The group entered the chapel with a processional piece, singing as they walked and eventually surrounding the entire audience. Their conductor, Håkon Daniel Nystedt, walked to the center of the middle aisle and led the group in a medley of Norwegian folk songs. The group sang an adaptation of the solo kveding style, which is often used at celebrations and funerals in Norway, and the effect in Boe was entrancing.
The folk songs included a lullaby, several religious folk tunes and a halling, a traditional Norwegian dance usually performed by a solo violin but adapted by soloist Berit Opheim for choir. The folk songs, particularly the lullaby and the halling, showcased the choirs ability to stay together despite being so far apart from each other, in addition to their skill with different rhythms.
The Chamber Choir featured folk and contemporary singer Opheim as a soloist to great effect. Opheim wore a slightly more ornate gown than the black-clad chorus members and essentially led the group throughout the opening folk-music medley. Her clear, soaring voice seemed to inhabit the entire chapel space; its hard to imagine a voice coming closer to the a cappella ideal than hers.
Besides the medley of folk songs, the choir also performed three parts of Edvard Griegs final work, Four Psalms. The choir performed psalms one, two and three, although not in order; they walked to the front of the chapel while singing the third, Jesus Christus er opfaren, which actually ended with Kyrie eleison. Even though the songs were all delivered in their original Norwegian, the choir gave full justice to the message of faith embodied in Griegs deathbed composition, which needed no translation.
Nystedt is only 27 years old, and he and many of his choir members appeared unnervingly youthful or uncannily like students around campus. But clearly youth is no determinant of skill, as Nystedt proved throughout the evening, particularly when leading the choir in several pieces composed by his own grandfather, Knut Nystedt. These pieces included O Crux, Peace and Sing and Rejoice, all of which, being in English, provided a nice change from the Norwegian.
All in all, the Oslo Chamber Choir was a welcome break from the usual chamber-choir fare found in North America. For a few hours, Boe Chapel and the audience in it might as well have been in Norway, and the audience, judging by their standing ovation and their demands for an encore, clearly and understandably wished the choir could extend their musical stay.