Any homesick Norske would have felt at home Sunday at First Congregational Church, where the Tronder Choir, dressed in traditional costume, completed its three-week West Coast Tour with a short, engaging program of predominantly Norwegian music.
Directed by Tove Ramlo, the ensemble from Trondheim (Norway's second largest city) exhibited a high level of musicianship and discipline. Drawn from all over central Norway, the musicians have undoubtedly been selected carefully; excellent intonation, rhythmic precision and a rich and vibrant sound characterized their singing. Of course much credit goes to the 29-year-old conductor, who has not only melded the 150 singers into a well-blended, unusually resonant instrument, but has sparked palpable enthusiasm for the music.
That enthusiasm was no more obvious than in "Sing and Rejoice" by Knut Nystedt, Ramlo's own mentor. Catchy syncopations, accessible harmonies and a straightforward rendering of the text make this attractive to audience and singers.
The folk- and art-song arrangements, too, made a strong impact on the near-capacity audience. Particularly interesting, from a harmonic standpoint, was L. B. Sateren's arrangement of "Nu las oss takke gud."
Tenor Kare Bjorkoy gave moving accounts of various Norwegian folk songs and the aria, "Sing Songs of Praise" from Handel's "Joshua." A strong, orotund sound, vocal purity, intelligent phrasing and extraordinary sensitivity characterized his singing. Svein A. Skara accompanied reliably.
Two organ works gave Skara an opportunity to demonstrate his own artistry. The more satisfying of these was Arild Sandvold's "Introduktion og Passacaglia," a work perhaps too long but rich in textural, harmonic and dramatic variety. Skara maintained fine control and brought out contrapuntal lines with clarity.