Frode Alnaes/Arild Andersen/Stian Carstensen – Norwegian Christmas Music Christmas Glogg (Kirkelig Kulturverksted)
Skruk & Rim Banna Krybberom (A Lowly Manger) (Kirkelig
Oslo Cathedral Choir The Bells of Christmas Chime Once More (Kirkelig Kulturverksted)
As the holiday season is upon us and for some religious beliefs started some time ago. Often times I feel depressed this time of year with all of the commercialism and sentimentalism that masquerades as joy and peace. This year I am seeking real peace, the kind that doesn’t derive from carefully marketed
products as well as, something authentic that comes from my own heart. I haven’t
reviewed holiday music in the past because up until now, I didn’t see the point.
However the three recordings I received from the Norwegian recording label,
Kirkelig Kulturversted deserve a mention because in total they cover
compassionate holiday music aimed at world peace, choral arrangements and
cocktail lounge music for holiday parties. Some people will choose to express
their compassion this holiday season, some will meditate for peace while others
will embrace choral music or attend various holiday gatherings. Some people will
do all of the above and would benefit picking up these recordings.
Frode Alnaes (guitar), Arild Andersen (double bass) and Stian Carstensen (accordion)
create instrumental cocktail lounge holiday music or a blend of jazz and Euro
folk dance music on Julegloggen (Christmas Glogg). Now I don’t know what
Christmas Glogg means, but I do recognize a few of the classic American and
traditional European fare that appears on this recording. I got a kick out of
the trio’s Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer and thought of all the Sami reindeer
lining up in anticipation to see who gets to wear the red nose this year. After
all, living in the Pacific Northwest (US) the only reindeers I ever encountered
were the claymation ones on TV whereas, Nordic people are familiar with the real
animal as well as, the American imported claymation ones.
Many international favorites such as Silent Night (a song that appears on all
3 CDs reviewed here), Jingle Bells, Irvin Berlin’s White Christmas (which oddly
enough sounds Hawaiian), Rocking Around the Christmas Tree, Santa Claus is
Coming to Town, Ding Dong Merrily on High and Little Town of Bethlehem.
Traditional Norwegian songs that lean towards pastoral fill in the gaps. The
musicians go for cheesy at times which could be fun depending on the mood of the
listeners, but certainly they could get anyone into the spirit of the holidays,
Skruk and Rim Banna’s Krybberom (A Lowly Manger) creates a more sober
mood and one that speaks of homelessness (exile), hope for peace then and now.
These traditional songs sung in Norwegian and Arabic speak of shepherds, angels,
Bethlehem, an exodus to Egypt as well as, death, longing and heartbreak.
Palestinian vocalist Rim Banna (from Nazareth) joins pianist/arranger Tord
Gustavsen, bassist Mats Eilertsen, percussionist Kenneth Ekornes and conducted
by Per Oddvar Hildre. The songs sound like they were recorded in a church or
large hall, creating an almost gothic atmosphere and colored by Arabesque
textures. And the songs range from ambient to absolutely stunning compositions
sung with a great deal of compassion.
Listeners would have to be in the mood for shedding light on suffering upon
listening to this disc. It does act as an almost chilling reminder that only the
privileged few in the world experience the blissful holiday season presented by
the media. But of course we can change that by taking the necessary steps to end
suffering in the world for those who choose liberation. Folkefrelsar Til Oss Kom,
asks us to stop killing children in the name of war, hostility and fearful
thinking. Sarah laments the death of a toddler who was killed by an Israeli
sniper on October 1, 2000 (she could have been any child dying at the hands of a
fear driven individual) and the song, Jamal speaks of a heartbroken lover as she
watches Jamal journey away from his homeland into exile. Other songs, such as
another version of Silent Night and Come All Ye Faithful lighten the tone up a
bit. Overall, if you can handle a dark moment before the candles are lit and
hopes for peace surface in the world, you might actually enjoy the beauty
presented on this carefully arranged recording. It’s about as non-commercial and
universal as you can get without creating Christmas music of the spheres.
The final recording, the Oslo Cathedral Choir’s Det Kimer nu til julefest
(The Bells of Christmas Chime Once More) brings out the big choir (52
members) along with soloists Marianne Hirsti and boy soprano Joachim Sebastian
Kjesbu as well as, harp, guitar, horn and organ. The overall feel is that of
classical music, but they wheel out international favorites including, Silent
Night and A Child is Born in Bethlehem while creating a sacred holiday setting.
Considered a leader in Norwegian choirs, the vocalists and musicians present 17
carols sung with gorgeous harmonies and pristine solos. This disc will be
treasured by many now and in the distant future. It is a must for collectors of
Compliments of Cranky Crow World
Music (Check out other Scandinavian titles on CCWM).