They inspired one of the biggest films in box office history, and now the women of Cantus – the Norwegian choir who sang the opening track to Disney’s animated hit Frozen – are releasing their very first album on Decca Records, entitled Northern Lights, to be released on 12th May ahead of the National Day of Norway on 17th May, 2017.
Cantus not only provided the opening music to the film, but also inspired the costume design with their traditional dresses (‘bunads’) and themes of strong female characters and sisterly love.
The choir includes women aged between 20 and 40, all with day jobs outside the choir, ranging from student to nurse, hairdresser, lawyer and architect. The powerful female bond between choir members and their charismatic conductor is evident in their live performances and recordings, producing a sound that is almost otherworldly and one of the secrets behind their success.
From a population of 170,000 in rural Trondheim, 32 women helped unearth the ethereal sounds of Norway to the world. During the first research trip to the country, Frozen’s producers stopped at a shop and picked up some CDs for the journey.
Driving around the country exploring the beauties of the land, the producers in turn discovered the sound of Cantus, the hidden voices of Norway, and the ‘yoik’ – a traditional form of song from the Sami people of the Nordic countries.
Comparable to the chanting of some Native American cultures, the yoik often mimics the sounds of nature, and this is evoked in many of Cantus’ recordings on the new album. The lead track, ‘Vuelie’ – or ‘Earth Song’ – weaves the celestial voices of the all-female choir with steady chanting reminiscent of repetitive rain or snow, in the all familiar opening to the hit film.
Written by composer Frode Fjellheim, the involvement with Disney has given the choir and composer much attentional across the globe. Since the film’s release in 2013, Norway has seen a 20% increase in tourism, with Disney enthusiasts as well as music and culture lovers flocking to the country to experience the real Frozen.
“With this new album, we hope to expose the world to the rich heritage and music in Norway. I’m so proud of the choir, who’ve worked tirelessly on the recordings. It has been a truly wonderful project to work on.”
Image by Geir Vidar Nubdal
Since its establishment in 1986, Cantus has been led by one of Norway’s most acclaimed conductors, Tove Ramlo-Ystad. A singer herself and the choir’s Artistic Director, Tove focuses on pure and simple vocals, honing in on the beauty of the natural tone, while still maintaining homogeneity. This sound lends itself well to contemporary and traditional Norwegian folk music, for the harmonious yet personal sound for which Cantus have become renowned.
Speaking about her time with Cantus, Tove said:
“We have a saying in Cantus that we give from our hearts to your hearts. With our music, we have the opportunity to give something to other people, to give joy and happiness, and to be a part of that is very special. I am tremendously proud of everything the girls have achieved.”