The a cappella version of an Icelandic hymn called “Heyr Himna Smiður” (Hear, Smith of Heavens) has received a whopping 4,618,692 hits on YouTube as of November 1. The performers were Árstíðir (Seasons), a band consisting of Karl James Pestka, Gunnar Már Jakobsson, Daniel Auðunsson, and Ragnar Ólafsson. The performance was an impromptu event, which took place two years ago in a train station in Wuppertal, Germany. Árstíðir were in Germany for a concert and were fortunate enough to be caught on film by their publicist when the quartet broke into song.
The hymn was originally composed by Þorkell Sigurbjörnsson, who took his inspiration from a 12th century poem by Kolbeinn Tumason. Since the video went viral—which was almost immediately after it was posted—the hymn’s popularity in Iceland and abroad has skyrocketed. According to the Iceland Music Information Center, inquiries about the hymn and requests for sheet music increased by 250%.
Árstíðir has also been enjoying the publicity gained from the video’s smash success online. The band released a new album in March and was touring abroad all summer. Now back in the homeland, they are scheduled to play several shows at Iceland Airwaves music festival, which opens today.