There are several reasons Disney's latest movie Frozen has struck a chord with millions of viewers all over the world. The protagonist, Anna, overcomes a set of difficult obstacles much like most adults do as they're growing up and finding themselves. At the film's crucial turning point, we're shown a more profound act of love than any other Disney film has shown us. And of course, local viewers of Norwegian heritage have appreciated the film's beautiful Scandinavian setting.
I enjoyed the movie for all these reasons and more, but the primary burning question on my mind as I left the theater was, "Who in the world was that great choir we just heard?"
After you listen to that mesmerizing track above, you'll know why I stuck around through the entire end credits to find out what group of singers produced such exquisite sounds! I finally found out it was an all-female Norwegian group called Cantus. Unbelievably, the group of 30 women is composed entirely of amateur singers--but that didn't stop them from winning a First Place award at the International Choir Championships in Guangzhou, China, just a couple of years ago.
That particular piece, which opens the movie, is called "Eatnemen Vuelie," a version of which was originally composed in 1996 for Cantus by Frode Fjellheim. According to the ensemble's website, "This was the inspiration for Disney when they chose to include the choir in the soundtrack of 'Frozen'." Their website reads:
It is the "joik" (2nd alto bit) that is the most distinctive element, and the composer paired it with a traditional Norwegian hymn that one might know in the US as "Fairest Lord Jesus". However, the hymn itself did not correspond with the role this piece was meant to have in the film, so they asked if the composer would rewrite the melody for "Frozen". This rewrite resulted in the piece you can hear in the opening seconds of the film, which goes by the name "Vuelie."
I'll bet the group had no idea they'd ever find such worldwide acclaim...but I'm glad they did! Their recognition is well deserved and could spur a resurgence in the popularity of choral (and other types of classical!) music.