Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Kristiansund: Cod, Choir

June 13 and 14
Kristiansund and Salted Cod

The farther north we traveled, the brighter and warmer it got. What a relief after many grey days, a few of them wet, all of them cold. After a second long day of travel by coach and ferry, we arrived June 13 in Kristiansund, an Atlantic coastal town.

An everyday sort of place, Kristiansund makes its best impression from the water or the high hill where several Study Travelers watched the sun set, sort of. Brightly colored wooden houses climb the banks, dramatic high bridges link the islands, and every sort of seagoing vessel, from smelly fishing boats to luxury cruise ships, is anchored in the harbor.

Kristiansund is best known for the salted cod exported around the world since the 1600’s. We had a guided tour of the Salt Cod Museum and Tin Factory June 14. The photos and guide made it abundantly clear that the women did the back-breaking, bone-numbing work of cleaning the fish in the sea in March, then stacked and rearranged the fish so they would dry properly. The men stood on dry land, watching, counting, judging, weighing. It’s telling that the quayside statue is of a fisherwoman.

Salted cod is a high-priced delicacy in the Caribbean, South America, Portugal and beyond. When I walked into a café, thinking to try the local stewed version, the smell spun me right back out the door. Others were braver, reporting that they wouldn't turn it down if offered again. They are not planning to make it at home.

Kristiansund and the St. Olaf Choir
Another splendid concert with applausen å dømme, this time at a controversially modern church. Its architecture evokes images of mountains and ski jumping. Given this landscape and culture, it makes sense. More important, it was a good place for the choir to sing: clear, clean, and resonant enough to let sopranos soar and basses rumble.

Before the second encore, the mayor made a gracious speech in English and presented flowers. Anton Armstrong responded in English, interpreted by a member of the choir. When he gave credit to the young man for the choir’s fine Norwegian pronunciation, Anton said to him, “You WILL translate that.”

Learning and Laughing Outside the Classroom
Before dinner and the concert, John Ferguson presented a seminar for Valhalla and Fram! Fram! on the exegesis of music, teasing out the question of whether music without text can have meaning. This led to discussion of absolute music and program music.

I could go on and on from my notes, but the clearest sign that John stimulated his listeners was a conversation in the pew behind me during the concert intermission. Andrew was pumping fellow Valhalla member (Rev.) Ron for more explanation of exegesis. That led to literature, methods of interpreting scripture, examples of absolute and program music.

For stimulating company, you can’t beat Study Travelers drawn to learning in the context of travel experiences. As counterpoint, the walk home had us in stitches as tales flew about who REALLY ran a noted institution and other foibles of the lofty and learned.

Surrogate and Original Moms and Dads
We’re stilling looking out for each other. I have a stash of flu/cold remedies donated by surrogate moms and dads. An eye doctor in the Valhalla group is tending to a choir member’s scratched eye. Her parents, in the Fram! Fram! group, met Dr. Clyde tonight at the joint dinner June 14.

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