Friday, June 10, 2005

Bergen, Touching Choir, Composers…

June 9

Yesterday the third Study Travel group, “Fram! Fram! Fjords and Fortunes,” arrived in Oslo, led by professors John Ferguson and Todd Nichol. The full contingent of musicians and Study Travelers in Norway numbers 325.

The St. Olaf Band, Choir and Orchestra arrived in Bergen this afternoon for a couple well-earned days off before the big joint concert at Grieghallen.

The Valhalla Study Travel group arrived in Bergen yesterday after a breath-taking drive through mountains and fjords. Margaret O’Leary introduced us to central Bergen with a brief walking tour, followed by Hotel Rosenkrantz’s lavish buffet dinner.

This morning Charles Forsberg gave his third lecture on composers and the influences upon them (journeys, place, conflicts and tension, assimilation, and texts). To illustrate, he used the Shostakovitch, Barber, Bernstein, Grieg and Gershwin works the orchestra plays and the Frank Martin Sanctus the choir sings on this tour. It was an enlightening music history lesson, glimpse into composers’ lives, and preparation for the Bergen concert all in one. Best of all, musicians and non-musicians alike soaked up knowledge and insight from one of St. Olaf’s stellar faculty performers and composers.

Afterwards, we trooped out of the comfortable meeting room for a two-hour walking tour in the rain. Guide Målfrid Krohn Sletten, a fifth-generation descendent of German immigrants, held our attention with tales of trade, immigration, fire, buildings, gardens, churches and quirky urban development – while we held our umbrellas.

Later, some of us were warming up in the hotel lounge, baking waffles (vafler) and making tea, when the Viking group arrived from Stavanger. The night before, they’d sat close enough to touch St. Olaf Choir members during a concert in the Domkirken. They raved about sitting virtually between Anton Armstrong and the choir, experiencing both the immediacy of the singing and the return of the sound from the back of the cathedral.

In an earlier blog entry, I wrote of “strangers for all of five minutes” and the characteristic warmth of Study Travelers. Today I could see in the Viking group, with which I started in Oslo, the continued development of esprit de corps full of humor and born of shared adventures.

A few minutes after arriving at Hotel Rosenkrantz, Edyth, so quiet at the beginning in Oslo, was entertaining everyone (German tourists included) with Norwegian, American and St. Olaf songs on the piano.

Others joined Margaret O’Leary and me in the lounge. Some Viking members were writing questions for their final exam. About the content of the lectures, I asked? No, about who stole the Kleenex, and other group tales.

These two Study Travel groups, together just ten and eight days each, are already planning reunions. Tonight a bunch of them are sprawled out in the sixth floor lounge, laughing it up and “studying” for their finals.

Dan Dressen, Solveig Zempel, Le Ann Finger, Margaret O'Leary and I had an unofficial welcome-to-Bergen party for President Chris Thomforde tonight. He arrived today, joining in the energy and positive buzz created by Study Travelers and the students.

It’s not all levity. Study Travelers watch out for each other, whether it’s those who walk more slowly than the others or a purse left behind in a lecture hall.

I was ill with food poisoning in Lillehammer. Coincidentally, I switched from staffing Viking to Valhalla. When the Viking group arrived today in Bergen, I learned that some had been very concerned when I “disappeared.” They thought I was so ill that I had stayed behind alone in the hotel. Thank goodness I hadn’t, because more time with such people is just what a doctor would order.


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