Attention Grieg enthusiasts and string musicians!

Applications open for the Edvard Grieg Society of Minnesota’s 2021 String Competition

Grieg String Competition- Mindekirken

Photo courtesy of Norway House
Young string players perform in the sanctuary of Minnekirken in Minneapolis.

Editorial Assistant
The Norwegian American

This summer, a selection of string musicians from across the United States will gather, either virtually or in person in Minneapolis, to perform some of Norwegian composer Edvard Grieg’s magnificent string compositions. They will be performing as a part of the Edvard Grieg Society of Minnesota’s (EGSM) 2021 String Competition. 

The competition is “designed to promote and encourage young musicians and their instructors to expand their study and performance of the music of Edvard Grieg and other Nordic composers, and to provide performance and scholarship opportunities for the competition winners.” Participation is open for string musicians who are between 16 and 30 years old from across the United States.  

This year’s competition is the fourth of its kind hosted by EGSM. The first string competition was hosted in 2017, followed by a voice competition in 2018 and a piano competition in 2019.

“We have found the competitions so valuable that we have set up a four-year repeating rotation of competitions covering major areas of Grieg’s compositional output—music for strings, piano, and voice,” explained Rolf Erdahl, chair of the EGSM string competition. “The fourth year of the cycle is dedicated to special projects like scholarly projects, composition commissions, etc.”

These annual competitions are a vital part of EGSM’s programming. “From the beginning, the advancement of Grieg’s work among music students and young scholars was central to the Edvard Grieg Society of Minnesota’s charter and many of its concerts,” said Ethan Bjelland, marketing and communications manager at Norway House, the organizational home of EGSM. “We were inspired [to create the competition] in part by the International Edvard Grieg Piano Competition held at Troldhaugen each year, and we noted no competition stateside. The opportunity to support the scholarship of Nordic music in the United States was apparent.”

EGSM was established in 2005 to ensure Grieg’s music was promoted and supported in the United States. “Grieg is often credited as the composer who introduced the sound of the Nordics to the rest of the world,” said Bjelland. “The style, emotions, and history associated with Grieg’s work are so important and so personal for so many musicians and music lovers around the world.”

Erdahl continued, “Grieg’s works for strings are underperformed gems of the Romantic era repertoire…Part of the mission of the Edvard Grieg Society is to pass along the torch of understanding, appreciating, and performing this music to the next generation.”

In part because of coronavirus restrictions, EGSM was unable to hold a competition last year. This year the competition will be virtual, with the possibility that the final round could be a live performance if pandemic conditions allow it.  While it is, of course, unfortunate that a live concert may not be possible, there are a few positive things that have come from planning for a virtual competition. 

“One silver lining to this is that it made it possible to make it a national competition,” said Erdahl. “Earlier, we had planned on a regional competition in the five-state area of Minnesota, Iowa, Wisconsin, North Dakota, and South Dakota. The goal of the competition is to spread awareness of Grieg’s works … Making the competition national spreads the word much farther than we had originally imagined.”

This year’s event involves two rounds of competition. Applicants must first submit a video recording of themselves performing the first movement of a Grieg sonata by April 1. Those who move onto the final performance round must prepare a complete Grieg sonata, a Grieg miniature, and a short piece by another Nordic composer. Depending on pandemic restrictions, the final performance round may be performed live at Mindekirken in Minneapolis, or it may be streamed online. It is slated to take place June 5 and 6.

At the end of the competition, participants have the opportunity to win one of four awards. First place will win a cash prize of $1,500 and a recital during the 2021–2022 EGSM concert season, with second and third place winning cash prizes of $1,000 and $500 respectively. The Edvard Grieg Society of America’s William H. Halverson Prize will also be awarded to the participant with a “particularly memorable performance of Grieg’s music” and includes a $300 cash prize. 

Proceeds from the EGSM virtual fundraiser on Jan. 17 will go toward scholarships for the final performance round in June.

Applications are now open for EGSM 2021 String Competition. You can find the application, eligibility requirements, and more information on the Norway House website at 

This article originally appeared in the Jan. 29, 2021, issue of The Norwegian American.

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Courtney Olsen

Courtney Olsen is a writer based in Tacoma, Wash. She is a graduate of Pacific Lutheran University in Tacoma and the University of Oxford in England and has been writing for The Norwegian American since 2020. A historical fiction enthusiast, she spends her free time working through her ever-growing reading list with a cup of tea in hand.