A tale of two cities

Seattle Sister City Association renews its relationship with Bergen and Edvard Grieg

Photo: Nels Peterson Laura Loge, soprano, Grieg Gala

Photo: Nels Peterson
Laura Loge, soprano.

Special Release
Seattle-Bergen Sister City Association

In 1956, President Dwight Eisenhower created the people-to-people exchange program between Americans and citizens of other countries. His intention was to foster citizen diplomacy in the hope of lessening future world conflicts. Seattle is proud to have been one of the innovators in promoting and developing sister city relationships, and in 1967, a sister-city relationship was forged between Seattle and Bergen.

Throughout the years, the Seattle-Bergen program has featured many outstanding cultural and educational exchanges. In 1970 Sister Cities International honored the association with an award for best overall program. Bergen’s Nordness Park has a totem pole from Seattle, and the Seattle community of Ballard has a park at Bergen Place in Ballard dedicated by King Olav of Norway. Only last month the fully restored mural at Bergen Place was rededicated by King Harald V of Norway on his visit to the Pacific Northwest.

With the support of the City of Seattle and direct connections to city government in Bergen, the SBSCA serves as an intermediary for business, education, and culture. In recent years, the SBSCA has worked to strengthen its community outreach. The culmination of their efforts was the re-establishment of the Annual Edvard Grieg Gala in 2014. The concert, showcasing local Norwegian-American artists, was an astounding success. It was repeated with another summer Grieg concert featuring visiting musicians from Norway. Also popular is the annual “Seven Hills Walk,” modelled on an event in Bergen, a city also built on seven hills.

Photo: Hamilton Boyce Aaron Otheim, piano, Grieg Gala

Photo: Hamilton Boyce
Aaron Otheim, piano.

SBSCA president Lori Ann Reinhall is no stranger to the music of Edvard Grieg, and she looks forward to hosting this year’s musical extravaganza at Ballard First Lutheran Church. “A Norwegian by choice,” Lori studied music in Sweden with a Norwegian teacher, and so began her love affair with Grieg and Norway. “Grieg can be seen as Bergen’s greatest export,” comments Reinhall. “He is still considered to be Norway’s greatest classical composer, and much of musical life in Bergen revolves around him.”

“We are very lucky to have so much musical talent in the Nordic community here,” remarks Reinhall, “and very lucky that they support our group by participating in our Grieg Gala.” Featured is an all-star line-up. Soprano Laura Loge returns from a recent trip to Bergen that included a week of coaching and studying at Grieg’s home in Troldhaugen. The highlight was her performance in Grieg’s living room, overlooking the same fjord he admired every day. For the gala, Loge will perform songs composed to the poetry of Ibsen, H.C. Andersen, and H.O. Vinje. She will be accompanied by Aaron Otheim, who has also visited Troldhaugen and is equally well-versed in the Grieg repertory. To top off the program, the Seattle Philharmonic Strings, conducted by Allion Salvador, will perform the “Holberg Suite.”

This special program commemorates the 172nd birthday of the composer on June 15. The SBSCA and other organizers expect the performance to be no less than thrilling with the beautiful ambience and outstanding acoustics of Ballard First Lutheran Church.

The June 14 Grieg Gala is open to the public, free of charge. Those who wish may make a donation to support the Seattle-Bergen Sister City Association. A reception with the artists will follow the concert with exquisite Norwegian refreshments.

This article originally appeared in the June 12, 2015, issue of the Norwegian American Weekly.

Lori Ann Reinhall

Lori Ann Reinhall, editor-in-chief of The Norwegian American, is a multilingual journalist and cultural ambassador based in Seattle. She is the president of the Seattle-Bergen Sister City Association, and she serves on the boards of several Nordic organizations.