Folk Songs

Trio Mediaeval

After three very-well received recordings – “Words of the Angel,” “Soir, dit-elle” and “Stella Maris” – combining medieval sacred music and contemporary composition, a strikingly different project from the Trio Mediaeval. Here the singers, “precise and on fire”, in Paul Griffiths’s description, investigate their Scandinavian roots, with a powerful and compelling account of Norwegian folk songs. On several selections they are joined by percussionist Birger Mistereggen, specialist in the rare Norwegian folk-drum tradition. This is a disc that will communicate across categories, to a broad listenership. For the sources that Trio Mediaeval explore here are the same sources that have inspired many Nordic jazz improvisers…

Featured Artists Recorded

February-March 2007, Propstei St. Gerold

Original Release Date


  • 1Det lisle bånet (The Little Child)
  • 2So ro, godt barn (Rest now, sweet child)
  • 3Villemann og Magnhild (Villemann and Magnhild)
  • 4Tjovane (The Thieves)
  • 5Nu solen går ned (The sun is setting)
  • 6I mine kåte ungdomsdagar (In my reckless, youthful days)
  • 7Gjendines bådnlåt (Gjendine’s Lullaby)
  • 8Bruremarsj frå Vågå (Wedding march from Gudbrandsdalen)
  • 9Rolandskvadet (The Song of Roland)
  • 10Solbønn (Sun-prayer)
  • 11Eg veit i himmerik ei borg (I know a stronghold in heaven)
  • 12Nu vilar hela jorden (All the earth now rests in peace)
  • 13Springdans fra vestfold (Dance from Vestfold)
  • 14Eg aktar inkje (I don’t think much of those boys)
  • 15Den elskte Jerusalem (Beloved Jerusalem)
  • 16Till, till tove
  • 17Lova Line
  • 18Danse, ikke gråte nå (Dance, do not cry now)
    (Lillebjørn Nilsen)
  • 19Den signede dag (The day of joy)
  • 20Folkefrelsar, til oss kom (Saviour of the nations, come)
This wonderful trio of Scandinavian women, based in Oslo, has long tantalized audiences with samplings of Norwegian folk songs. Here, at last, is a full helping, infectious and addictive, as warm or meditative lyricism alternates with joyous friskiness.
Jim Oestreich, The New York Times
I think this is going to be a hit – bigger, in fact than Tio Mediaeval’s three former CDs combined. It isn’t a “better” CD than its predecessors are. It’s just that it seems destined to hit listeners in the old part of their brains where genetic memories of sitting around a fire and roasting a deer reside. Whether or not they are of Scandinavian ancestry, listeners will respond to this music. … Alternately ethereal and warmly corporeal, it’s a delight through and through. It might even make you want to play in the snow.
Raymond Tuttle, Fanfare
Es sind Melodien von eigenartig archaischem Reiz, Lieder und Balladen, deren Stimmung sich auch ohne Kenntnis der Sprache vermittelt. Der betörende Gesang der drei Skandinavierinnen wird in einigen Stücken geerdet durch den Perkussionisten Birger Mistereggen – der nebenbei beweist, dass auch die Maultrommel ein faszinierendes Rhythmusinstrument sein kann.
Arnt Cobbers, Partituren
Fremd mutet Vieles an in den norwegischen Folk Songs dieser CD mit dem Trio Mediaeval und ist doch auch vertraut. Schwer zu sagen, ob die drei Damen aus dem hohen Norden gerade eine alte Weise singen, Volkslied oder mittelalterliche Kunstmusik in neuem Gewand. Aber Anna Maria Friman, Linn Andrea Fuglseth und Torunn Østrem Ossum singen im Kloster St. Gerold so betörend schön und geheimnisvoll – von Birger Mistereggen dezent an Trommel oder Maultrommel begleitet – dass man sich einfach den archaischen Klängen, Melodien und Texten … hingibt.
Klaus Kalchschmid, Süddeutsche Zeitung
Dieses Album birgt archaische Kraft und klassische Harmonie, einen Hauch Jazz, vor allem Folklore im besten Sinnen: Lieder von des Menschen Sehnsucht nach klaren unverfälschten Gefühlen. Feine lebendige Musik, die zwar im Klassikregal gehandelt wird, sich aber eigentlich festen Kategorien entzieht.
Jens-Uwe Sommerschuh, Sächsische Zeitung Dresden
Bei ihnen verblüfft und befeuert der Mix aus mittelalterlicher Balladenform und dem improvisatorischen Touch nordischer Volksmusik. Besonderheit ihrer Arrangements ist die perkussive Begleitung durch Birger Mistereggen. Mal Militärtrommel, dann wieder Maultrommel setzen hübsche, eigenwillige Akzente in diesem innigen Folkloreprogramm, das mit der Inbrunst ländlicher Liedkunst nicht geizt und von den Schönheiten einfachen Lebens erzählt, als würden ungeschliffene diamanten besungen. Musik, die zwischen eisiger Seenlandschaft und Kirchenraum ihr Zuhause hat. Zeitlos, schön und schroff zugleich.
Sven Ahnert, Musik & Theater
“We would like to see this recording as our contribution to a living, oral tradition; although these songs bear our musical imprint, they are coloured by all those who have performed and passed on the music before us.”

