In Tordenskiold’s footsteps: Langesund International Shanty Festival

Photos: Bjorn Olsen Scenes from the Shanty Festival include onstage performances, busking, and naval reenactments using old wooden ships.

Photo: Bjorn Olsen
Scenes from the Shanty Festival include onstage performances, busking, and naval reenactments using old wooden ships.

Bjorn Olsen
Skien, Norway

The 2015 Langesund International Shanty Festival saw choirs and participants from England, the Netherlands, France, Belgium, Ireland, Germany, and of course Norway. Previously there have been participants from the U.S., New Zealand, Poland, Wales, Scotland, Sweden, and Denmark, and many more who want to come back.

Langesund is a little old maritime town on the coast of Telemark, with 5,500 inhabitants. During the festival the place bustles with some 20,000 guests! The famous naval hero Peter Wessel, otherwise known as Tordenskiold, lived in the city from 1711 to 1713 while he waited for his ship to be built. Here the old town houses from the 1600s are well preserved, and the region’s long seafaring tradition with them.

Photo: Bjorn Olsen

Photo: Bjorn Olsen

During the first week of June each year the shanty festival takes place in Langesund, organized by Langesund Mannsangforening—a choir that repeatedly visits the United States and plans to return soon. During the festival, there are several joint events, and the various choirs sing on every corner, filling the city with singing and music for three days. A large food tent, serving all sorts of drinks, also hosts dancing at night, while old sailing ships have “naval battles” with bombs and gunpowder by day.

Photo: Bjorn Olsen

Photo: Bjorn Olsen

Despite all this history, Langesund has become a modern city. Cruise ships run daily from Langesund to Denmark and Norway’s western cities, Stavanger and Bergen. This trip is worth taking. Choirs and singing groups are welcome to next year’s Shanty Festival.

This article originally appeared in the June 19, 2015, issue of the Norwegian American Weekly. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.

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