Local Norwegian choir behind ‘Frozen’ soundtrack set for global album launch

They inspired one of the biggest films in box office history, and now the women of Cantus – the Norwegian choir who sang the opening track to Disney’s animated hit 'Frozen' – are releasing their first album.

Local Norwegian choir behind 'Frozen' soundtrack set for global album launch
Photo: Decca Records

During their first research trip to Norway, as they drove around the country hoping to be inspired by the beauty of the landscape, Frozen’s producers stopped at a shop and picked up some CDs for the journey.

In turn, the producers discovered the ethereal sound of Cantus, the then-hidden voices of Norway, and the yoik – a traditional form of song from the Sami people of the Nordic countries.

Cantus – 32 women from the northern city of Trondheim – not only provided the opening music to the film, but also inspired the costume design with their traditional dresses (bunads) and themes of strong female characters and sisterly love.

Comparable to the chanting of some Native American cultures, the yoik often mimics the sounds of nature, and this is evoked in many of Cantus’ recordings on the new album. The lead track, ‘Vuelie’ – or ‘Earth Song’ – weaves the voices of the all-female choir with steady chanting reminiscent of repetitive rain or snow as in the familiar opening to the hit film.

Written by composer Frode Fjellheim, the involvement with Disney has given the choir and composer much attention across the globe. Since the film’s release in 2013, Disney enthusiasts as well as music and culture lovers have flocked to the country to experience the real Frozen.

 “With this new album, we hope to expose the world to the rich heritage and music in Norway. I’m so proud of the choir, who've worked tirelessly on the recordings. It has been a truly wonderful project to work on,” said Fjellheim via a press statement.

Since its establishment in 1986, Cantus has been led by one of Norway's most acclaimed conductors, Tove Ramlo-Ystad. A singer herself and the choir’s Artistic Director, Ystad focuses on pure and simple vocals, honing in on the beauty of the natural tone, while still maintaining homogeneity. This sound lends itself well to contemporary and traditional Norwegian folk music, for the harmonious yet personal sound for which Cantus have become renowned.

 “We have a saying in Cantus that we give from our hearts to your hearts. With our music, we have the opportunity to give something to other people, to give joy and happiness, and to be a part of that is very special.  I am tremendously proud of everything the girls have achieved,” Ystad said in a press release.

The choir members are women aged between 20 and 40, and all have day jobs outside the choir, ranging from student to nurse, hairdresser, lawyer and architect. The powerful female bond between choir members and their charismatic conductor is evident in their live performances and recordings, and is one of the secrets behind their success, says Decca Records, the record company now bringing the group to an international audience.

The album was recorded in Trondheim, and produced by Jon Cohen, who has 21 top five classical albums – including 14 number ones – and 17 Classical Brit awards to his name.

The album will be released on May 12th ahead of Norway’s national day on May 17th, which sees processions and celebrations throughout the streets, with women all donning the traditional bunads worn by the choir.

The recent signing to Decca Records sees the choir embark on a new chapter in their musical journey, bestowing audiences with their harmonious sounds and reflecting the musical heritage of Norway.


US tourism to Norway still up on ‘Frozen effect’

Two years after the Disney hit Frozen put Norway firmly on the tourism map, the number of Americans flocking to experience the picturesque homeland of the Snow Queen Elsa and her kooky sister Anna continues to climb.

US tourism to Norway still up on 'Frozen effect'
The stunning Norwegian landscape in Disney's Frozen. Photo: The Walt Disney Company
“We are hoping that the US market continues to grow this year,” Mona Raa Ravndal from Innovation Norway, told the country’s TV2 broadcaster. “Compared to this time last year we are a little ahead.” 
Norwegian Airlines is reporting a 30 percent jump in the number of American tourists flying to Norway on its planes this year compared to the first half of last year. 
Innovation Norway signed a partnership deal with Disney to promote the film in May 2013, six months before its release, a deal which has proven to be a brilliant move, given the film’s huge success, grossing $400m by July last year. 
Disney’s cartoonists were sent on a two-week trip to Norway to soak in the sights of Norway and the film includes several Norwegian landmarks, including the Akershus Fortress in Oslo, the Nidaros Cathedral in Trondheim, and Bryggen in Bergen. 
The landscape around the kingdom of Arendelle was inspired by the narrow Nærøyfjord. 
This year’s growth comes on top of a 31 percent leap in the number nights spent by US guests in Norwegian hotels from 2013 to 2014.
The increase in US tourism has also been helped by the strong dollar, which has made Norway the most affordable it has been for Americans since 2002.  
Norwegian Airlines also in 2013 started offering direct flights between Norway and the US at reasonable rates.
“We are now flying about as many Americans as Norwegians to and from the US West coast,” Norwegian’s spokesman Lasse Sandakerveien-Nielsen told the channel. “On the New York-Bergen,  route, we are flying more Americans than people from Bergen.”