Nordic and Scandinavian Music the Focus of Tabernacle Choir’s Pioneer Day Concert

Contributed By Valerie Johnson, Church News staff writer

  • 22 July 2019

Special guest Sissel sings with The Tabernacle Choir and Orchestra at Temple Square during their annual Pioneer Day concert at the Conference Center in Salt Lake City on Friday, July 19, 2019. Photo by Colter Peterson, Deseret News.

The Tabernacle Choir and Orchestra at Temple Square welcomed back old friend and previous guest artist Sissel in their annual Pioneer Day concert, “Music for a Summer Evening,” on Friday, July 19.

“It is wonderful to be here with you and with this inspiring choir and orchestra,” she said during the concert. “I just have to say, I love to sing with you. And I love to sing from my heart to you.”

In her return to Salt Lake City, the Norwegian recording artist and soloist has learned more about the early pioneers who settled in Utah, many of whom came from Nordic and Scandinavian countries. These cultures became a central focus for the concert.

Sissel introduced the number “Eatnemen Vuelie,” or “Song of the Earth,” a Danish hymn better known as “Beautiful Savior.”

“Just hearing it, you can imagine those Nordic pioneers singing as they drove their wagons and pulled their handcarts west,” she said.

Special guest Sissel sings with The Tabernacle Choir and Orchestra at Temple Square during the Pioneer Day concert at the Conference Center in Salt Lake City on Friday, July 19, 2019. Photo by Colter Peterson, Deseret News.

Special guest Sissel motions to the Orchestra at Temple Square between songs during the Pioneer Day concert at the Conference Center in Salt Lake City on Friday, July 19, 2019. Photo by Colter Peterson, Deseret News.

A French horn with the Orchestra at Temple Square performs during the Pioneer Day concert at the Conference Center in Salt Lake City on Friday, July 19, 2019. Photo by Colter Peterson, Deseret News.

The particular arrangement performed by Sissel with the choir and orchestra was written by the Norwegian composer Frode Fjellheim in 2002. It’s based on yoiking from the Sámi people of the Nordic countries. This traditional music became the basis for “Vuelie,” the opening song of Disney’s movie Frozen.

“Yeah, that’s something you didn’t know,” Sissel remarked at the audience’s hum of recognition.

It was one of several Scandinavian songs and hymns featured in the annual concert—including “Eg veit i himmerik ei borg” (“I Know a Castle in Heaven”), “O store gud” (“How Great Thou Art”), and “Önska dig ett gott nytt år” (“A Happy New Year”)—alongside American gospel songs and the more traditional Pioneer Day numbers “The Handcart Song” and “Faith in Every Footstep.”

Sissel’s performance of “Slow Down” brought the audience to its feet in a standing ovation.

“To be able to hear the still voice in our hearts, we have to slow down,” she said following the number. “But then, what we hear, what we feel inside, often inspires us to get up and get going.”

She then explained that in American gospel music, trains often represent moving forward with faith. The choir and orchestra then performed “The Gospel Train” and a railroad medley. These numbers were especially fitting as this year marked the 150th Golden Spike anniversary, when the Union Pacific and Central Pacific railroads met in 1869.

The Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square performs during the Pioneer Day concert at the Conference Center in Salt Lake City on Friday, July 19, 2019. Photo by Colter Peterson, Deseret News.

Conductor Mack Wilberg leads The Tabernacle Choir and Orchestra at Temple Square’s performance during the Pioneer Day concert at the Conference Center in Salt Lake City on Friday, July 19, 2019. Photo by Colter Peterson, Deseret News.

The Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square performs during the Pioneer Day concert at the Conference Center in Salt Lake City on Friday, July 19, 2019. Photo by Colter Peterson, Deseret News.

The Tabernacle Choir and Orchestra at Temple Square perform during the Pioneer Day concert at the Conference Center in Salt Lake City on Friday, July 19, 2019. Photo by Colter Peterson, Deseret News.

Special guest Sissel sings with The Tabernacle Choir and Orchestra at Temple Square during the Pioneer Day concert at the Conference Center in Salt Lake City on Friday, July 19, 2019. Photo by Colter Peterson, Deseret News.

Conductor Ryan Murphy leads The Tabernacle Choir and Orchestra at Temple Square during the Pioneer Day concert at the Conference Center in Salt Lake City on Friday, July 19, 2019. Photo by Colter Peterson, Deseret News.

Special guest Sissel sings with The Tabernacle Choir and Orchestra at Temple Square during the Pioneer Day concert at the Conference Center in Salt Lake City on Friday, July 19, 2019. Photo by Colter Peterson, Deseret News.

Conductor Ryan Murphy leads The Tabernacle Choir and Orchestra at Temple Square’s Pioneer Day concert at the Conference Center in Salt Lake City on Friday, July 19, 2019. Photo by Colter Peterson, Deseret News.

A flautist with the Orchestra at Temple Square performs during the Pioneer Day concert at the Conference Center in Salt Lake City on Friday, July 19, 2019. Photo by Colter Peterson, Deseret News.

The Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square sings during the Pioneer Day concert at the Conference Center in Salt Lake City on Friday, July 19, 2019. Photo by Colter Peterson, Deseret News.

Conductor Mack Wilberg looks back at special guest Sissel as she sings with The Tabernacle Choir and Orchestra at Temple Square during the Pioneer Day concert at the Conference Center in Salt Lake City on Friday, July 19, 2019. Photo by Colter Peterson, Deseret News.

The Tabernacle Choir and Orchestra at Temple Square performs during the Pioneer Day concert at the Conference Center in Salt Lake City on Friday, July 19, 2019. Photo by Colter Peterson, Deseret News.

The Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square performs during the Pioneer Day concert at the Conference Center in Salt Lake City on Friday, July 19, 2019. Photo by Colter Peterson, Deseret News.

Special guest Sissel sings with The Tabernacle Choir and Orchestra at Temple Square during the Pioneer Day concert at the Conference Center in Salt Lake City on Friday, July 19, 2019. Photo by Colter Peterson, Deseret News.

Special guest Sissel sings with The Tabernacle Choir and Orchestra at Temple Square during the Pioneer Day concert at the Conference Center in Salt Lake City on Friday, July 19, 2019. Photo by Colter Peterson, Deseret News.