Stellar Heights: Soaring Vocals of 3 Sopranos, Trio Mediaeval

Author: Patty-Lynne Herlevi

Seattle (Washington), USA – The critically lauded Nordic Early Music ensemble, Trio Mediaeval will be touring the U.S. in late March, 2006 in support of their third release on ECM, Stella Maris. The trio comprised of, Swedish soprano, Anna Maria Friman and Norwegian sopranos, Linn Andrea Fuglseth and Torunn Ostrem Ossum began their unique journey into medieval song in 1998. The trio has performed solo, monody and polyphony composed by medieval anonymous composers and by contemporary composers.

Although extremely gifted with three distinct vocal timbres, the sopranos show a great deal of modesty and humility in interviews. Critical acclaim, a growing fan base and comparisons to the widely popular “medieval girl group,” Anonymous 4, has not deterred the vocalists from exploring their vocal abilities further or taking musical risks. The vocalists have been praised for their flawless intonation, their unique vocal arrangements and the beauty of their repertoire. Trio Mediaeval’s U.S, tour includes 7 cities, where the trio will perform both medieval music as well as, Norwegian folk songs.

While early music is an important part of Trio Mediaeval’s activities, it is by no means the only music that they sing. The group performs three distinct types of repertoire: Polyphonic medieval music from England and France, contemporary works, and Norwegian medieval ballads and songs. In some ways, not being a strictly period ensemble has made the trio even more palatable to a wider audience.” (Copper Press Music +)

The vocalists debut CD, Words of the Angel and follow-up, Soir, dit-elle, which featured medieval chants, contemporary compositions and Nordic folk music, have opened doors for the Early Music genre and similar to popular groups such as Anonymous 4 and Dead Can Dance. They offer a respite for audiences seeking the sacred in an overly secular world. While we will never know how singers performed these compositions during medieval times, it’s comforting to think that medieval folk were as moved by the beauty of medieval music as we are today with contemporary interpretations of the ancient songs.

Trio Mediaeval’s third recording, Stella Maris was released on ECM Records during the fall of 2005 and is distributed by Universal Classics in the U.S. Similar to other ECM recordings I have heard, Stella Maris also contains provocative music. The first half of the recording features sacred songs of 13th century England and France. And the second half of the recording, features contemporary sacred compositions, (Catholic mass) written by Korean composer and academic Sungji Hong.

Stella Maris again both juxtaposes and seamlessly blends the old and the new. Chants from the 13th century, most of them from English and French Conductus traditions, are complimented by a new sacred composition commissioned by the Trio. Prior to her ‘Missa Lumen de Lumine,’ Korean-born Sungji Hong had already written several pieces for Anna Maria Friman, whom she had met while studying at York University (England).” (Press Release)

“Missa Lumen de Lumine,” might seem daunting to many experienced vocalists with its built in dissonance and arching vocals, yet the Trio was up for the challenge. The sopranos vocals built tension through vocal entanglement and release when voices are permitted to soar to the rafters. It’s amazing how large three voices can sound. Without any instrumentation, not even an organ booming in the background, Friman, Ostrem Ossum and Fuglseth build large fortresses with their voices or send their voices floating like a feather in a breeze. The vocals on this recording are expressive, somewhat haunting, yet more earthbound than ethereal. All these contradictions add to the excitement of hearing this trio of delightful vocalists perform.

The Sensational Mediaeval Trio’s U.S. Tour, Spring 2006

03/23 – Iowa City, IA – University of Iowa
03/25 – Pittsburgh, PA – Renaissance and Baroque Society
03/26 – Indianapolis, IA – St. Paul’s Episcopal Church (5:00PM concert)
03/28 – St Louis, MO – Sheldon Concert Hall
03/30 – Irvine, CA – Phil. Soc OC /Barclay Theater
03/31 – Los Angeles, CA – Da Camera Society / St. Basil’s Church
04/01 – Seattle, WA – Presented by Early Music Guild, Town Hall