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04Morgunstjarna

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Songs We Love: Trio Mediaeval, 'Morgunstjarna'

Songs We Love

Songs We Love: Trio Mediaeval, 'Morgunstjarna'

04Morgunstjarna

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    Song
    Morgunstjarna
    Album
    Rimur
    Artist
    Trio Mediaeval
    Label
    ECM
    Released
    2017

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On the new album Rímur, Trio Mediaeval teams up with trumpeter Arve Henriksen. Oddleiv Apneseth/Courtesy of ECM hide caption

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Oddleiv Apneseth/Courtesy of ECM

It's a curious thing how ancient music can sometimes sound so contemporary. Listen to "Morgunstjarna," and it's as if three centuries' worth of music history evaporates. The anonymous song from 17th-century Iceland sports a catchy, bittersweet melody and rhythmic hook that pop outfits like Peter Bjorn and John might be happy to whistle.

But "Morgunstjarna" is no pop song. It is, in fact, a hymn to Jesus, "my star of the morn." It's sung in the traditional Icelandic Tvísöngur ("twin singing") style, in which two vocal parts closely intermingle.

­mur, by the vocal ensemble Trio Mediaeval and trumpeter Arve Henriksen. Courtesy of ECM hide caption

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Courtesy of ECM

As the song opens, one of those "twin" voices is actually the breathy, atmospheric trumpet of Arve Henriksen. He appears throughout the new album Rímur, by the vocal ensemble Trio Mediaeval. The result is music that seems old and new at once. (In that sense, it's not unlike a previous project on the ECM label, Officium, which paired Norwegian saxophonist Jan Garbarek with the Hilliard Ensemble.)

Anna Maria Friman, in husky voice, offers a perfect patina over Henriksen's slightly jazzy trumpet. Her colleagues Linn Andrea Fuglseth and Berit Opheim join in after the first stanza, providing an ambling beat. After the second stanza, Fuglseth takes flight, soaring beautifully above the groove. For a few moments, we're caught up in a heavenly swirl of improvisation. There's a repeat of the opening lines and we gently touch back down to earth — a little lost in time, perhaps, but smiling.

Purchase Featured Music

Buy Featured Music

Album
Rimur
Artist
Trio Mediaeval
Label
ECM
Released
2017

Your purchase helps support NPR programming. How?