The Trio Mediaeval have included Norwegian folk songs in their concert repertoire from the beginning of their history. Now this material is the subject of an extraordinary new album, the fourth disc from the Norwegian-Swedish trio, augmented here by percussionist Birger Mistereggen. Its intensely melodic programme - of music the singers have known since childhood - incorporates a wide array of spontaneous interaction and the most diverse vocal techniques, colours, moods and atmospheres. The recording of these ballads, hymns and lullabies arranged for voices and percussion is above all a celebration of music that has long inspired them. The disc’s release also coincides with the trio’s tenth anniversary as a performing group.

Faithful to the musical spirit of the songs and to the storyline of the texts, the Trio’s interpretations of these folk pieces are also strikingly original. As might be expected of a group renowned for its challenges to orthodoxy (the early sacred pieces in their repertoire, after all, were not intended to be sung by women), the trio do not make “authenticity” a goal, but approach the music in a very fresh way, making it “wonderfully alive” (as the Washington Post noted of their folk song performances in 2005).

Folk music, of course, is based on oral tradition, and the multitude of contemporary arrangements and interpretations available underlines their continued importance in Norway’s musical life. The country’s wide and varied heritage of folk music is well documented and researched and, crucially, folk music has remained a living tradition in Norway. It has inspired many musicians from different backgrounds, a phenomenon that can be clearly observed on numerous ECM jazz releases from Jan Garbarek to Frode Haltli and Christian Wallumrød. (In fact one of the tunes recorded by the trio here, the wedding march from Gudbrandsdalen, made its first appearance on an ECM disc 35 years ago, on Garbarek’s “Triptykon”). Trio Mediaeval are not improvisers in a ‘jazz’ sense but their interpretative freedom and spontaneity has caught the attention of jazz musicians (and led to recent live collaborations with Tord Gustavsen, Arve Henriksen, and others).

For their “Folk Songs” project, the trio decided to integrate percussionist Birger Mistereggen, who broadens their sonic spectrum by adding an archaic, and viscerally thrilling, rhythmic counterpoint to the elegant vocal blend. Mistereggen says, “We like to think of the percussion as an earthen element, beneath the ethereal voices up there in the skies.” The notion of accompanying songs with percussion is uncommon today but not arbitrary, and the voice/drums blend has a history in Norwegian folk music that can be traced back to at least the 17th century. The importance of the drums to the folk tradition is explained in the performers’ note in the CD booklet.

“Folk Songs” is the first of the trio’s ECM discs made with the active participation of Manfred Eicher as recording producer (John Potter having supervised recording of the previous discs). Songs selected for the recording made in the generous acoustics of the Austrian monastery of St. Gerold stem from regions such as Vestfold or Telemark and many of them have been sung by the great folk singers of the north. The Trio’s record pays tribute to the influential Norwegian folk trio “Tiriltunga” but most of the arrangements here were shaped by Linn Andrea Fugleseth and Tone Krohn, a folksinger from Linn’s hometown Sanderfjord in the Vestfold county.

The new album will be presented at a special launch event as part of the Ultima Contemporary Music Festival in Oslo on September 30. The trio follows with further concerts in Norway, then dates in England, Germany and France, and a tour of the United States. In February 2008 they head eastward, stopping in Estonia on their way to the Hong Kong Arts Festival.