"Thank you so much for your wonderful performance of Norwegian and American music at my birthday party at the Norwegian Embassy. Your selections of Grieg and Gershwin songs were perfect and everyone enjoyed themselves so much - Thanks again!" The Honorable Knut Vollebaek, former Norwegian Ambassador to the United States

 

"Thank you for sharing your wonderful gift of music at the statue dedication ceremony at the Norwegian Embassy in Washington, DC. What a great talent!" Eivind Heiberg, Chief Executive Officer, Sons of Norway

Artist: Linda Priebe Album Title: Land of the Midnight Son: Norwegian Christmas in America Review by Matthew Warnock

Mezzo-Soprano Linda Priebe has put together an enjoyable and somewhat eclectic collection of Christmas songs for her album Land of the Midnight Son: Norwegian Christmas in America. Drawing from American, Norwegian, Huron and Sami traditions, and singing in all four languages native to those cultures, Priebe spans a wide spectrum of musical genres and backgrounds as she takes listeners on a musical journey of holiday favorites and new classics. As well as drawing material from each of these distinct cultures, the album also ventures into the realms of jazz, gospel, classical, and world music throughout its 15 song set list.

Joining Priebe on Land of the Midnight Son is Julliard trained and highly versatile pianist Ola Gjeilo, who, along with Priebe, comes from a Norwegian background. Gjeilo masterfully navigates each piece as the songs move between the classical “A Child is Born in Bethlehem,” to jazz on “He is Holy,” and everything in between. His intro on the latter, though short, perfectly sets up the groove and jazzy feel for this fresh take on a Norwegian holiday classic.

Not to be outdone, Priebe’s husband Brian contributes several memorable moments on trombone, alphorn and percussion. In a similar, chameleon like fashion to Gjeilo’s playing, Brian moves between genres with the greatest of ease, most notably in his trombone solo on “He is Holy” that brings to light the jazz influence in his performing. Quickly switching modes and instruments, Brian masterfully performs the introduction to “Silent Night” with such emotion and character that one wonders whether it was pre-arranged or improvised on the spot. It is moments like these that make Land of the Midnight Son: Norwegian Christmas in America stand out as a Christmas album that shouldn’t be passed over this holiday season.

Though these two accomplished musicians make notable contributions to the album, it is vocalist Priebe that steals the show. Many singers over the years have tackled Christmas albums with varying degrees of success. Where most artists fail is that they don’t bring anything new to the table, rehashing the same old repertoire with the same dusty arrangements, and think that people will want to hear it. Priebe is most successful in her ability to not only bring new repertoire from the Norwegian, Sami and Huron traditions into the fold, but also to give fresh interpretations of classics like “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus” and “Christmas Time is Here.”

If the arrangements don’t draw the listener’s attention, Priebe’s voice will. With a highly controlled vibrato, clear understanding of melody, and a deep emotional connection to the music, Priebe delivers a solid performance throughout the album. The one detraction is during the jazz tunes. As Priebe is classically trained, she interprets these songs with classical technique, while the rest of the ensemble is swinging and has moved into a more traditional jazz feel.

Land of the Midnight Son: Norwegian Christmas in America is a welcomed addition to the holiday themed music library. The arrangements are carefully crafted, the performances are at the highest level, and Priebe has managed to introduce new Christmas material to the holiday repertoire. When it comes time to update your Christmas album collection, give this record a try. Though Priebe might not yet be a household name, her performance on this record deserves to stand next to any top album in the genre.

Review by Matthew Warnock Rating: 4 Stars (out of 5)

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