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Voces8 is back with another stellar performance, showing just why they are the world’s leading performers of sacred choral music. On June 3, the group released this sublime recording of “Heyr himna smiður” (“Hear, smith of the heavens”), an Icelandic hymn.
The text was written by Kolbeinn Tumason, an Icelandic chieftain of the 12th century. Tumason was one of the most powerful rulers of his time, but today he is remembered primarily as a poet. “Heyr himna smiður” was written as a prayer for strength and the mercy of God. It became popular as a choral hymn after being set to music by various composers in the 19th and 20th centuries.
The text remains the oldest Icelandic Christian hymn still in use. According to Icelandic Review, a 2018 survey revealed that it was also the most popular Christian hymn in Iceland.
The first verse of the prayer reads:
Hear, smith of the heavens,
what the poet asks.
May softly come unto me
So I call on thee,
for thou hast created me.
I am thy slave,
thou art my Lord.
Voces8 gives an outstanding treatment of the music, by 20th-century composer Þorkell Sigurbjörnsson. In reverent fashion, the dynamics of this prayer are quite soft and somber. Be that as it may, the power behind their reverberations was so intense we weren’t sure our speakers would be able to contain it.
While Voces8 regularly releases individual songs, this one is actually the first single of a new album coming this year. Titled Infinity, the album will be released on August 27, 2021, on the Decca Classics label.
Click here to learn more about Kolbeinn Tumason and this 12th-century prayer.