Here, Listen to an 800-Year-Old Icelandic Hymn Sung in a German Train Station

Because why wouldn’t you?

And yes, like you, and because we are nerds, it reminded me of parts of the Lord of the Rings soundtrack.

Found here.

18 thoughts on “Here, Listen to an 800-Year-Old Icelandic Hymn Sung in a German Train Station

  1. Fyrstur.

    Yeah there is at least one of us reading this blog.

    Note, while the words are truly 800 years old the tune is from the nineteenth century

  2. Any real nerd knows that Professor Tolkien was a student of old English, Anglo-Saxon and related languages. Hence the similarity.

  3. I Facebooked this, and expressed amazement that harmony that sophisticated was being written in the 13th Century. I was quickly told that the music and harmony were from the 1970s.

    Now, it may be, oskar, that the tune is 19C and the harmony (only) is from the 1970s. I don’t know.

  4. From the YouTube page put up by Árstíðir:

    “Heyr, himna smiður” was written by Kolbeinn Tumason in 1208. The music was composed in the 1970s by Þorkell Sigurbjörnsson (1938-2013), one of Iceland’s foremost contemporary composers.

  5. It’s lovely. But I think I’m a bad person. I kept waiting to hear Jonsi pipe up with a falsetto “Fyooo.”

  6. All twidging about the exactly date of composition aside, this is a gorgeous piece, sung beautifully* in an appropriate space† by this excellent group.

    * In addition to normal rules like being exactly on pitch and having beautiful vocal quality, this kind of music‡ must be sung entirely without vibrato (that is, straight tone) for the harmonics to develop properly.

    † That is, an acoustically “live” space, which is more or less to say it’s a bit echoey. The echo helps those lovely harmonics develop. I used to be able to sing harmonically, and it worked a LOT better in a live space (like this one, or like a stairwell) than in a dead one (like a hotel room).

    ‡ Yes, it was written in the 70s, but plainly in imitation of early music, with harmony that wouldn’t work nearly so well if sung with vibrato (because the vibrato is a pitch waver, the chords don’t develop fully).

  7. It’s wonderful!

    My daughter’s principal passion is medicine but music is a close runner up; she’s a very first first soprano and has done a number of early music pieces.

    Her fiancé is Director of Music at one of England’s oldest cathedrals, so he too has a thing for old, older, oldest music; Zopher, you are absolutely correct in noting (sorry) that vibrato destroys these pieces. Unfortunately most singers are trained in a one way street; once you have the vibrato you can’t get rid of it…

  8. Reblogged this on 58 Day Dreams and commented:
    I’m following this band on Facebook-they are freaking amazing!!! I hope you enjoy the clip! You would never find people doing this in the U.S., this is just one example of why I want to live in Europe, super cool, random people :-))

  9. Xopher: oh, is *that* what I encountered? I was once waiting in an ugly concrete back/fire exit stairwell for my ride and was amusing myself by singing with my echos. I thought it was a really neat experience. (Note: I am in no way a trained singer.)

  10. Mellifluously executed. The guy on the right is being tested and he passes. This is part of an ancient initiation process – known as the ‘ritu musica locus’ – where a lerhling Chorsänger must be able to perform high pitched notes while exceedingly inebriated.

    Somewhat akin to when Jean Claude Van Damme must protect himself in a bar after his master gets him sloshed.

    Good stuff.

  11. Props to the guy on the far right for singing it in the proper German/Icelandic tradition (with beer in hand).

  12. Hell yes! That space is perfect for that kind of singing. I too was surprised by the harmonies but assumed that Iceland had the same sort of interesting harmonic traditions as Bulgaria.

  13. It would be nice to hear 6 mighty basses roll out a Russian Orthodox hymn in one of those cavernous Moscow subway stations.

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