008 9:10 PM

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