Christmas with Sissel
Winter Morning brings light and hope
LORI ANN REINHALL
The Norwegian American
Already on Oct. 21, Norway’s songbird and national treasure Sissel Kyrkjebø made available the first song from her new Christmas album Winter Morning, released in full by her own record label, Early Bird Music, on Nov. 28.
For many years now, Sissel has been an important part of the Nordic Christmas tradition. On Nov. 19, she set off on her annual Christmas tour “Sissels Jul”—“Sissel’s Christmas”—with performances throughout Scandinavia, 21 stops in all.
The album Winter Morning was recorded in Salt Lake City with the world-famous Tabernacle Choir and Orchestra at Temple Square under the direction of Mack J. Wilberg and at Whiteroom Studio in Asker, Norway.
This is not Sissel’s first collaboration with the Taberrnacle Choir. In 2006, she was invited to join the world-famous choir for their annual Christmas show, “The Spirit of the Season,” resulting in a recording that rose to No. 1 on the Billboard Classical Charts within five weeks of its release. The Grammy-nominated concert recording was aired nationwide on PBS television right before Christmas of 2007 and then released on DVD. To this day, it remains a holiday favorite on both sides of the Atlantic.
More recently in 2019, Sissel performed with the Tabernacle Choir for their summer Pioneer Day concert in Salt Lake City, another triumphal performance made available to the broader public on YouTube, which resulted in millions of online views.
The first song on the new album, “Winter Morning,” was written by Sissel and her husband, Ernst Ravnaas. It both gives the album its name and sets the tone for what is to come. Along with new and lesser known songs, the album included many well-known and Christmas favorites, including a hauntingly beautiful rendition of “Det hev ei rose sprunge.”
The song “Winter Morning” describes the mood of a Nordic winter morning, while it is still dark, yet there is a certainty that the sun will soon rise and spread its light. It is a song of peacefulness, calm, and reflection.
In a video released with the recording of the new song, “Sissel Talks Winter Morning,” the singer-songwriter explains: “To live in Norway so far north on the earth implies to live half of the year with a lot of darkness, not at least from October ’til around March. And in December, it will in mid- Norway be dark from around 3 p.m. until 9 a.m. the next morning. Of course, when the snow lies on the ground, it helps, but still we have to live with a lot of darkness and we have to learn to enjoy it.
“That’s not always easy, but the people in the Nordic countries have managed to adapt and have a good life inside their homes, for example, with a fireplace and a lot of candles and hot chocolate. My favorite hour, I would say one of my favorite hours in wintertime is right after I get out of bed, and that is to sit in the living room with a cup of tea and look out of the window with all its darkness.”
The music of the “Winter Morning” song is slow and melodic to reflect this quiet morning mood.
”It’s dark, so still, I feel the silence, another morning will soon arise,” sings Sissel. As the choir swells, she sits alone in anticipation of the new day, with all its challenges and opportunities. The lyrics are simple and straightforward—straight from the heart. It is a moment of tranquility and inspiration, as she waits for the sun to rise.
“And that’s what we live for,” Sissel explains. It is the hope of a new day, which is, in essence, the hope we feel during the Christmas season.
Such pure and simple music, even though a mass choir creates the sound and mood—it is a magical musical experience.
“It is a very special experience to sing with a choir consisting of 350 voices and an entire symphony orchestra. With the songs on the album Winter Morning, I get in the winter and Christmas mood, I look forward to sharing the songs with the public and playing them live on the Christmas tour in Norway, Sweden, and Denmark before Christmas,” said Sissel.
For more information about Sissel’s Christmas tour and to purchase Winter Morning, visit her website at sisselmusic.com.
This article originally appeared in the December 2, 2022, issue of The Norwegian American. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.