Danish National Girls Choir
Reviewer John Jane
When Michael Bojesen took over as principal conductor of the Danish National Girls’ Choir (formerly the Danish Radio Girls’ Choir) he not only brought his practical and adaptable style of music composition to the talented ensemble, but managed to significantly raise the profile of an already well established institution.
The touring choir is actually the flagship of a unique musical education programme sponsored by the Danish Broadcasting Corporation that boasts Countess Alexandra Christina of Frederiksborg as their royal patron.
With ages ranging from 16 to 20, the female choir members can no longer be described as ‘girls.’ The 45 young women that make up the touring choir not only sing with a collective beautiful voice, but present a stunning visual performance.
For their first song, the eco-inspired “Plant a Tree,” the ‘girls’ wearing black leotards, took up random positions on and around the Chancel (read stage) in various forms of a crouched posture, then, in context with the music, rising up one-by-one depicting the growth of a forest.
After temporarily disappearing into the narthex to add ankle length metallic-grey skirts to their outfits, the singers re-emerged to perform a pair of exultive songs; the first, the jubilant Gloria in excelsis Deo (Glory to God in the highest) sung in the original Latin form with music adapted by Maestro Bojesen to suite a large ensemble.
It may be said that while Gustav Holst’s most famous composition was The Planets, his best works were written for the fair sex and his first choral work worthy of attention is a setting of Ave Maria for eight female voices. Oratorical in its cadence, the work was primarily dedicated to the memory of the composer’s mother, Clara. Listening to the choir’s joyful rendition drew me back to my first experience of hearing it in St. Paul’s cathedral in London.
Perhaps the group’s most interesting reading was an improbably titled folksong, “To the angel with the fiery hands” for which they were joined by Morgan Zentner on oboe. The song requires the use “kulning” – a technique that produces loud, high-pitched shouting - a sound which most teen-age girls have little difficulty with, however these ‘girls’ made the form uniquely musical.
By way of complete contrast, the singers’ next performance was Tim Christensen’s charming pop song, “Right Next to the Right One.” Barely recognizable from Céline Dion’s recently covered version from her “Taking Chances” CD, Bojesen’s melodic arrangement was sung in English as choir members strolled down the aisles.
The concert concluded on an emotional note with a well-rehearsed encore of Bojesen’s euphonic “Eternity” which the conductor claimed expresses the choir’s friendship with Canada’s west coast.
© 2008 John Jane