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The Trio Mediaeval made a powerful impact in 2001 with their debut album “Words of the Angel”, their highly distinctive vocal sound – a “Scandinavian” sound, as they define it – bringing new perspectives to the performance of sacred music.

“These three women have astonishingly beautiful voices,” Robert Levine wrote in American journal Stereophile, “with individual timbres that nonetheless mingle seamlessly... Trio Mediaeval sings with feeling, depth, and — dare I say it? — soul”. Such sentiments were echoed also throughout Europe. "A most impressive new group,” said Britain’s Early Music Review: “Their clear and unforced voices, with superb control of intonation and blend of tone, combine with an obvious musical intelligence, as evidenced by their ability to shape a musical line and give structure to a piece. Others have tried to reinterpret the medieval repertoire for soprano voices, but none as successfully as this young group."

The Norwegian-Swedish trio was formed in Oslo in 1997 and its musical direction confirmed by intensive study with The Hilliard Ensemble in Cambridge. Ex-Hilliard singer John Potter, currently leader of the Dowland Project, and producer of both the trio’s ECM discs, recalls that the Trio Mediaeval “already had that creative energy and an instinctive distinctive blend when they came to our annual summer school in 1998. This blossomed still further in subsequent visits over the next two years. Their repertoire also broadened during this period, adding a considerable amount of contemporary music to the medieval and Norwegian music that they performed with such élan.”

“Soir, dit-elle” reverses the ratio of old to new music found on the debut disc, though the transition from early to modern is so subtly addressed that the casual listener will more likely find him or herself in what Potter calls “a timeless present”: On “Words of the Angel”, the Trio sang anonymous laude, settings of devotional poems which may have dated from the 12th century. On the current disc, in his three compositions written for the Trio Mediaeval in 2002, Gavin Bryars uses the same texts and stays close to the melodic outline of the original laude. Interacting with the medieval paradigm, Bryars has said he finds himself in a context that is “exposed, so naked and unadorned… where I cannot hide behind, say, a skilfully orchestrated accompaniment – like a painter who has hitherto had the luxury of painting massive canvases with dense oils, being obliged to work in pen and ink, in black and white, on a simple piece of paper, like a Zen artist refusing the possibility of revision or correction”.

Bryars’ Laude provide one thread through “Soir, dit-elle”. Another is the mass of Leonel Power, who rivalled Dunstable as England’s great composer of religious music in the 15th century. The Power and Bryars pieces, interlaced on the album, have the effect of making the performances stand outside the flow of time, a feeling also emphasised in the new music here from Oleh Harkavyy, Ivan Moody and Andrew Smith - all of it written for the Trio Mediaeval, all of it inspired by medieval sources.

John Potter: “For the Ukrainian Oleh Harkavyy and Englishman Andrew Smith chant acts as a kind of essence from which to distil their pieces. The Kyrie, like Bryars’ laude, has its roots in ancient monophony but is entirely modern. Andrew Smith uses the Regina caeli chant as a point of departure for his polyphony. Common to all of these pieces are the Marian texts: each one calls on the Madonna to intercede on behalf of humanity, whether overtly (as in the new works), or almost subliminally (in the mass movements). Trio Mediaeval has been associated with the music of Ivan Moody for several years. The two pieces here refer to two different Maries: In A Lion’s Sleep the 10th century St Simeon of Metaphrastes has the mother of Christ linking theological consciousness with the crucifixion, the resurrection and the intense sorrow of a mother. In the Troparion (a Holy Week text) the 9th century nun and hymnographer Kassia speaks in the voice of the woman who anointed the feet of Christ, whom later tradition identified with Mary Magdalene. The poem traces the journey of the soul away from sin through repentance to salvation. The music takes its cue from the Byzantine chant melody for this text in current Greek Orthodox usage, in this way constantly alternating between the personal and the universal.“

The composers:

Gavin Bryars, born in 1943 in Goole, Yorkshire, started his career from an experimental position rare in British music, and has continued to chart a radical course through his many musical interests, which range from free improvisation through opera and chamber music to installations and early music. His collaborators have included writer Blake Morrison, director Robert Wilson, choreographer Carolyn Carlson and the architect Will Alsop. Bryars previously released three albums with ECM New Series: “Three Viennese Dancers, “After The Requiem” and “Vita Nova”, with performers ranging from the Hilliard Ensemble to jazz guitarist Bill Frisell.

Oleh Harkavyy is a member of the Ukranian Union of composers. He was born in 1968 and currently lives in Odessa, where he studied at the State Conservatoire. His compositions have included symphonic music and piano pieces as well as vocal music. In addition to his work as a composer he is active as a musicologist and pianist.

