I tried to tell you about this new release from 2L Recordings before the holidays, but I just ran out of time. Fryd, from choir conductor Tove Ramlo-Ystad and her singers, known as Cantus, sounds immediately like Norwegian Christmas music even before a surprisingly beautiful rendition of “Silent Night” is laid as a cornerstone a few songs in.
This is a warm connection that’s being made here–Cantus has recorded for 2L Recordings on several occasions, and Tove Ramlo-Ystad is the conductor. She’s also a serious composer, but only in the sense that she’s helping to shape the performance. As described by 2L Recordings’ Morten Lindberg, “The conductor is in sort a ‘composer’ with these free arrangements being shaped at the moment. But more clearly the vocalist (Unni Boksasp) and the pianist (Trygve Brøske) have arranged and composed most of the folk tunes for this recording.”
If you asked my about my absolute favorite recordings from 2L, I might lean more toward the “folk” albums, the ones that teach me something new about Scandinavian culture. Almost every musical instrument sounds extraordinary in Morten Lindberg’s warm and spacious church settings, so the appearance of a rich ensemble, one where tiny details are created one after another, seems to be more fluid with these Scandinavian folk traditions. In Fryd, the brilliant sound quality comes courtesy of both the rich female voices in the choir and the musical instruments, ones that are crisp and delicate like piano and guitar and a slow, steadily-played pipe organ. Tove Ramlo-Ystad uses her singers to provide much of the dynamics in these songs, with the musical instruments maintaining a firm grasp of the core. It’s a nicely balanced performance.
The idea behind Fryd is a tribute to mothers, especially during the holidays. The word fryd means joy in Norwegian, but there are specific maternal connotations here, especially toward the Virgin Mary. This joy is then brought full circle back to the holidays when you apply the word in distinct ways–joy to the world, joyous celebrations and the fact that fryd is a word that often appears on holiday cards. (I seriously debated over leaving “the fryd is the word” in this review.) We have female performers and a female composer/conductor celebrating mothers and the Virgin Mary and their link to the holidays, and all of the sudden this becomes the type of music, pure and honest, I want to play around the holidays.
A few days ago I was sitting in St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City. I sometimes like to go into cathedrals and soak up the art and the architecture and the atmosphere. Someone joked that I, an agnostic, might burst out in flames, but for me there’s a huge difference between the inside of an old cathedral and whatever religion it represents. Tove Ramlo-Ystad and Cantus have given people like me the ideal Christmas music–rooted in folk and hymns perhaps, but focused on the art and the beauty and love in this world. I’ll look forward to playing this on Christmas 2020.
[photos courtesy 2L Recordings]