St. Olaf Magazine | Fall 2019

Norway Tour Reflections

When the St. Olaf Choir and St. Olaf Orchestra ensembles first learned about the international tour to Norway more than a year ago, the excitement began to build immediately, gaining momentum the closer we got to our departure date of June 2, 2019. I was very excited about this tour, as it would be my first time crossing the Atlantic and visiting Norway — the second home of St. Olaf College, which was founded in 1874 by Bernt Julius Muus and a small group of Norwegian immigrants.

The connection St. Olaf has had with the country and people of Norway has always been strong. Since the early 20th century, these connections have been enhanced by special events that celebrate the college’s Norwegian heritage, tours by the St. Olaf Band, St. Olaf Choir, and St. Olaf Orchestra to Norway, and campus visits from various members of the Norwegian royal family, including the king and queen of Norway.

Members of the ensembles received all of this information in various pre-tour meetings, which helped us understand the impact our tour would have not only on us but on the people we would meet and perform for during our time in Norway. It also provided context for some of the excursions, places, and venues we would explore and perform in. Although the tour was long and I can’t quite fit in everything we experienced throughout the two weeks, I’ve assembled a few highlights that were especially memorable.

The beautiful city of Oslo

At our first joint concert, we performed at the stunning Oslo Opera House, a sleek, modern work of architecture that may be the most famous building in Norway.

The Oslo Opera House

The combined forces of the St. Olaf Choir and St. Olaf Orchestra were on display at four joint concerts in the cities of Oslo, Stavanger, Bergen, and Trondheim. For these concerts, we had the opportunity to perform in Norway’s finest concert venues, which drew very large and enthusiastic crowds.

The St. Olaf Choir and St. Olaf Orchestra’s first joint concert in Oslo

Just before we departed the United States, we learned that His Majesty, King Harald V of Norway would be attending our concert in Oslo. The King had requested a a special piece of music for his entrance, and Professor Amundson quickly composed a fanfare that included both ensembles and was ready just in time for the performance.

The arrival of King Harald V.
King Harald V of Norway (right), St. Olaf Choir Conductor Anton Armstrong ’78, and St. Olaf Orchestra Conductor Steven Amundson
Oslo Opera House CEO Geir Bergkastet (far right) and Oslo Mayor Marianne Borgen welcomed King Harald V to the venue and concert, along with St. Olaf Vice President for Enrollment and Admissions Michael Kyle ’85 (center) and our two conductors.
U.S. Ambassador to Norway Kenneth Braithwaite
U.S. Ambassador to Norway Kenneth Braithwaite hosted a special reception for the St. Olaf ensembles at the Ambassador’s Residence, Villa Otium.
Drydal, a village on the Naeroyfjord

Norway is called the most beautiful country in the world, and I must agree! Once we passed through Bergen, the fjords got taller and more majestic. In this part of the country, roads aren’t the quickest way to travel, so you must take ferries, and one of the ferries we took doubled as a fjord cruise. WOW, it was spectacular! My favorite view, though, was in Loen on top of the Loen Skylift, which took us more than 3,000 feet above Loen and gave us a breathtaking view of the fjord below.

Loen Skylift
Trondheim Fjord
Fløibanen, Bergen
Bryggen wharf, Bergen
The joint concert in Bergen

Our concerts were enthusiastically received, and I sensed immense pride from the Norwegian people, many of whom continue to cherish their history with and connection to St. Olaf College. — Steven Amundson

St. Olaf Choir women relax before their concert in Kristiansand.
Geirangerfjord cruise

A Norwegian meal.

From the very start of the tour, we were spoiled by the amazing food that Norway had to offer. What really spoiled us was the hotel breakfasts. Every morning, a feast awaited! Our first meal to celebrate the start of tour was at the Ekebergrestauranten, in the beautiful Ekeberg Nature Preserve. Our meal included split pea soup and smoked Halibut, which set the bar high for the food we’d be eating for the rest of the tour!

Making memories in Stavanger.
The Stavanger concert hall
Stavanger Konserthus

A musical highlight of the tour was the final joint concert at Nidaros Cathedral in Trondheim. The importance of the venue was not lost on any of the musicians. The Nidarosdomen is a stunning 11th Century gothic cathedral that is the final resting place of King Olav II — later known as Saint Olav, the college’s namesake — and its founder, Bernt Julius Muus.

Nidaros Cathedral, Trondheim
Rehearsing in Nidaros Cathedral

To be able to connect with the college’s Norwegian heritage, present concerts as a cultural bridge with the people of Norway, and experience and explore new places is a rare opportunity. — Steven Garcia ’20

“Performing for a deeply appreciative crowd in Nidaros Cathedral was a fantastic experience,” says St. Olaf Orchestra Conductor Steven Amundson. “This, and all our performances, was a feast of heartfelt playing and singing, featuring a wide range of passion and expression. Dr. Armstrong and I are so proud of all the students, and our concert in Nidaros was the perfect conclusion to a memorable tour.”

Overall, Norway has to be the most beautiful place I’ve ever been, and I’m glad that I was able to experience it with my colleagues in the St. Olaf Orchestra and the St. Olaf Choir. Unique experiences like this are what led me to St. Olaf, and I’ve never been more grateful for the support of the college, which enables us to bring our music to people around the country and around the world. Performing with the orchestra and choir on tour allows us to connect with others through music, one of society’s most powerful tools for bringing people together.