Northern Lights

We love Norwegian-born Ola Gjeilo (pronounced yay-lo) for his challenging, close harmonies, shimmeringly delicate chord movements, and for the sense of place enclosed in his music. His cold an elegant Tundra (2016) claimed a semi-permanent rotation in our collection.

This season we’ve taken up Northern Lights (2010), an arresting and earnest work. The music is chant-like with swelling and ebbing waves. Listen to it here. The lyrics are taken from a the Song of Solomon (sung in Latin):


Thou art beautiful, O my love, sweet and beautiful daughter of Jerusalem.

Thou art beautiful, O my love, sweet and comely as Jerusalem,

terrible as an army set in array.

Turn away thine eyes from me, for they have made me flee away.

The theme of our concert, this season, is passion of both love and war. We love how the above author portrays beauty as–not a frivolous, passing thing–but as compelling and frightening. As terrible as an army ready for battle. Our experience of love is sometimes solemn and consequential. Important and deeply lovely.

The astute reader may notice the title of the work: Northern Lights seems out of place next to the Song of Solomon. Gjeilo says that while near Oslo during Christmas, he looked out over an icy lake and:


I was thinking about how this “terrible” beauty reminded me of the northern lights, or auroa borealis. The northern lights are one of the most beautiful natural phenomena I’ve ever witnessed, and they have such a powerful, electric quality that must have been both mesmerizing and terrifying to people in the past, when no one knew what the lights were, and when much superstition was attached to these experiences.

–Author’s note, “Northern Lights” Walton Music Corporation, 2016.

Love is like a terrible, beautiful army and like the mysterious, electric Northern Lights on a crystalline winter’s night. Keen. Formidable. Ineffable and momentous.

We look forward to singing Northern Lights and a few others for you on June 10 and 11, 2017. Details coming soon.



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