Well into the previous century Sweden was largely a peasant society with folk music an integral part of daily life. There were work songs, narrative ballads and, obviously, music for dancing. Over the centuries a not always easy coexistence between religion and folk culture developed, with hymns being adapted to a folk-music aesthetic while popular traditions were given a Christian veneer. An example of the latter is the rich store of ‘Staffan ballads’, springing from a pre-Christian horse cult but given a new slant as its focus shifted to St. Stephen – the first Christian martyr.
Gunnar Idenstam and S:t Jacobs Chamber Choir have performed their Folkjul concerts more or less every year since 2002. The concept stem from a rich interplay between ‘folk culture’ and ‘high culture’ and in Idenstam’s arrangements a newly composed halling or polska entwines itself round the old Christmas melodies. The first Folkjul album was released in 2007 – this time the choir and Idenstam are joined by violinist Sandra Marteleur and Ulrika Bodén, one of Sweden’s most well-established folk singers.