Árstíðir, an a-cappella singing group from Iceland, who were touring in Germany in 2013, found themselves in the railway station at Wuppertal after a concert, and were so taken with the acoustic quality of the booking hall that they decided to make use of it, and to sing a 13th century Icelandic hymn before catching their train – as one does.. A sort of impromptu Flash Mob.
I know that this happened in 2013, and that this little video went viral about as soon as it was posted – but I have only just now become aware of it, and I suspect there are lots of other people out there who missed it in 2013, so here it is again for all of us who missed it the first time round.
Isn’t that magnificent? I can well see why the acoustics of that booking hall moved them to want to sing, and to sing that particular song (an Icelandic hymn “Heyr, himna smiður” the words for which were written by Kolbeinn Tumason in 1208. The music was composed in the 1970s by Þorkell Sigurbjörnsson, who was one of Iceland’s foremost composers).
That fantastic decay (as that sort of sound is known to sound engineers, when it takes an age before the sound dies away) simply demanded to be used for a song such as the one they sang. The depth of the sound, the complexity that the slow decay engendered all combined to make it into a superbly moving performance.
I so envy those travelers who were lucky enough to be present while they sang this song. Can you imagine being there and those fabulous singers simply suddenly bursting into that sublime singing? An event to remember for your entire life I would think.
By the way, it wasn’t a set up, they really did simply wander into the booking hall, and registered the amazing acoustics there, and decided to sing that song, as they felt that it would sound perfect in that place. The “performance” was filmed by their manager who was with them, and luckily for us, had his video camera with him, so he was able to film and preserve this performance for the rest of us.
Also notice the way that some of the singers moved about at the start of the song, they were trying to get themselves into the best position acoustically, so that the sound of their singing was optimal in the wonderful echoing booking hall.
In passing, I have a cousin in France who was a choir master before he retired, and whenever I was with him, and we found ourselves driving past a church in some small French village, he would screech to a halt, dash into the church and wander around in it humming loudly, testing the acoustics in case one day he might be asked to perform there with one or other of his choirs.
This was both funny, and somewhat embarrassing as you can perhaps imagine.