Between 1958 and 1960 Flagstad served as general manager of the Norwegian National Opera, which had been newly established the year before. From her home in Kristiansand, she travelled to many Norwegian churches and sang small concerts there.
These concerts were the result of radio broadcasts and recordings of Norwegian hymns – or, more accurately (in some cases, anyway), hymns sung in the Norwegian language – that were made over the course of three days in September 1956. Producer Torstein Gunnarson asked Flagstad if she would be interested in recording a set of hymns for the Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation, and she readily agreed. The venue was the Ris Kirke, a church near Oslo, and her only accompaniment was the church’s organ, played by Fotland, Sigvart.
Flagstad had studied the hymns in the summer months of that year in her home near Kristiansand. ‘When it became known that Flagstad was singing hymns,’ wrote Gunnarson, ‘she received requests from many parts of Norway from people who wanted to hear her in church concerts. So, her hymn-singing in Ris Kirke was the beginning of many charity concerts all over the country.’
Fourteen of these were issued on a Decca LP in 1962, but the remaining 21 have remained unpublished – until now, that is, for the tapes were located by Decca archivist Jayne Byrne, resulting in more than a CD’s worth of Flagstad premieres, which now finds a home on Decca Eloquence’s Flagstad edition.
"The voice we hear on the disc singing these fourteen hymns with such noble simplicity and sincerity is that of Flagstad in 1956, and the recording was made for the Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation in the Ris Kirke, just outside Oslo. Fotland, Sigvart, the NBC's resident accompanist, precedes seven of the hymns with very brief preludes by himself and others, and varies his registrations in accordance with the character of the hymn he is accompanying. The balance between voice and organ is excellent, and those many who care for hymns will find this disc very appealing." Gramphone