“Krokar”, “länkar” and “krus” (twists, linking and flourishes) are some of the words that folk singers themselves have used to describe the ornaments and trills in their singing. In Swedish the words are quite descriptive: ”Krok” means something which bends or wriggles, and the same word is used to describe, for example a crooked road. ”Länkar” means to link things together as in a chain. ”Krus” - an embellishment, or what you do, when wrapping a gift, to make the ribbon go curly! There are many words and expressions to describe ornamentation in song – “cherished children have many names” goes the Swedish proverb, and decoration and variation are clearly cherished!|
Folk chorales in Scandinavia, in contrast to ordinary traditional songs and tunes, are usually based on a composed chorale melody. But how the chorale is then sung is a different matter! Per Karins Andersdotter’s (Mora), interpretation of the hymn ”Sion klagar med stor smärta” (Zion laments with great pain) (#3), so rich in ornaments and phrasing, is a far cry from the “skeleton tune” to be found in the 1697 Chorale Book, and yet it is still the same chorale! For me, singing folk chorales has always been about this very freedom of interpretation. How, using simple means, one can vary and interpret spontaneously, and how, through this, one can draw inspiration from traditional chorale singers. In the words of folk singer Skinnar Astas Larsson (f. 1896): “...but then it was strange that the trills were different every time, so you have to get used to it, and put those trills in where we thought they should be”. ...” that’s what they used to do in the old days: change it!"
For me, Scandinavian folk chorales have sincerity, clarity, love and sorrow, but also pungency, strength, bliss, and wonder, all painted in strong colours.
We have drawn inspiration from singers and chorales and have endeavoured to maintain an attitude rich in variation and of our own time, with our oscillating vocal chords and strings in harmony, with our four “voices”.
“Music without ornamentation is like a moonless night, a river without water, a trailing plant without flowers ”? (P. Sambaboorthy, Madras 1931)
Susanne Rosenberg, Stockholm June 2003