Icelandic Choir Scores Soundtrack For Legendary Video Game

Icelandic Choir Scores Soundtrack For Legendary Video Game

Published April 11, 2018

Phil Uwe Widiger
Photos by
Screenshot from 'God of War'

Schola Cantorum, the chamber choir of Reykjavík’s prominent Hallgrímskirkja, will be featured on the soundtrack by Bear McCreary for Sony‘s upcoming video game “God Of War,” which is set for release on April 20th. It is the newest offspring of the homonymous award-winning action-adventure series. As Billboard reports, the soundtrack features an orchestra with 50 strings, 17 brass and six low woodwinds, in addition to the Icelandic 22-singer choir and another 48-singer choir from Prague.

Linguistic advantage

It all started one and a half years ago when L.A.-based film score composer Veigar Margeirsson recommended Schola Cantorum to the “God of War” game crew. “The main reason why they asked us to do this was because the lyrics are in old Norse, which is very close to the language of the Icelandic Sagas,” explains choirmaster Hörður Áskelsson. “Icelanders are able to pronounce the words and sounds. One of the members of the choir, Björn Thorarensen, helped them to translate the lyrics.”

Roaring Basses

After a trial session the music producers decided to go with the Icelandic choir. The actual recording sessions lasted an entire day and required maximum effort, as it was executed from two different countries simultaneously.

“The lyrics are in old Norse, which is very close to the language of the Icelandic Sagas.”

As the choir recorded the music in their Reykjavik studio, in fact, the technicians sat at the same time in their studio in L.A.

“We had very little time to prepare,” Hörður recounts. “We got the scores very late—almost the same day that we were recording. We could not really rehearse much before and Björn was partly translating during the ongoing recording sessions. Also, the basses of the choir had to sing very, very low. It was a completely new experience.”

In a Youtube video released by PlayStation, lead music producer Peter Scaturro explains that they “recorded the Icelandic choir first because we wanted to have the authenticity in the pronunciation of the lyrics”. Afterwards, another choir in London, which specialises in the low bass notes, was recorded on top of the “sonic blueprint” created by Schola Cantorum.

A Well-Kept Secret

Once the recording sessions ended, the choir was told to keep their involvement a secret, until news finally broke in early April. The God of War series is considered to be one of the best action games for the PlayStation console and has sold more than 21 million copies worldwide.

“If this game will be a success we will likely have to sing more music when the game needs more material”

Seven games of the franchise have already been released across multiple platforms. Composer Bear McCreary is renowned for his scores for the popular TV-series The Walking Dead and Metalocalypse, amongst others. “The composer himself was with us during the recording sessions,” Hörður says. “He was very pleased working with Schola Cantorum. If this game will be a success it means that we will likely have to sing more music when the game needs more material.”

It seems that in the close future Iceland will not only be well-known for puffins and smiting England in the UEFA Euro 2016, but also for its Viking Choir of War scoring a legendary video game. Keep it coming, Icelanders, keep it coming.

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