Saturday, June 18, 2005

Stiklestad Concert Review

Trønder-Avisa (The Trønder Newspaper)
Thursday, June 16, 2005

Norway Tour 2005
Actors: St. Olaf Orchestra, St. Olaf Band and St. Olaf Choir
Place: Stiklestad National Culture Center
Directors: Steven Amundsen [sic], Timothy Mahr, Anton Armstrong.
Audience: 350

Golden St. Olaf Concert

By Johns. Brandtzæg (translated by Karen Hansen)

The golden moment can often be that which remains after an experience.
By the same means that the Olav tradition lives on because of one moment — in historical context, when King Olav fell in Stiklestad — so shall the concert with St. Olaf’s choir, orchestra and band live in my memory from a small, but golden moment. It was when a young girl rose up and played a completely marvelous piccolo solo in “Stars and Stripes” in the last encore.

The concert had many high points in Borggården in Stiklestad on the finest summer day so far – even if the auto traffic outside disturbed the idyll. The first came in the opening when the symphony orchestra played “Våren” by Grieg.

The danger of becoming “National Romantic” is great in such a setting. But, really could many more beautiful orchestra pieces be found than this?

Grieg has written out of his yearning for the spring – for life. This the young musicians managed to convey, perhaps because they can best convey yearning for love and life. They played with weight and solidity; even where the violins are like gentle, playful brooks.

Three hundred fifty people sat on benches in Borggården in the middle of the day yesterday. They beamed in competition with the musicians and the singers who also looked like they were enjoying themselves.

It was an important experience on tour to play right in Stiklestad, said many. Then we can also report that half of them have roots in Norway, including the president of St Olaf’s [sic] College, Mr. Thomforde.

The music and choir tradition is especially strong there. They are reckoned to be in the top tier in the United States of America, and when Americans decide to create quality, so there shall be quality. These are all between 18 and 24 years, and two-thirds of them have music as a major.

And we noted that. This was not a school orchestra and school choir on tour. The whole thing gave the impression of being completely professional!

We could be delighted with both a festive overture by Shostakovich and a playful G. Gershwin from one of his first visits in Cuba. He adopted the Latin American rhythms and instruments in a “Cuban Overture” in rumba tempo. The orchestra shifted as easily from the Norwegian Våren as they did from Russian to Norwegian.

They showed qualities that one doesn’t expect to find in a youth orchestra – they were as precise and dynamic in tempi as in strength.

The choir came across a little weaker because they were placed far back in an open room. But, good heavens, what a beautiful sound there is in such a homogenous young choir!

Their Norwegian songs were impressive with enunciation that many could learn from, whether it was the homeland song or Pål på Haugen. At the end they sang a Negro spiritual. One could have shattered glass with the young soprano voices in the final note. They just stood there – a long time – in a powerful, ringing cadence.

We wrote in the paper yesterday about the band in concert in Snåsa Church. Let us just repeat that they impressed as greatly in Stiklestad, whether it was Valdres March or completely new music from the USA.

The newest of all [“Sleep”], in which the band both sang and played, made through simple introductions in both choir and horn clear associations with theatre music; strange – but that’s just how it was.

Those who didn’t have the opportunity to experience this yesterday, in the middle of the day in Stiklestad, have another chance in the Nidaros Cathedral this evening. It’s worth the trip!

Photo Caption: Close: There is very close contact between orchestra and audience when the presentation takes place at Borggården in Stiklestad yesterday. Here conductor, part of the symphony orchestra and part of the audience.

Foto: Espen Storhaug