The music of the Icelandic composer, Anna Thorvaldsdottir (b. 1977), seems to rise out of remote, rugged landscapes bathed in pale Nordic sunlight.
Thorvaldsdottir’s Heyr þú oss himnum á (“Hear us in heaven”), written in 2005 for the Skálholt Summer Concert Series, is a setting of four verses from an ancient Icelandic psalm by Olafur á Söndum (1560–1627). Scored for mixed choir, it is a meditative prayer filled with primal open intervals and set in a veiled low register.
This 2016 recording features the Reykjavík-based vocal ensemble, Schola Cantorum Reykjavicensis, led by Hörður Áskelsson:
Here is a translation of the text:
Hear us in heaven, O God.
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 to you,
into your everlasting glory.
Amen, Amen, may this be done.
- Thorvaldsdottir: Heyr þú oss himnum á, Hörður Áskelsson, Schola Cantorum Reykjavicensis Amazon
Featured Image: the landscape of Iceland