Grieg Gala resonates throughout Ballard

Seattle-Bergen Sister City’s Grieg Gala brings the songs and sounds of Norway to Seattle

Photo: Martin Ng Allion Salvador will conduct the Seattle Philharmonic Strings at the Seattle-Bergen Sister City Association’s third annual Grieg Gala at Ballard First Lutheran Church, June 12, at 2:00 p.m.

Photo: Martin Ng
Allion Salvador will conduct the Seattle Philharmonic Strings at the Seattle-Bergen Sister City Association’s third annual Grieg Gala at Ballard First Lutheran Church, June 12, at 2:00 p.m.

Special Release
Seattle-Bergen Sister City Association

For those in and about Ballard these days, it’s hard not to notice that something is going on with the Seattle-Bergen Sister City Association. Last January, visitors to the Nordic Heritage Museum were privileged to feast their eyes on the beauty of the Flora Metamorphicae ceramic flower installation co-sponsored by the association and the museum, and most recently SBSCA president Lori Ann Reinhall rocked the stage at Bergen Place with the Northwest Accordionaires for the 17th of May celebration with their special Tribute to Edvard Grieg. Both events emerged as part of a revival of the 49-year-old group that is quickly becoming one of Seattle’s most active sister cities. Fortunately for anyone that missed either of these events, and for those ready for a reprise, they will soon have an opportunity to be part of the festivities at this year’s Grieg Gala at Ballard First Lutheran Church on Sunday, June 12.

For the past three years, SBSCA president Reinhall has tried to up the ante for the event and grow the festival, and from all reports, this year’s concert will without a doubt fulfill that ambition. 2016 boasts an impressive line-up of artists and a richly varied program, including two sopranos, two pianists, a violinist, and a festival string orchestra. And there is much to celebrate for the SBSCA this year: the group is not only marking the 173rd birthday of Bergen and Norway’s most famous composer that falls on June 15 of the same week but also commemorating the City of Bergen’s gift of 100 flowers from the Flora Metamorphicae exhibit to the City of Seattle. The flowers will namely be on display to enjoy at the reception following the concert before they start off on a summer tour including installations first at Secret Garden Books and then at the International Sons of Norway Convention in Tacoma in August before landing at Seattle City Hall for a special one-year exhibit. “The gift from Bergen and the ‘Flora’ artists marked a turning-point for us,” Reinhall observes. “Somehow it was our sister city’s way of acknowledging that we’re here, that they value our relationship, and that they want it to endure—and of course, we share this sentiment.”

Opening the program will be Professor Mimmi Fulmer from the University of Wisconsin, a celebrated soprano, who recently published an acclaimed anthology of Nordic song. Reinhall first met Fulmer at the project’s inception, when she came to Seattle to research the repertory in the area’s various libraries, including the archives at the Nordic Heritage Museum. Lori Ann combed through the collection of sheet music at the Swedish Club for her, as well as her own home library. With time, Fulmer also made contact with Northwest Norwegian songbird Laura Loge, who offered her advice and expertise on the phonetical transcription of the Norwegian songs in the anthology. “Working together both as colleagues and friends makes it all the more fun,” Reinhall shares, “and I feel we have much to celebrate with the publication of Mimmi’s work, which makes Scandinavian music more accessible to singers everywhere. It is not so often that two sopranos perform in the same program, but somehow it’s absolutely perfect for our gala.”

Accompanying Fulmer on the piano is Aaron Otheim, returning to the stage for a third consecutive year, like Loge, a perennial favorite in the Nordic community. Fulmer and Otheim will be joined by conductor and violinist Allion Salvador for a piece by Grieg’s contemporary Ole Bull, the beloved favorite Sæterjentens søndag. Salvador will also perform Grieg’s Violin Sonata No. 3 together with his talented colleague Steven Damouni on the keyboard. Salvador makes an appearance at the gala for his second year as conductor of the Seattle Philharmonic Strings, the festival orchestra made up of players from Music Director Adam Stern’s Seattle Philharmonic Orchestra and students from the University of Washington School of Music.

“Working with Adam and Allion has been an immense pleasure,” Reinhall adds. “Adam possesses enormous talent and professionalism, and he has so generously brought his knowledge and experience to this event, both in terms of programming and working with the orchestra, while Allion brings youthful exuberance.” Stern and Salvador, mentor and student, have collaborated on all aspects of the performance, and upon observing them, the synergy is apparent. Salvador will conduct the orchestra in Grieg’s Waltz Caprice No. 1 and Two Elegiac Melodies for Strings, joined by Loge in his own arrangement of Six Songs, Op. 48. “There is a lot of excitement in what Allion is doing,” Reinhall remarks. “When he takes up his baton, there’s a joy and enthusiasm in the music seldom experienced: it’s magic.”

With its third annual Grieg Gala, the Seattle-Bergen Association strives to bring a musical offering to the table that offers something for everyone, and by its very nature, the classical music of Edvard Grieg is very welcoming to the uninitiated. “Based in folk music and the melodious tones of the Romantic classical revival, it has an intrinsic appeal to all audiences, and the Norwegian language lives from its own beauty and musicality,” Lori Ann Reinhall notes. She should know, since she herself starting playing Grieg on the piano when she was only seven years old. Reinhall will serve as the host and emcee for the concert, which starts at 2:00 p.m., Sunday, June 12, at Ballard First Lutheran Church, 2006 NW 65th St. A reception follows the concert, complete with Norwegian delicacies. Admission is free to the public with an opportunity to make a donation in support of the Seattle-Bergen Sister City Association. For more information, email seattlebergensistercities@gmail.com or visit www.facebook.com/seattlebergensistercities.

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