Celebrate “World ConneXions” in Førde

Førdefestivalen honors global folk music and dance with more than 300 musicians from 30 nations

Photo: Førdefestivalen / Facebook Children from many nations sing together at Førdefestivalen in 2014.

Photo: Førdefestivalen / Facebook
Children from many nations sing together at Førdefestivalen in 2014.

Molly Jones
Norwegian American Weekly

Each summer, the quaint town of Førde—nestled among the fjords and mountains of western Norway—hosts Scandinavia’s largest world music and dance festival: Førdefestivalen. The festival presents both world-renowned folk musicians and up-and-coming musicians in a diverse program of concerts, courses, exhibits, children’s activities, and more. It was first established in 1990 and has featured over 6,000 musicians in its 25-year history.

The 2015 Førdefestivalen will present 90 events at 30 different venues from July 1 to 5. This includes more than 300 artists representing 30 countries! The main venue is Kulturhuset Førdehuset, one of Norway’s oldest cultural centers, but performances will also be held at other cultural institutions such as churches and hotels.

Førdefestivalen is recognized for its crucial role in preserving traditional dance and music in Norway and receives financial support from the government as a result. It is also represented by the Royal Highness Crown Princess Mette-Marit, the official patron of the festival.

Each year, a theme is chosen to represent the musical performances and collaborations; this year, that theme is “World ConneXions.”

The festival’s Artistic Director Hilde Bjørkum explains the theme: “Through a number of projects, this year’s festival will focus on the similarities and relationships between music, song, and dance traditions in different cultures.”

“It is incredibly exciting to explore different music traditions across geographical and cultural boundaries,” adds Bjørkum. “What are the common characteristics of oral traditions in Europe? The magical sympathetic strings of the Hardanger fiddle, do they sound similar to those of the sarangi from India, the nyckelharpa from Sweden, or the gadulka from Bulgaria? What happens when the polyphonic song traditions and the jews harp from the Sardinian mountains meet the inciting overtone songs and the khomus from the Mongolian highlands? And how does the West African harp Kora communicate with its relative from Wales, and with the classical concert harp?”

Photo: Pixabay The beautiful Sunnfjord region awaits.

Photo: Pixabay
The beautiful Sunnfjord region awaits.

Bjørkum’s questions inspired a series of performances that bring musicians and instruments from different cultures together.

In the “String ConneXions” performance, four top string instrument musicians will perform together for the first time: Norwegian Gro Marie Svidal on the Hardanger fiddle, Swedish Emilia Amper on the nyckelharpa, Indian Murad ali Khan on the sarangi, and Bulgarian Peyo Peev on the gadulka.

“Vocal ConneXions” will feature prominent vocalists Unni Løvlid of Norway, Julie Fowlis of Scotland, Annie Ebrel of France, and Gergana Dimitrova of Bulgaria.

The program presents an (almost) endless list of inspiring performances throughout the festival. One of Bjørkum’s top picks is the collaboration between the Welsh harpist Catrin Finch and the Senegalese kora player Seckou Keita—both world-renowned harpists.

Førde may not have been on your list of must-see locations, but it is a beautiful location located just 100 miles north of Bergen and can be reached a variety of ways, depending on your travel style.

The Widerøe airline flies directly to Førde Airport, Bringeland, from Oslo Gardemoen in about one hour and from Flesland in Bergen in just 20 minutes. By car, you can reach Førde in six hours from Oslo over Hemsedal, Lærdal, Skei, or in three hours from Bergen along with the Oppedal-Lavik ferry. If you want to take advantage of the scenery, consider taking a boat trip with Fjord1 from Bergen to Vadheim and then traveling the remaining distance by bus.

The official festival hotel is Scandic Sunnfjord Hotel & Spa and is conveniently located right in the center of Fjørde. However, local accommodations may fill up quickly during the duration of the festival, so you may want to look into overnight locations in Vassenden, Skei, Naustdal, Florø, Sande, Skilbrei, or Bygstad. Any of these accommodations will place you within an hour’s drive and may even offer transport to the festival.

While you’re in the Sunnfjord area, you should also take the time to enjoy the surrounding nature and attractions.

Consider taking hikes in the surrounding mountains or visiting the nearby waterfalls. Huldefossen is a 300-foot waterfall that drops down into the valley and is located approximately six miles from the town of Førde, and Halbrendsfossen can be reached in just a short walk from the Førde town center.

The Sunnfjord Museum offers a glimpse into the past with 25 restored antiquarian buildings depicting life in this region during the mid-1800s. Daily guided tours are available during the summer to take you through this cultural outdoor museum.

For those interested in folk traditions around the globe and a desire to visit western Norway, the Førdefestivalen might just be the ideal summer destination.

Visit www.fordefestival.no for more information about the festival and the complete program.

This article originally appeared in the May 15, 2015, issue of the Norwegian American Weekly.

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The Norwegian American is North America's oldest and only Norwegian newspaper, published since May 17, 1889.