Just last weekend, choirs from all over Norway took Oslo by storm for the “Akademisk Kortreff (Academic choir meet-up) 2016.” This Norwegian musical gathering only occurs once every three years, so I was lucky to join as part of the Tromsø Akademiske Kvinnekor (Tromsø Academic Women’s choir, or TAKk for short). TAKk is a young choir, started only six years ago. From it’s humble beginnings, TAKk has grown in size to over 45 members under the direction of our talented director, Bjarne Isaksen. Over the course of this year, the ladies I sing with have gone from being choirmates to some of my close friends and second family in Tromsø. It was a joy to sing together and represent Tromsø together with our brother choir from the north, “Det Norske Mannskor av 1995” (The Norwegian Men’s choir of 1995). We traveled south to join choirs from Bergen, Stavanger, Trondheim, and Oslo for a total of over 250 singers.
On Friday night, we performed a concert at Uranienborg Church, a beautiful Gothic church in the heart of Oslo (pictures below at right). The stained glass was designed by Emanuel Vigeland, younger brother of the renowned sculptor Gustav Vigeland. You may recognize Gustav Vigeland from famous statues of naked people (pictures below left).
The acoustics in the Uranienborg Church were spectacular. We opened with a Latvian piece Skumja Mate, followed by a musical rendition of “Shall I Compare Thee” with text by William Shakespeare. Next came my favorite piece, called Without Time, Without Season by Peter Illyich Tchaikovsky. We closed out the program with works by Schumann and a beautiful hymn called Mu Vaibmu Vadjul Doppe (My Heart Always Wanders) sung in Saami. Here is a link to the Spotify playlist of some of the pieces we sang.
On Saturday, all of the choirs combined for the Gala Concert in the grand concert hall at the University of Oslo. The famous Norwegian artist Edvard Munch (think “The Scream”), painted eleven murals and paintings for this hall. The most iconic mural by Munch, mounted in the enormous front space of the hall, is called the “The Sun.”
It was only fitting for us to sing “Ved Rondane” by the Norwegian composer Edvard Grieg in this majestic setting. Each of the seven choirs present were then given seven minutes to perform their own music. We chose to “joik” which is a traditional Sami form of song and then finish with a lively Bulgarian folk tune. At the end of the concert we processed out singing “Studentersangen” (the song for students).
With all the men in suits and women dressed in ball gowns like tropical birds we paraded from the concert venue to the Oslo City Hall. There, to our surprise, the concert organizers had arranged for the bells in the city hall to toll the tune of “Lad oss hvirvle” one of the group pieces we had just sung. Spirits high but calves weak in high heels, we processed the ballroom for the Gala dinner followed by dancing and more songs.
Throughout the weekend we also had the opportunity to participate in fun workshops including swing dancing, folk music, improvisation, and choir directing. With so many great options it was difficult to decide! I decided to participate in the folk music workshop. There we learned the art of “kveding” which is the distinctive style of singing characteristic for Norwegian folk music. We had a blast learning folk music from different regions of Norway and arranging them into a mini-concert which we gave at the Gala Dinner.
The choir weekend flew by, but it was good to return home to beautiful and sunny Tromsø after a weekend of rain in Oslo. Anette Ulriksen, a talented member of our choir, took some great photos and video footage from the weekend which she put together in a fun video montage here! Thanks Anette 🙂
Now it is time for TAKk to prepare for our concerts for the 17th of May! The 17th of May is the Norwegian national day, celebrating the signing of the Norwegian constitution in 1814. This holiday is celebrated around the country with parades and concerts, hot dogs and ice cream. Norwegians wear their national costume: the “bunad.” Luckily I’ve found one to borrow for this upcoming holiday! There is still time to book your tickets to come visit 🙂