Music resonates in the heart of Mindekirken

In the spirit of Edvard Grieg

Music resonates in Mindekirken

Photo: Leslee Lane Hoyum
The Mindekirken choir performs under the direction of John DeHaan for a 17th of May celebration.

Leslee Lane Hoyum
Rockford, Minn.


The beauty of music lies in its ability to unite people from all walks of life, transcending cultural and language barriers. — EHG

When Norwegian Americans think about Norwegian music, it’s not unusual for them to think immediately of Edvard Hagerup Grieg (EHG). He is widely considered one of the leading Romantic Era composers. His unique style unassumingly incorporated traditional Norwegian folk music, which helped develop the Norwegian national identity.

Mindekirken follows in the steps of Edvard Grieg by including Norwegian and Nordic music in all aspects of its spiritual and cultural life, thereby connecting the congregation with one another and the greater community.

A melody should touch the heart, stir the soul, and leave a lasting impression. — EHG

Much of a church’s music identity forms within its Sunday morning service and, of course, with its choir and musicians. When John DeHaan, church music director, arrived in Minnesota in 2003, Mindekirken was one of the first institutions about which he heard. He found it quite alluring because of its services, liturgy, and music—all in Norwegian. The organist at the time encouraged DeHaan to apply for the position of choir director; he did, and was hired.

“It was a joy for me,” said DeHaan. “It is not often that later in one’s performance career that a new opportunity offering a new repertoire and music genre opens up. Even today I am still learning and discovering new things about Norwegian choral repertoire.” Mindekirken, too, was fortunate. DeHaan is an internationally acclaimed tenor and currently an associate professor of voice at the University of Minnesota.

DeHaan took the Mindekirken choir from a group of happy, dedicated singers and raised them to a level of excellent singers. Not an easy feat. According to DeHaan, “I learned from a college mentor that it is important to be skillful in choosing music your choir can perform. So, I choose music that is challenging, but with the voices at Mindekirken there is little problem, since members have such a good sense of pitch and tune. It’s important to me that choir rehearsals allow members to have fun and want to sing together. We just hope people will see that and want to join. All are welcome.”

DeHaan said that, to date, the most exciting performance for the choir was participating in “The Events” at the renowned Guthrie Theater. Not only was Mindekirken’s choir chosen to sing, but members also had the opportunity to act. “We were justifiably proud of ourselves,” DeHaan said. “I must say, however, that every year I am renewed when our choir sings ”Landkjenning” with the Norwegian Glee Club of Minneapolis during the 17. Mai service. It’s uplifting.” What could be more inspiring than a tune by Edvard Grieg? “Landkjenning” depicts the moment when Olav Trygvason, Norwegian Viking King, and his men sight the Norwegian coast for the first time on their voyage from England to Norway. Discovery has always been the Norwegian and Norwegian-American way, as DeHaan has experienced.

The power of music is in its ability to transport us to different places and eras, to make us feel like we are part of something greater. — EHG

According to DeHaan, Mindekirken music is one of the strongest elements of Mindekirken life, and the church’s greatest advantage over most Twin Cities locations is its acoustics. “It’s beautiful and exciting,” says DeHaan, “And it’s been here for more than 100 years.” It’s not by luck alone that many musicians, singers, and performing artists of all types choose Mindekirken. Some are drawn by the venue and its acoustics, some because of its connection to Norway, but many are recruited by the Leif Eriksson International Festival (LEIF) held each October.

Formed in 1987 under the guidance of Mindekirken Pastor John Mauritzen, LEIF has become a vibrant celebration of Minnesota’s Nordic-American roots, showcasing the music, arts, culture, and traditions of the Nordic countries. The committee works diligently to attract Nordic talent and has hosted well-known performers. Each year brings a profusion of Nordic talent, including such names as Kjell Inge Torgersen (Norway’s Sting), Tidløs (band), Oslo Chamber Choir, Kai Robert (trumpeter), and innumerable choirs and bands over its more than 25 years.

Other performers choose Mindekirken themselves or their managers select the church for a variety of reasons, including its reputation as a Norwegian-American hotspot. Some of the Norwegian artists hosted by Mindekirken include Hanne Krogh (Eurovision champion), Cool and Crazy (famous choir of movie fame), Aksel Kolstad (Norway’s Victor Borge), Arvid Tellefsen (world renowned violinist), Leiv Ove Aasnes (acclaimed pianist) and Eyvind Skeie (pastor and prolific hymnologist), to name a few. Innumerable musicians, choirs, and other artists of varied genres frequent Mindekirken.

Of course, the church never forgets about its Upper Midwest homegrown talent, including the aforementioned Norwegian Glee Club, Twin Cities Hardingfelelag, Andrea Een (Hardanger fiddler and professor emeritus of music, St. Olaf College), visiting Sangerfest members, the church’s Santa Lucia Choir and occasional serenades by the children and grandchildren of church members.

A well-composed piece of music is like a painting that comes to life, painting pictures in the minds of the listeners. — EHG

Special music in the near future is a certainty. There is always something in the works. In keeping with Mindekirken’s planning for the 2025 Crossings Celebration, Bicentennial of Norwegian Emigration, the church is commissioning a musical composition honoring Norwegian immigrants and the new life they created. The music is being written by Tore Johansen, a well known Norwegian jazz trumpeter and composer, while the text is being written by Professor Emeritus Gracia Grindal, formerly of Luther Seminary, an expert in hymnology, and a member of Mindekirken.

At this time, the composition is scheduled to be performed in New York City and Minneapolis during October 2025. Norwegian musicians and a choir will perform. In Minneapolis, students from Augsburg College will join the choir.

Music expre

It is clear that music is at the heart of Mindekirken. The church invites you to attend all performances. Feel free to go to the website at, or to receive the online newsletter or inquire about joining the choir, call the office at (612) 874-0716.


This article originally appeared in the April 2024 issue of The Norwegian American.

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Leslee Lane Hoyum

Born and raised in Minnesota, Leslee Lane Hoyum attended the University of Minnesota and University of Oslo. Leslee is or has been involved with almost every Norwegian-American organization, including Sons of Norway, Sons of Norway Foundation, Ski For Light, NAHA, Leif Eriksson International Festival and Mindekirken. Leslee is a co-founder of Lakselaget and a founding member of Norway House, and has been decorated by His Majesty King Harald with the St. Olav Medal.