A voice to match the majesty of Norway
- The Salt Lake Tribune, the largest newspaper in Utah, ran an article
about Sissel in Sunday's paper.
A voice to match the majesty of Norway
Sissel Kyrkjebo, a star of the Lillehammer Games and a favorite of LDS
missionaries, comes to Utah
By Celia R. Baker
The Salt Lake Tribune
If you think Sissel Kyrkjebo is not a household name in Utah, there
are certain households you have not considered. Like the home of Orem
resident Erlend Peterson, whose children awakened each Saturday of
their lives to Norwegian pancakes on the griddle and Sissel on the stereo.
Peterson, a former president of the LDS Church's mission in Norway,
has plenty of company in his enthusiasm for the Norwegian singer. Her
recordings are heard in many Utah homes with someone who once lived in
Norway. And, the clear, pure voice of Sissel - she goes by her first
name professionally - has probably even echoed through your own home,
unbeknownst to you. The haunting, wordless voice heard in James
Horner's film score for the movie "Titanic" belongs to her.
By the time Horner heard Sissel's voice on a tape of Norwegian folk
music, and recognized it as the sound he was seeking for his 1998 film
score, her singing was popular throughout Europe, especially in
Scandinavia. Early recordings celebrating her native culture endeared
her to Norwegians and led to solo performances in the opening and
closing ceremonies of the 1994 Olympic Winter Games in Lillehammer.
She has sold more than 9 million solo albums worldwide - a number
nearly twice as large as the population of Norway.
Horner wrote Sissel's parts in the "Titanic" film score
specifically for the qualities of her voice, "using it like an
instrument," she said. She watched the movie's evocative scenes of ice
and immensity in the North Atlantic as she recorded the tracks, "so I
could get the tensions and emotions of the pictures into my music."
Translating geography into music is one of Sissel's gifts. She grew
up just outside the ancient coastal city of Bergen, "called Capital of
the Fjords," Sissel said in lilting English during a trans-Atlantic
telephone interview. "It's surrounded with mountains and the ocean. I
would say it's the most beautiful place on Earth, of course.
"I often say that nature shapes your personality and your mental
health," she said. "I was brought up in nature, in a very relaxed
atmosphere - a life filled with harmony and love. The people living in
Norway are so lucky living in this beautiful country. That gives us a
lot of positive thinking. I feel very Norwegian because Mother
Nature is such a big part of me. I'm so proud of my country."
Fans of Sissel's music say they can imagine the peaks and fjords of
Norway when she sings. Utahns with connections to Norway already are
making plans to be present when Sissel performs here for the first
time this week - at a concert on the Brigham Young University campus
and with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir on its weekly international
Jason Henderson, vice president of Frontier Scientific Inc. in
Logan, has known about Sissel since her career was just taking off in
Norway nearly 20 years ago. He met the singer twice while serving an
LDS mission there from 1986 to 1988. The first time, Sissel signed
albums for Henderson and his missionary companion outside a concert
hall in Bergen. The hopeful missionaries signed a copy of the Book of
Mormon for her.
Henderson was surprised when the pretty young singer recognized him
later in Oslo and greeted him with a traditional Norwegian "klem" - a
cheek-to-cheek hug. Though pleased, Henderson was "pretty
uncomfortable," since LDS missionaries are expected to keep the
opposite sex at
"All the missionaries I was with have her albums," Henderson said.
"She just has a really wonderful voice."
Missionaries in Norway liked the fact that Sissel was a
wholesome-looking performer whose songs were "things you could feel
comfortable about listening to as a missionary," he said.
And, like the Norwegian people who embraced her music, missionaries
loved the way Sissel's music captured the beauty and serenity of the
Norwegian landscape and culture. Robert A Jones, who served a mission
to Norway in 1989 to 1991, created a Web site dedicated to Sissel and
her music in 1997, and still updates it with news about Sissel.
"Her earlier albums, in the Norwegian language, were a reminder for
me of the experience of living in Norway," Jones said.
Sissel said she was surprised at first to learn that she had a fan
base in Utah made up mostly of one-time missionaries. She said she has
"never attended a Mormon church" but is nonetheless delighted to be
performing with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir in a program that
celebrates Norway's 100 years of independence and the Norwegian roots
of many members of the faith.
"I love to sing with people who have belief," she said. "That is
Singing religious songs with the Tabernacle Choir might remind
Sissel of her childhood experiences singing with a church children's
choir in Bergen, which she cites as an important influence on her
angelic vocal sound. At the BYU concert, her song list will be more
"I started singing a mixture of folk, classical and popular music
in the 1980s. Nobody had invented the words 'classical crossover'
then, but I've always been doing this. . . . It will be fascinating to
see how American musicians play Norwegian music. They say music is the
international language - we'll see if it works."
The sizzle of Sissel
Norwegian singer Sissel Kyrkjebo performs Saturday at 7:30 p.m. in
the de Jong Concert Hall in the Harris Fine Arts Center on the Brigham
Young University campus, Provo. Tickets are $12. Call 801-422-7664.
Sissel will perform with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, accompanied
by the Orchestra at Temple Square, on a May 1 broadcast of "Music and
the Spoken Word" from the Conference Center in Salt Lake City. The
broadcast airs at 9:30 a.m. on radio, television, cable and satellite.
Doors to the Conference Center open at 8 a.m. After the 30-minute
broadcast, Sissel will sing additional selections for the live audience.
KBYU Channel 11 will broadcast a PBS special, "Sissel in Concert:
All Good Things," today at 3 p.m. and Monday at 8 p.m.
The Sissel Website