Photo Lars Uggla

”Don´t underestimate children!”

For nearly forty years Anna Cederberg-Orreteg has taken the music-making of and for children and youth seriously, as a music teacher, a choir conductor as well as a composer. From arrangements of Lucia songs for school choir to Tranströmer settings for many-voiced mixed choir, her numerous works have a cantabile, lyrical tone. Her own preference is to take the highest soprano notes.

Interview with Anna Cederberg-Orreteg, July 2019

What is music to you?
My dad wrote down an arrangement that I made up when I was five years old, of a Swedish children's song. I wrote songs to my teddy bears too. So I have always written music in one way or another. I am very grateful to have music around me. In my work I must of course be professional, but when I´m sitting in an audience, when I´m watching TV… Then I can be really moved as soon as there is music!

I have written many arrangements, and for me it is the same thing as composing. You paint the tones round about and work just as hard as with an original composition. The arranger is often relegated to the background, but the orchestration or the arrangement is indeed just as important as the melody and the harmony! For I grew up with Alice Babs and the songs from Sjung med oss, mamma (Sing with us, Mommy) in Bengt Hallberg´s arrangements, which are fantastic. These  have had an incredible influence on the way I arrange.

How does your own voice sound?
I love to sing, but I am definitely not a soloist. For this reason singing in a choir is especially important for me. To blend in with other voices and be a part of the whole. I am quite good at making flute-like sounds, bright sounds up in the soprano register. And I have also done herding calls ("kulning") when required.

How has your work as a music teacher influenced your compositions?
When I started as a music teacher thirty years ago I found that there was no material for the ordinary school choir. The repertoire available then was way too difficult, everything was a cappella and the melody was often too high for the children. They of course wanted it to sound good right away! When you are an inexperienced singer – and this holds for both children and adults – you don´t have a lot of patience. Then I began to experiment by writing arrangements and parts that you can rehearse in the short time you have with a school choir. It is a matter of arousing their interest so that they want to come back next week! It is vital to be serious when working with music, even with little children. You shouldn´t underestimate the children! They see through everything and say what they think and are honest.

How would you describe your own music?
Some have said that I write lyrical music, and that sounds good so I´ll definitely go with that! One of my children had heard something on the radio and said, ”That sounds like Mom´s music… and indeed it was! Then I am glad that my personal touch is manifest even though I can be something of a musical chameleon.

What comes to your mind when you think of Swedish choral music?
Then I think of the fantastic, poetical choral treasure that is ours. Sommarpsalm (Summer Hymn), Uti vår hage (In Our Pasture), Förklädd gud (A God Disguised). It is nonsense when they say it is simple music. It is music that belongs to all of us! We have a great deal of this kind of music in Sweden. A certain amount of melancholy, but still brightness and joy. This reflects rather well how we are in the Nordic countries.

What kind of choral music do you want to write in the future?
I often bound home after a concert, and then it strikes me: THIS is what we´ll do! It is above all the group that I have had before me that acts as a trigger, gets me going. My dream is to write a jazz suite and engage really brilliant musicians. And to write something on a large scale for choir and orchestra. But this will have to wait until I am retired! I also have a sewing workshop that is rarely used… but whatever will be will be, I think. I have decided not to have any big future plans.


Listen to music by Anna Cederberg-Orreteg (Spotify)

Three choral works by Anna Cederberg-Orreteg
Staden vaknar. Canon for three voices to a text by the composer's sister. With piano. Easy level.
Two poems by Thomas TranströmerAnsikte mot ansikte and Minnena ser mig are commissioned by internationally well-known Gustaf Sjökvist Chamber Choir. SATB divisi. In Swedish. Medium-avancerad level.
Dona nobis pacem. A lovely, eight part version of the hymn. For female or children's choir, SSSSAAAA. Medium level.

More about Anna Cederberg-Orreteg
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