Trent Bruner

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On the Road Again: June 2-5, 2016 Print E-mail
Greetings from Valestrand, Norway!  I’m home now after conducting the Bergen womens’ choir Damekoret Toneveld for The Norwegian Singers Association’s (Norges sangerforbund) national choir convention. 41 of these affiliate choirs throughout Norway participated in a series of free concerts, meeting and greeting, and participated in vocal and conducting workshops to help further the promotion of choral music in Norway. Here is a summary of what happened on tour.

Our trip began with some small stops on the way, including a stop east of Voss to visit the old Borgund Lutheran church that has been standing since the 1200s. During our leg stretch, the choir sang a church anthem from Norwegian choral conductor Knut Nystedt called “I Will Praise Thee, O Lord” for the tourists passing by. We then continued to the eastern Norwegian city of Hønefoss, where we stayed for our first night.

Day two took us to visit Hadeland Glassverk, a company that has operated in Hønefoss since 1752 with ceramics and glasswork production. We then continued to the Town of Åmot, where we visited the site of a previous cobalt mine, learned about the history of the mine, and saw the many uses for cobalt with glass and ceramics. We then travelled west to the Town of Notodden, where the national choir festival started. Day one of the festival was a concert of local musicians from the Notodden area. They played a variety of music that included pop, blues, classical, choral, Norwegian folk song and harmonica music. The bus stopped at Rjukan after the concert, where we checked into our hotel for the next three nights and performed two concerts over the three days.

Background on the two host towns: Both Notodden and Rjukan were designated in 2015 as UNESCO heritage centers because of the shared beginnings of the development of industry in Norway, which was then used as a blueprint for many other planning and industry development models throughout Europe. Notodden is known in Norway for folk music, choirs, concert bands and blues. It also has a blues festival that is internationally known, having hosted blues greats such as B.B. King and Bo Diddley, amongst others. This small city is also a partner city with Clarksdale, Mississippi, U.S.A. with whom there are artist exchanges that happen each year.

Rjukan is a Norwegian town that has a strong cultural base with choir and concert band, along with a history of Norwegian industry that involves large waterfalls that were bought to create Norwegian Hydro, the country’s first power station. Manufacturing of cheese slicers and other materials also had taken place here in the early 20th century. During World War II, the Germans occupied Norway from 1940 until 1945. Rjukan was a centre of interest for Germany as the heavy water from these waterfalls was eyed for the creation of an atomic bomb. The Norwegian resistance was well documented during the war and was the subject of Norwegian history studies and a recent television drama series produced and aired by Norway’s public broadcaster NRK.

Our Friday evening performance was in the Rjukan Movie Theatre where we were one of 12 choirs that entertained. Each choir performed a minimum of three songs each, with some choirs performing a maximum of four songs. All of the participating choirs did their best performances that were enjoyed by an enthusiastic audience with a wide variety of classical, rock, folk music and humour from many of the choirs.

Day three began with a one hour conductor workshop during the morning, followed by more choir performances in Rjukan and area during the day. Our Saturday performance took place in a covered tent in the Rjukan Civic Square where we were one of sixteen choirs who sang during the afternoon. Each choir performed ten minute sets, which meant that the concert went over three hours without a break. However, the public was allowed to come and go as they wished. A Saturday night banquet and dance was then held under a huge tent at a local resort for the over 850 participants who entertained during the festival.

For the trip home, the choir’s bus then took us back on a scenic drive through some national parks in the Norwegian interior, along with a lunch stop, a ferry ride and dropping passengers off as 70th anniversary season of this Bergen women’s choir came to a close.

More music travel news will be posted in the coming days. Until next time, see you somewhere down the musical trail!

Musically yours, Trent