Songs about holy Mary from the Middle Ages
and Norwegian folk music
Consortium Vocale Oslo
With Berit Opheim, vocal
Rolf Lislevand, baroque-guitars
and Nils Økland, fiddle
The concert “Mariam matrem” brings different musical traditions together. The main theme is Mary as mother, in texts ranging from the Old Testament to Norwegian hymn poetry. A basis for the concert is the Gregorian chant, which is the oldest European church music we have. It was collected and systematized in the 7th–8th centuries based on even older traditions and was noted in musical notation in the early 9th century. The lyrics are taken from the Bible, and in these songs we hear the prophecy about the birth of Jesus (Ecce virgo), about the angel Gabriel who comes to Mary and announce that she will have a child (Ave Maria), and descriptions of the kingdom of heaven (Simile est regnum) , which in the Middle Ages was sung on Marian feast days in honor of the queen of heaven. Mary’s hymn of praise Magnificat is also included. Norwegian folk tunes to Norwegian hymn texts complement and comment on these old, biblical songs. These hymns are connected to Mary, to Christmas and to the New Year.
Mary’s popularity as a saint increased throughout the Middle Ages, and she eventually became the most important of all. We also see that in the music. In the early sources there are no more songs to her than to other saints, such as apostles or
martyrs. But in the High Middle Ages she was supposed to tower over all the others, a position she has kept ever since. Examples of this are Marian antiphons for regular use in the service, such as Alma redemptoris mater, a song which in style is a continuation of the Gregorian tradition, but is later, perhaps from the 12th century. Pilgrimages and the many churches and shrines in Mary’s honor that were built at this time certainly contributed. In the concert we sing three songs from the Llibre vermell de Montserrat (“The Red Book of Montserrat”) from the end of the 14th century. Montserrat (“the serrated mountain”) is not far from Barcelona in Catalonia and was a destination for pilgrims. The book was created so that the pilgrims would have decent and uplifting songs and dances to enjoy themselves with when they came to visit. The lyrics are about Mary as a comforting saint, about Mary as a mother and about how she and her son work together to save the world. If these are songs with a worldly feel for pious entertainment outside the church, we must remember that the Gregorian chants were still sung in the church during the services. The pilgrims at the time therefore heard both new music and music that was already several hundred years old.
Some instrumental interludes give a further look at Maria. Nils Økland is inspired by Heinrich Ignaz Biber (1644-1704) and the unusual violin tunings of his Rosenkranz Sonatas in his Biber style. Motives from the Cantigas de Santa Maria, written for the court of Alfonso X of León and Castile (king 1252-1284), will also be heard.
With this concert, we mark the end of Christmas.
Saturday 22th April 2023
“Three churches in the heart of Oslo”
The cathedral’s priests tell about the cathedral’s history and interior, about the motives of the ceiling paintings and the symbolism of the art. In the cathedral’s 325-year history, various artists and styles have left their mark on the church space. Between the bolls, court organist Kåre Nordstoga plays organ works that further illustrate the era of the art and the content of the motifs. The tour is arranged for visual interpretation and people with reduced mobility. A program with the organ works’ title and composer is handed out at the entrance.
The event is part of the launch of Three churches in the heart of Oslo. Three churches in the heart of Oslo include Oslo Cathedral, Trinity Church and Grønland Church, all located in the center of Oslo. The three independent churches complement each other both in terms of services, cultural offerings and diaconia (care work) and are built on the churches’ different profiles and characteristics.
Three churches in the heart of Oslo present exciting glimpses of their work. You can choose to attend the individual church’s event, or join the walk from church to church.
Organ music by Kåre Nordstoga and gregorian chant by Consortium Vocale Oslo, dircected by Alexander M. Schweitzer