Ivan Moody was born in London in 1964. He studied composition with Brian Dennis at London University and privately with John Tavener. He later studied Orthodox theology through the continuing education centre of the University of Joensuu, Finland, and is currently pursuing postgraduate compositional work with William Brooks at the University of York. Much of his music is influenced by eastern liturgical chant. He is also active as a conductor, editor and writer. His composition “Words of the Angel” provides the Trio Mediaeval with the title track for their debut disc.

Leonel Power was a member of the household of the Duke of Clarence (brother of Henry V). He later became master of the choristers at Christchurch Canterbury and died there in 1445. He was a major contributor to the “Old Hall” manuscripts and a writer of at least one surviving treatise on composition.

Andrew Smith (born 1970) moved to Norway from Liverpool, England, in 1984. Since completing studies in music and English at the University of Oslo he has worked for the Ultima Oslo Contemporary Music Festival and as organist and choirmaster at the English church in Oslo. His output consists mainly of choral music, but also includes a number of organ pieces and works for ensemble.

The singers:

Linn Andrea Fuglseth was born in Sandefjord, Norway, and completed her Higher Diploma in singing at the Norwegian State Academy of Music in 1997, specializing in baroque interpretation and writing a dissertation on Restoration Mad Songs. In 1994-95 she studied at Guildhall School of Music & Drama in London, receiving a diploma in Advanced Solo Studies in Early Music. She has studied singing with Mary Nichols, Emma Kirkby, Nancy Argenta, Barbro Marklund and Theresa Goble. She initiated Christiania Camerata, a sextet who won two 1st prizes in Tolosa, Spain in 1996, then founded the Trio Mediaeval in October 1997; she arranges the Norwegian music for the trio.

Torunn Østrem Ossum was born in Namsos, Norway, and educated in Oslo, with a degree program in early childhood education, specializing in music and drama. In 1983-84 she studied singing with Svein Bjørkøy at Rønningen County College in Oslo. Torunn has wide experience as an ensemble singer. For seven years she was a member of the Oslo chamber choir Con Spirito, conducted by Helge Birkeland, and since 1991 she has been singing with Grex Vocalis conducted by Carl Høgset, where she also sings as a soloist. Torunn is engaged in several vocal groups in and around Oslo, and with her extremely wide vocal range is much sought-after.

The Swedish soprano Anna Maria Friman is currently doing a PhD at the University of York (UK), where she is researching the modern performance of medieval music. She also teaches singing and coaches vocal ensembles. Her solo engagements have taken her all over the world, and include performances with Gavin Bryars Ensemble, Peter Hill, Red Byrd, Collegium Vocale Gent and the Ricercar Consort directed by Philippe Pierlot. She has a BA in solo performance from the Barratt Due Institute of Music in Oslo, Norway and continued her studies in London with Linda Hirst between 2000 and 2002.
Anna Maria Friman
The Swedish soprano Anna Maria Friman is currently doing a PhD at the University of York (UK), where she is researching the modern performance of medieval music. She also teaches singing and coaches vocal ensembles. Her solo engagements have taken her all over the world, and include performances with Gavin Bryars Ensemble, Peter Hill, Red Byrd, Collegium Vocale Gent and Ricercar Consort directed by Philippe Pierlot. Anna was a jury member at the vocal ensemble competition at the Tampere International Choral Festival, Finland, in 2001 and 2003. Anna has a BA in solo performance from the Barratt Due Institute of Music in Oslo, Norway and continued her studies in London with Linda Hirst between 2000 and 2002.

Linn Andrea Fuglseth
Born in Sandefjord, Norway, Linn Andrea completed her Higher Diploma in singing at the Norwegian State Academy of Music in 1997, specializing in baroque interpretation and writing a dissertation on Restoration Mad Songs. In 1994-95 she studied at Guildhall School of Music & Drama in London, receiving a diploma in Advanced Solo Studies in Early Music. She has studied singing with Mary Nichols, Emma Kirkby, Nancy Argenta, Barbro Marklund and Theresa Goble. Linn has given several performances of Norwegian contemporary music. Linn Andrea is an experienced ensemble singer and leader, as a former member of Grex Vocalis and I Madrigalisti di Oslo, conducted by Carl Høgset. She initiated Christiania Camerata, a sextet who won two 1st prizes in Tolosa, Spain in 1996. Linn Andrea started Trio Mediæval in October 1997 and she arranges the Norwegian music for the trio.

Torunn Østrem Ossum
Born in Namsos, Norway, Torunn was educated in Oslo, with a degree program in early childhood education, specializing in music and drama. She has worked as a kindergarten teacher for eight years. In 1983-84 she studied singing with Svein Bjørkøy at Rønningen County College in Oslo. Torunn has wide experience as an ensemble singer. For seven years she was a member of the Oslo chamber choir Con Spirito, conducted by Helge Birkeland, and since 1991 she has been singing with Grex Vocalis conducted by Carl Høgset, where she also sings as a soloist. Torunn is engaged in several vocal groups in and around Oslo, and with her extremely wide vocal range, she is much sought after.

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