Composer of the Month #7 is Olle Lindberg

”It´s about moving people and one should not be afraid of it”, says Olle Lindberg. His choral music is colored by jazz – things have to happen! As for the legacy of the family giants in Swedish choral music - his dad Nils Lindberg and his uncle Oskar – Olle doesn't let it worry him. Together with his wife Agnes, he tours with the duo A&O and BachEnsembleN Sörmland. His A Requiem for the Living will be premiered on 2 November in Adolf Fredrik Church in Stockholm.

Interview with Olle Lindberg, September 2019

What is music to you? 
Something that moves me. I sang for quite some time in Lone Larsen´s vocal ensemble Voces Nordicae (now VoNo) and have been influenced by her method both when I compose and when I play music. It´s about moving people, and one should not be afraid of it! Agnes and I think a lot about this when we do our duo programmes. 

I took up my brother´s discarded guitar when I was in the eighth school year. Then something happened… On my own initiative I started to discover and copy other musicians. First my brother´s Beatles records, then hard rock, after that Toto, and all of a sudden I was 20 years old and had been admitted to Sjövik Folk High School. 

Where do you hail from? 
My family´s home town is Gagnef. As a matter of fact, many people there wear traditional costumes! My mom has one, my dad had one, and I borrow one sometimes. We moved there when my grandmother died and I was about to start in the second year in school. In my heart I am Dalecarlian, but I am at least equally influenced by my years in Stockholm. That is where I have lived the longest. 

It could be a burden to carry on such a rich musical heritage as mine. When I started to write music in the 1990´s I did everything I could NOT to sound like my father and other relatives. My music was nothing but dismal and dissonant. But now I have accepted my heritage and have made it my own. True, it has not always been that easy, but now my mind is at rest! I am my own.  

How does your voice sound? 
It sounds like the tenor that I am! My voice is… clear. It rubs off on my tone language, too. I don´t like anything muddled, I prefer clear musical ideas. You can hear in my music that I have been doing a lot of singing. You might say that my music is singable, largely because of that, I think. 

How would you describe your music? It is fundamentally tonal, but often embellished with modal features. The harmonies can in some people´s ears sound jazzy, while others think it sounds like Poulenc. I have learned a lot about harmony by listening to jazz and to composers who have utilised jazz in classical choral music. 

Choral music can sometimes seem motionless, and just be beautiful. I have tried to change that. Things have to happen! Dissonant sections could well be followed by beautiful ones and vice versa. Sometimes the ear and the brain have to get relief. The same goes for the role of the soloist. It should not be: ”now the soprano gets up and does her aria, now she sits down” but it should be rather like a conversation. 

What in your life has influenced your music most? 
I believe what we Lindberg composers have in common is that we have been surrounded by beauty. Also here in Mariefred where I live with my family: I lie on my bed and peer out at Gripsholm Castle. It is good to live near Stockholm but nice to get away to where nature is beautiful. 

When I came to the Royal College of Music in Stockholm, after Sjövik Folk High School, I felt that I was lagging behind. So I made the most of my free time, went to all the concerts at the Stockholm Concert Hall and started to sing in all the choirs I could: the Eric Ericson Chamber Choir, the Gustaf Sjökvist Chamber Choir and then Voces Nordicae, of course. Actually, singing in choirs has been the best education for me! The analytical part of my brain has gone into high gear. I stand there and think while singing: would I do this, or that..? This really had a major impact on me. 

I have also watched a lot of films. I get inspired by how quality film music immediately takes such a strong hold on the viewer. People say that my music sounds like film music, that the music creates images – I am delighted to hear this! I was just thinking of all the people I got to meet thanks to my father´s collaboration with celebrity musicians. Alice Babs, for example. I was there, a five-year-old, when she and Nils met at the record company for the first time and discussed possible projects, many of which materialised… Or all the times that musicians came together in our living room to rehearse before a performance in Music at Lake Siljan: it was the jazz elite, Lena Willemark, Olle Persson, string quartets…

What choral music would you like to write going foreward?
As many different kinds of pieces as I possibly can! It´s fun to get other musicians involved in choral music. I think I have a pretty good understanding of how instruments work, and I strive to keep the instrumental features on the same level as the choir. They should get free reins!  In Dalecarlian Mass (Mässa i Dalaton) the string quartet should sound like a spelmanslag, albeit with a classical touch. 

It´s fun to both write music that most listeners can take in and music for more professional ensembles – as I have done in, for example, Missa Nordica,(dedicated to Voces Nordicae). I have composed a lot of church music in the past, but now I will soon get to work on a piece for the men's barbershop choirZero8 and it will absolutely not be religious! 

My two children both sing in the children´s choirs of Strängnäs Cathedral. They already talk like experts about who uses head voice and chest voice and how. So our conversations at home here are wonderfully nerdy! They say that my new Requiem is ”a little scary, but nice”.

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Three choral works by Olle Lindberg 
Consolation Mass/Mässa till tröst. Sheer and beautiful mass for SATB, children's choir and solo violin. Swedish/latin or English/latin. Medium-easy level. 
Missa Nordica. Eight part a cappella mixed choir. Advanced level. Listen to Gloriafrom Missa Nordica on the Voces Nordicaes CD Time is now.
Credo. A grand credo for SATB divisi, trumpets, trombones and organ. Advanced level.

Olle Lindberg at Gehrmans Music Publishing