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Viking Music? New CD of Viking age music climbs the charts

Can one recreate the music of the Viking age? A newly released CD called Ice and Longboats: Ancient Music of Scandinavia hopes to do so, and has already earned praise from reviewers and risen into the top 20 of the Official Specialist Classical Chart.

Combining voices with recreations of the ancient instruments played in the Norse lands, the songs were developed in part by the University of Huddersfield’s Dr Rupert Till. The disc features an instrumental group led by specialist performers Åke Egevad on flute, lyre, horn and lur, plus Jens Egevad on lyre, lur and frame drum. Also performing is the respected vocal group Ensemble Mare Balticum.

The recording was made at a church in southern Sweden by Dr Till – who is reader in music at the University of Huddersfield – alongside Paul Baxter, founder of Delphian Records, which has released the CD and its companion discs.

Ice and Longboats is one of a sequence being produced by Dr Till, as part of his key role with the European Music Archaeology Project (EMAP). Its mission is to take “the first organic journey from the sounds of prehistory through to traditions which still survive today”.

Other discs in the series have been recorded at the University of Huddersfield. They include Spellweaving, featuring the earliest-known Scottish bagpipe music; Cave Songs, featuring recreations of Palaeolithic bone flutes; plus Dragon Voices, with John Kenny, who is the leading exponent of the very earliest brass instruments, including the carnyx, a large trumpet-like instrument topped by an elaborately fashioned wild boar’s head that was played across Northern Europe 2,000 years ago.

Appraisals of Ice and Longboats that have helped to propel it into the classical charts include a verdict from the influential Record Review, which stated that the hearing the series of EMAP discs produced by Dr Till was “to be transported to a different world”.

“It’s ear-opening – there are revelations here. It’s a while since anyone has tackled this ancient music with such determination and imagination over a series.”

The best-selling BBC Music Magazine has called Ice and Longboats “a delight from start to finish”, and gave it five stars.

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