Scandinavian Christmas Music with "Sons of Orpheus"


Scandinavian Christmas Music Notes to the album “Christmas Music”

Orphei Drangar (The Sons of Orpheus) from Uppsala is a long- established choir with a strong tradition, that also plays a significant role in contemporary musical activities in Sweden. Indeed, OD is something of a pioneer in the development of modern male choir a cappella singing.

The choir was founded in 1853 as a singing society by students of Uppsala University, who were also members of other choirs. What started as a singing society rapidly became an elite group with a leading position among male-voice choirs, a position which is even more evident today.

In many countries male choir singing has lagged behind the development of choral singing in general. OD is an exception and the choir has played a prominent part in the 'Swedish Choral Miracle' which has placed Swedish choirs in the forefront of choral singing in the world.

Credit for OD's development is almost entirely due to Eric Ericson, a legend in his own lifetime throughout the world of choral singing. As early as 1951 Eric Ericson became OD's conductor, a position he retained for 40 years. For much of this time he was also conductor of the two leading mixed choirs in Sweden, the Stockholm Chamber Choir and the Swedish Radio Choir. For his final six years with OD, Eric Ericson shared the position of conductor with Robert Sund, who has now assumed sole responsibility.

OD has an extensive repertoire in a wide variety of styles. The choir collaborates just as naturally with a symphony orchestra as with a Jazz group or with folk musicians. Principally, however, OD continues the tradition of a cappella singing, the most demanding choral art form. Refinement of tone, purity of intonation and precision have become hallmarks of' the choir's performances.

Audiences and critics all over the world are constantly astonished to learn that OD consists almost entirely of people with other professions than singing. OD undertook its first concert tours abroad towards the end of the nineteenth century. During the last 20 years, OD has traveled extensively, winning acclaim all over the world and frequently being hailed as the best male choir in the world.

Scandinavian Christmas Music

For this CD an international selection of Christmas songs has been made. Most of the songs were written in celebration of Christmas, while those which were not have come to be connected with Christmas festivities. Some of the songs are from other countries, the program of Scandinavian Christmas Music also includes some of the most cherished Swedish Christmas songs such as "Jul, stralande jul", "Nar det lider mot jul" and "Glans over sjo och strand".

The Danish is represented in this program of Scandinavian Christmas Music with Nielsen's "Forunderligt at sige". Classic music lovers may be surprised to find a Christmas composition by Jean Sibelius, the baritone solo "Give mig ej glans", here sung by Peter Mattei who has since gone on to world fame as the Don Giovanni of the day (Swedish text).

The program - in addition to Scandinavian Christmas Music - covers an extensive period from Gregorian chant up to our own day. Many of the songs have been arranged for male-voice choir by OD's conductor, Robert Sund. His arrangements seek to preserve the essential style and character of' the original settings.

Two of the younger generation of Swedish opera singers appear as soloists in this collection of Scandinavian Christmas Music: Christina Hogman, soprano, has already embarked on an international career with appearances at the opera houses in Hamburg, Basel and Strasbourg. Peter Mattei, baritone, made his opera clebut at Drottningholm in 1990, even before he entered the Swedish Opera School. (He has since attained fame on the world stage as an outstanding "Don Giovanni".) The organ is played by Bengt Forsberg, who originally took his diploma as an organist but who is best known today as a piano soloist and accompanist to Anne Sofie von Otter.

The conductor, Robert Sund, was originally a bass singer in OD. He studied choral conducting at the College of Music in Stockholm and has collaborated with Eric Ericson for many years. For the six years preceding Eric Ericson's retirement, they alternated as conductors of OD. Robert Sund has made guest appearances with the principal Swedish choirs and is much in demand internationally as a guest conductor and instructor. He also has a wide reputation as a composer and arranger of choral music.

Scandinavian Christmas Music