Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Oslo and the Concert


Concert Preparations in Oslo
Dan Dressen (Study Travel co-leader and music department chair) and I stopped by Oslo Konserthuset in the afternoon. Those students not rehearsing were doing their crew jobs or listening in the hall. One bassoonist was light-headed. After the airline’s mishandling of her French horn, an orchestra member and the manager were off to a repair shop to get the bell back in shape so she could assemble her horn for the concert. All was well, and remarkable aplomb reigned.

Oles Open in Oslo
Jet lag is irrelevant when performance adrenaline flows. Sure, I was excited to hear the band, choir and orchestra in Oslo's major concert hall. I felt a burst of pride seeing first-year student Tim Rehborg, my former clarinet student, on stage. Imagine what the parents in the audience felt!

It was touchingly decorous when all rose for the Queen’s entrance (and every departure and entrance thereafter). She was flanked by St. Olaf representatives Lois Rand and Jan McDaniel and three security staff. Trendy haircut aside, the woman in the security trio was a compact bundle of don’t-mess-with-me.

It’s their tradition, but it took the audience by surprise when the band opened with national anthems “Ja, vi elsker” and “The Star-Spangled Banner.” The singing was lusty, despite choked throats. Tears rolled down the Queen’s cheeks, mine, and others, Norwegian and American alike.

Once off and playing, the three ensembles grabbed the audience and never let go, captivating us with their musical prowess and energy. Conductors Steve Amundson, Anton Armstrong and Tim Mahr are masters of the first order, and each appeared to be in a state of flow. They were the most beautiful of choreographers, their whole bodies dancing and their eyes inspiring the students to both fire and tenderness beyond their years.

In the end, it was the audience that didn’t want to let go. Queen Sonja was in my line of sight, her face lit by a smile through the whole concert.

Following Up
In Hamar on June 3 at rehearsal, Tim and Steve gave heartfelt thanks to the students for the opening concert. Tim told the band how complimentary the Queen had been about their performance and, choking on the words, said he’ll never forget what she said about his piece “Soaring Hawk.”

Steve had his own story of tears. Steve gets choked up pretty easily. His wife, Jane, never does. The orchestra’s performance of Barber's "Second Essay" in Hamar Domkirken brought Jane to tears; Steve knew he and the orchestra had accomplished something great.

Are We All Wet?
Does this sound like a rather wet, weepy tour? Well, the weather, certainly. Mostly grey and from damp to outright wet. But the smiles and the excitement among the students and the Study Travelers are like the days and nights here: long and full of light. Where there is music and learning and discovery from dawn to midnight dusk, how could it be otherwise?


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