February 3, 2019

SONGS FROM THE TUNDRA – Song Blog in Retrospect

Iceland, photo by Judith Sullivan

While the weather ’round us is still tundral, (and since, coincidentally, the sound files from our recording engineer were just delivered) I thought I’d share a few songs from our concert. So here, friends, is a gift for this frigid day: the two final pieces from Songs from the Tundra

Now, sometimes you just have to prepare yourself for beauty. You might need a cozy chair, a quiet corner, a few deep breaths… and here goes.


First up is “Heyr þú oss himnum á” (Hear us in heaven) by Anna Thorvalsdottir.

Icelandic composer Anna Thorvalsdottir joined her world to that of her ancestors with Heyr þú oss himnum á. A mere thousand years separated text from music, but who is counting?

Anna lives in a most remote region of Iceland. When she composes, she says, she begins by listening. She just listens to the sounds of Iceland. “We live along the shoreline,” Anna says, “because inland is it really too hostile to live. The weather is very extreme, there are glaciers and mountains and volcanoes. The lava fields are very dangerous. …In Iceland one lives on the outskirts of something so powerful, you can feel how small you are. You are very insignificant… but you are part of it, nonetheless.”

Iceland, photo by Judith Sullivan

Heyr þú oss himnum á (Hear us in heaven)

by Anna Thorvalsdottir (Iceland) (b.1977) 

Heyr þú oss himnum á  was recorded live on Sunday, January 13, 2019. You’ll hear it coaxed out of silence and into the marvelous caverns of The Philadelphia Episcopal Cathedral, by a very special group of singers, Variant 6, with whom we shared our concert.

Hear us in heaven, loving Father, 

as we, your small children ask for the fortune to receive eternal life. 

We shall not stray from your path. 

May we help your kingdom to grow here on earth. 

Following your guidance, 

we gather around in your name, and gladly celebrate. 

We cannot make a joyful song unless we are moved by love. 

So let us sing our gentle praise to you, Lord God, in heaven, 

as the truly faithful have done. 

When our poor souls pass away from this world, 

take us, God, unto you, into your everlasting glory. 

Amen, Amen, may this be done.    —Old Icelandic Psalm 

Next up is an absolutely sublime performance of Tonerna (Tones) by Swedish composer Carl Sjöberg, rendered here for our concert by Maeve Höglund and Laura Ward. How perfect an end to our concert was this simple ode to music, penned by a self-taught composer, a physician from the 19th century. It’s actually hard to find anything about Sjöberg, save that he was a healer by trade, and composed this beloved song, known and loved throughout Sweden.

Northern Lights, Sweden

Tonerna (Tones) Carl Sjöberg (Sweden) (1861-1900)

Thought, only the night can know how you struggle!

Music, my struggles ask you for peace.

The heart that suffers,

That suffers from life’s commotion!

Music, to you – to you it wants to escape.    

– Erik Gustaf Geijer (1783 – 1847)

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