A new national song for Norway’s new century

Heidi Håvan Grosch
Sparbu, Norway

Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson wrote “Ja, vi elsker dette landet” (Yes, we love this land), Henrik Wergeland wrote “Vi er en nasjon, vi med” (We are one nation together) and Finn Bø, Arild Feldborg, and Bias Bernhoft wrote the text to “Norge i rødt, hvitt og blått” (Norway in red, white, and blue). This year, in celebration of the signing of the Norwegian constitution in 2014, a new national song “Det går et festtog gjennom landet” (A festival parade is marching through the land) by Grethe Myhre Skottene and Carl-Andreas Næss from Sarpsborg, joins their esteemed ranks.

Det går en festtog gjennom landet

“It was the summer of 2012,” Grethe wrote to me,” when Carl-Andreas saw something exciting in the paper.” The Norwegian government was sponsoring a contest to create a new national song in celebration of the 200th anniversary of the signing of the Norwegian constitution, and was asking the public to submit possibilities. The song needed to be something that was accessible to everyone with simple text and an easy-to-sing melody. Carl-Andreas works as an organist and cantor at the Sarpsborg church and directs the Sarpsborg choir, so the challenge of writing something to submit was not out of his comfort zone. He knew Grethe was a logical choice for the lyrics as they had worked together on many projects in the past, including the hymn “Salme ved lysgloben” (By the light globe) for the new hymnbook, but she wasn’t interested as she was already busy with another project. Fortunately Carl-Andreas didn’t give up, and when he approached her again Grete didn’t hesitate. “It became very clear to me what this was all about,” she says. “I knew it should be a song for everyone … children, adults, old, no matter where they live … in the city and valley, the mountains and fjords. “When reflecting about 17th of May parades, she had her own “ah-ha” moment realizing “there was a festival parade throughout all of Norway.”

Here are the guidelines for the song contest from the National government from May 2012. The song needed to be:
• Something one could march to and that would appeal to everyone
• Written in the same tradition as the traditional songs Sønner av Norge (Sons of Norway) and Norge i rødt, hvit og blått (Norway in red, white, and blue)
• Be a Jubilee song connected not only to the 200th anniversary of the constitution but one that could be used in the future
• Given as a gift to the musicians of Norway (singers and instrumentalists)
• Would be judged by a jury of experts (choir and band directors, composers, lyric writers)
• Would be anonymously submitted to the government by November, 2012.

“I’ll admit that when I stand in the midst of such a process, it can sometimes seem like an overwhelming project,” Grethe reflected. “Is it really possible to embrace the 200 years of the constitution in a few lines?” But when she thought about the spring with “birdsong, budding, sun, light, air, and the joy of everything that sprouts and grows … I had a few syllables at my disposal!” When Carl-Andreas received Grete’s text, he could “taste the words and phrases,” inspiring him to write a melody and rhythm to fit. “During the process, I imagined the kids marching, singing and waving flags.” He wanted a joyful melody, especially the chorus:

Hurra! Vi marsjerer og vi synger
(Hurrah! We are marching and singing)
Sanger i rødt, hvitt og blått
(Songs in red, white, and blue)
Kjenner frihetens rytme i kroppen.
(We feel freedom’s rhythm in our bodies)
Fylt av glede for landet vårt.
(Full of happiness for this land of ours)

“Det går et festtog gjennom landet” is a song given freely to the people of Norway, a song that can be sung and played by the people for the people. “Now we release the song out in public,” comment the composers, “we hope that it will be embraced and that it will continue to be used after the anniversary.” Perhaps, wherever you might be, you could join us in singing?

Photo: Ivar Husevåg Døskeland / Wikimedia Commons  Girls singing during the children’s parade in Trondheim on the Norwegian national day, 17 May.

Photo: Ivar Husevåg Døskeland / Wikimedia Commons
Girls singing during the children’s parade in Trondheim on the Norwegian national day, 17 May.

Det går et festtog gjennom landet!
1. Det går et festtog gjennom landet!
I by og dal, ved fjell og fjord.
Vi svinger flagget stolt for Norge,
med hurrarop ifra syd og til nord.

Ref.
Hurra! Vi marsjerer og vi synger
sanger i rødt, hvitt og blått.
Kjenner frihetens rytme i kroppen.
Fylt av glede for landet vårt.

2. Den store dagen vil vi feire.
Nå lyder takkens melodi
som stiger taktfast opp fra folket.
Fra oss som ønsker et demokrati.

3. Syttende mai. Nå jubler våren!
Nasjonen pynter seg til fest.
Gå sammen, elske fram verdier
så alle trives. Da har vi det best.

4. Det går et festtog gjennom tiden
der slekter har satt dype spor.
Med sine valg gav de oss framtid.
Se, våre røtter de spirer og gror.

Addition online resources:
Both a recording of the song by the Sarpsborg Kammekor (the composers are from here), and the downloadable music (go partway down the page to “Her har du noten”) can be found at: www.nrk.no/17mai/her-er-norges-nye-jubileumssang-1.11025282.

Recordings of (including texts) for other Norwegian national songs can be found at: www.nrk.no/17mai/sliter-du-med-17.-mai-sangene_-1.2303666.

This article originally appeared in the May 9, 2014 issue of the Norwegian American Weekly. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (800) 305-0271.

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