From home to home
Inger-Kristine Riber brings musicians together online; series to culminate in special 17th of May concert broadcast worldwide from Hardanger
LORI ANN REINHALL
The Norwegian American
She is an internationally acclaimed concert pianist and accomplished composer—who just happens to be a self-taught computer whiz. Meet Inger-Kristine Riber, who, in the course of just a few weeks, has brought musicians and listeners from all over the world together from her home studio in Eidfjord, Norway.
When COVID-19 hit Norway and the rest of the world, Ingrid-Kristine Riber knew she wanted to do something to connect with her colleagues. Suddenly, she found herself in an entirely new situation with the restrictions that had been put in place in Norway. Used to traveling and working in an international environment, she was now confined to her home in Eidfjord. The musician wanted to fill her days with meaningful work outside of the hours she spent rehearsing and composing. The result was her online musical program, “Frå heim til heim”—“From home to home.”
The internet was already filled with virtual concerts, and Riber knew that she wanted to take a different approach. She is a freelance musician, and like many others, she suddenly found herself unable to earn income onstage. And while composers can keep working, many live performers have lost nearly all their income during the coronavirus crisis—even in Norway. Riber thought it would be interesting to reach out to her colleagues abroad to perform together, learn about each other’s situations, and to find ways for everyone to help each other.
The idea took off quickly. Riber sent off an initial email blast to 30 potential collaborators, a combination of freelance and steadily employed musicians. Much to her astonishment, with only two unanswered emails, everyone responded with an enthusiastic “yes!”
The interested parties encompassed a variety of instruments across genres and nationalities, which would offer a very broad perspective to the audience. But this, of course, would entail far more programming than what could be included in the one-week series she had initially planned for the Easter week—and in the end, it would become a question of when she would stop.
In terms of repertory, there were few constraints, and Riber tried to let the musicians select the works they would perform. “Everyone has their favorites,” she said, “and I wanted to give them their freedom.” Not able to get to a grand piano in a studio, she was able to accompany them on her electric keyboard at home.
The result was something marvelous, as the musicians gave it their all and opened up to the audiences they could not see. “People were very willing to talk about their situations,” Riber said, and in this way, the broadcasts offered intimate insights from an unusual “backstage.” Everyone missed the interaction they normally would have with a live audience—“You lose the energy in the room,” said Riber—yet, there were still many magical moments.
For me, it was fascinating to listen in to the series during my workday in Seattle. Like Riber, I was inspired by the optimism that all the musicians expressed. I could hear that they were filling their days with meaningful work and that COVID-19 was somehow a manageable situation for them. Riber explained to me that some were even happy to have more time to practice or to work on composing or arranging music, and others had taken “normal” jobs in grocery stores or outdoor plant nurseries to supplement their incomes.
The program was witness to creativity on multiple levels—all quite amazing when you realized that everyone was giving of themselves absolutely freely: there has never been a single dime or Norwegian krone exchanged during the project. Riber intentionally did not apply for any funding, at a time when so many other organizations are in need. “It was nice to create a concept to share knowledge and the love of music without asking for money,” she said—and somehow this love could be felt all the way across the Atlantic.
Amazingly, there weren’t any big technical glitches throughout the series, which has been running continuously for several weeks. There were a few scheduling collisions with the various lockdowns around the world to work around, and at times, perfectionism drew things out a bit. Riber would record her part on the piano first, and the other musicians recorded their part, sometimes even on a cell phone. Riber would then synchronize the recordings and do the necessary video editing. It could be exhausting, but she has always liked computers and was happy to learn new things.
To get the word out, Riber set up a Facebook page (facebook.com/ingerkr/videos/10158136105883584), where the programs could be accessed, and made use of Instagram to leverage the full potential of social media. Between April 5 and May 2, just fewer than 30,000 viewers were reached. It didn’t take long for traditional media to take note, and a glowing review appeared in the local newspapers, until the NRK caught wind of the excitement coming out of Eidfjord and the story aired on the national news.
If one episode stands out in particular, it would be Riber’s performance with folk singer Reidun Horvei and a string quartet of four young musicians from Seattle. This group first came together in Seattle in 2017 for a gala concert sponsored by the Seattle-Bergen Sister City Association and went on to tour western Norway the following year. In every instance, there is something extraordinary that happens when they come together. Admittedly, I am totally biased as their friend and president of the sister city association—but apparently, many others felt the same way. This episode topped the charts, with over 5,800 views and rave reviews from both near and far—you can link to the episode here.
Duo Horvei-Riber will unite for the final episode of “Frå heim til heim” on May 17 in celebration of Norway’s Constitution Day, and The Norwegian American is on board to promote and enjoy this event with our subscribers, followers, and friends. Billed as “Kunstnarfest i Hardanger”—“Hardanger Arts Festival” in the United States—the production will bring together 21 well-known artists from the Hardanger region, with songs, Hardanger fiddle tunes, visual arts, readings, flags, and a parade of antique cars—all kicking off with no less than a cannon salute. Some of the performers will be filming themselves, or Riber will be assisting behind the camera. There will be sweeping views from drone cameras flying over the scenic area. It is sure to be a feast for both the eyes and ears, and defiantly something not to miss. We invite all readers to mark their calendars for 1 p.m. PDT on May 17 to celebrate in a way they have never celebrated before, with a bridge of music and love crossing oceans.
Crossing borders is all that this project has been about, and for Riber, it’s been a life-changing experience. In the past, she had been uncomfortable putting herself on the screen to talk, but now she sees the value of letting down her guard to reach out to her audience. In the same way, many of the musicians involved in the project gained new skills with computers and cell phones. They all learned the value of digital platforms to build new audiences and create valuable PR for their work. Riber is looking forward to a second season of “Frå heim til heim” next year, and many of them are lined up to participate again.
But most of all, Riber found out that even if she was stuck at home, she didn’t need to sit around and wait for something to happen. She experienced the joy of mutual support between friends and colleagues, the joy of art so powerful that it can transcend borders and make a difference. That is the real power of art—and in the end, to quote Inger-Kristine Riber, “Not even the coronavirus can stop music.”
Read more about Inger-Kristine Riber on her homepage: Inger-Kristine Riber: www.ikriber.no
Lori Ann Reinhall, editor-in-chief of The Nowegian 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.