Reflections from Sparbu
On a Visit from the St. Olaf Study Group
By Heidi Håvan Grosch
There is nothing better than a busload of Norwegian-Americans visiting Norway. Passionate about everything they encounter, they eagerly ask questions, share stories and soak in every experience they are exposed to. Such was Saturday, June 16th for us here in Sparbu.
About a year ago, I read in a St. Olaf publication (I am an alum from 1986) that the St. Olaf choir was touring Norway in June 2013 and a St. Olaf Travel Study Tour was following them. This was to be a two-week tour, beginning in Bergen June 7 and traveling via Ålesund, Molde, and Kristiansund before heading to Trondheim and then north to Snåsa. That route took them within 3 km. of our farm, so I invited them to stop in for a visit. Emails traveled back and forth over the next twelve months until finally we settled on a visit to the century old Mære church, coffee in the church hall, and a stop in at the little museum across the street at the farm school (Landbrukskole).
The night before they were to arrive, three of us attended the St. Olaf concert in Snåsa, one hour away. As we sat waiting for the magic to begin, I started chatting with the folks behind me, wearing nametags indicating they were in the tour group we would be hosting the next day.
We talked for a long time and when they got off the bus in Mære on Saturday it was as if we were already lifelong friends. It doesn¹t take much to strengthen connections that are already so strong between the U.S. and Norway, and all of us from Sparbu agree that this experience made memories for us that we will carry in our hearts for a long time to come.
My mother-in-law made waffles, and my husband and I muffins, saft and open-faced sandwiches. Our former organist (and my sister-in-law’s uncle) agreed to play the organ and give a tour of the church, my archeologist sister-in-law was on hand to answer questions and my father-in-law acted as the museum tour guide and source of all things farm related. All in all, it was a family affair and despite the short time frame I think many from the tour also connected in one way or another with that experience.
I also have to take a moment to mention the choir concert itself. It is not uncommon to attend a normal Sunday morning church service here in Norway and find that those singing or leading worship (in less it is a baptism or confirmation Sunday) outnumber those sitting in the pews, especially in small churches like Snåsa and Mære. So to be in a church where there was no room to spare, listening to music that filled every crack and crevice with richness and hearing words that were sermons in and of themselves, was a gift. The folks behind me commented on how appropriate singing in Snåsa church was that night as the choir is the
church’s heart. That is especially true here in Norway as churches are the most common concert venues for local choir concerts.
So the St. Olaf tour brought with it two gifts Š the choir, with music and text that reached into our very core, creating a connection between choir and congregation Š and the tour group, with their passion for being Norwegian, creating a connection between those of us who live here and those who left generations ago.
I am proud to be an Ole.
This article originally appeared in the June 28, 2013 issue of the Norwegian American Weekly. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (800) 305-0271.