Norway House Musikk Fest celebrates Edvard Grieg!

Festival format makes space for contemporary flair and collaboration

Norway Block Fest

Edvard Grieg Society of Minnesota

What do sing-alongs, jazz, genre-bending folk, potluck dinners, and Hollywood movies have to do with Edvard Grieg?

Give up? Each will add surprise and sizzle to the first ever Norway House Musikk Fest, powered by the Edvard Grieg Society of Minnesota (EGSMN), a program of Norway House. Slated for Aug. 3 to Aug. 7, 2022, this major programming shift marks the first time the society, founded in 2005, will present such a breathtaking and diverse number of events in such a short time span: six in five days. (And in 2023 the EGSMN will add two influential events to the series: the EGSMN Competition for Young Artists and a Winners’ Recital. Learn more about these established offerings in recent articles from The Norwegian American, listed at the end of the article.)

Photo: Wikimedia Commons
Mindekirken is a cornerstone of the Norwegian-American community in the Twin Cities.

But there’s more, as this will be a fest within a FEST! Norway Block Fest, July 26 – Aug. 7, 2022, will connect Norway House Music Fest events to the calendar of the Norwegian Memorial Church, Mindekirken. Both located on the Franklin Avenue Corridor, slightly east of Chicago, these institutions share a block and represent old and new Norwegian roots in the Ventura Village neighborhood of Minneapolis. During this period Mindekirken will combine parts of a year-long 100th jubileum (anniversary) with a July 29 celebration of Olsok, a traditional Norwegian commemorative holiday. Both Norway House and Mindekirken expect the Norway Block Fest to become a fruitful and multifaceted collaboration both within the block and within the highly diverse Ventura Village Neighborhood.

Whether you live in the Minnesota or elsewhere there will be something for everyone! Read on for details meant to entice readers, near and far, to Norway Block.

New traditions introduced

On the evening, of Aug. 3 David Fillman, will lead an audience (sated by a 5:30 p.m. Potluck på Norsk) through a 6:30 pm screening of  the classc film Song of Norway. This adorable period-paced (read a bit slow) ‘70’s film is a Hollywood version of Edvard Grieg’s life story. EGSMN hopes that David’s special touches will lead it to become a cult classic akin to the Rocky Horror Picture Show, but in a Norwegian-American family-oriented style. NORSKIE SPIRIT WEAR, understated to zany, WELCOME!

Skipping to Saturday at 7 pm, there’s Sommer Jazz by Gypsy Mania, a Twin Cities staple, followed on Sunday by genre bending folk duo PONY. This band consists of another new EGSMN advisory committee member, Clifton Nesseth, and his St. Olaf College ’10 classmate Paul Saudy; together this pair of Scandinavian-influenced musicians is a commanding new presence in Minnesota’s young music making scene. Their timeslot of 4 p.m. is perfect for the 25– 35-year-olds, offspring or not, holding off both Sunday Scaries and bedtime meltdowns.

Established traditions retained and enhanced

Dr. Bill Halverson, 2021 Going Viking Honoree

Photo courtesy of Norway House
Dr. Bill Halverson, a leading expert on Edvard Grieg, was the 2021 recipient of Norway House’s Going Viking award.

A Thursday evening event on Aug. 4, 2022 has been designed to deepen EGSMN’s audience and donors’ appreciation of the Competition. Musikk og Mat, a Festive Fundraiser will also introduce a rotating soft focus on other Nordics, this year Denmark. The venue will be The Danish American Center, which overlooks the Mississippi River at Lake Street.This sumptuous yet playful setting will be enhanced by a Grieg -related exhibition curated by Dr. Mary Jo Thorsheim of Norway Art®, a frequent contributor to The Norwegian American.  John Rose, silver medalist of the 2017 string competition, will describe the impact of the EGSMN Competition on his career development, while the ensemble he founded, the Uppsala Quartet, will perform both Grieg and a medley of Danish folk tunes.

Moving to Friday’s lineup, in future years, attendees and contestants past and present will enjoy a full day of mingling as they hear afternoon lecture and thrill to the evening Winners’ Concert, but in this transitional year the contestants are already scattered and the Winner’s Concert is past history. At 2 p.m. on Aug. 5,, however, the inaugural lecture will be held in the Norway House Galleri, where the current exhibit “papierklip,” fortuitously, was created by the Museum of Danish America. There, Dr. Bill Halvorsen will build a case for  Denmark’s Role in Evoking the Genius of Edvard Grieg; Bill is an international Grieg expert, EGSMN supporter, and longtime contributor to the Norwegian American. Jim Reilly, well known area pianist, will play pieces selected by Dr. Halvorsen.

Returning to 2023, Friday’s schedule will be rounded out by an evening concert presented by 2022 Vocal Competition winners Kerrigan Bigelow and Justin Spenner, and there will be a daylong Competition on Saturday. Spoiler alert– special appearances by the family of someone who has Grieg in his heart will join the lineup as well (hint to observant readers of The Norwegian American).

Allsang and more

Gunnar Kristiansen

Photo: Coppersmith Photography
The Rev. Gunnar Kristiansen, pastor at Mindekirken, is leading the festival sing-along and is one of the featured speakers.

But what about the allsang and Grieg connection? Allsang is Norwegian for singalong, and this brings the spotlight back to Mindekirken. This exciting showcase, orchestrated by Mindekirken’s current pastor, Gunnar Kristiansen, will include performances by members of the EGSMN advisory committee. With proven experience in developing music festivals in Norway (Nordlands Musikkfestuke), Pastor Gunnar hopes that an annual allsang will build community within this very diverse neighborhood. In a coincidental casual competition, Mindekirken wins with six events in three days!  Uff da. It happens on Friday, July 29 at 3 p.m..

On the same day there will also be an informative talk about Olsok by Pastor Gunnar at 2 pm, a neighborhood Pilgrimage which stops at significant sites at 4:30 p.m., and a lefse demo and tasting at 6 p.m. by Charlotte Brevik, resident expert.

Saturday boasts a Centennial Banquet at the Minnesota Valley Country Club in the  late afternoon/early evening, during which Young Artist Division Winner of the 2019 EGSMN Piano Competition Jiyang (Jane) Son will accompany two movements of Grieg’s Sonata No. 1, Opus 8. This piece was written for violin but has been delightfully transcribed for flute and will be performed by Ben Kim.

At 10 a.m. on Sunday, there will be a special worship message by former pastor Kristin Sundt. Jumpstarting Mindekirken’s part of the Norway Block Fest will be a seminar on Norwegian Immigrant Ancestors and their Documents from 10 a.m. -3 p.m. and sponsored by Mindekirken’s Tuesday Open House.

Lots of cultural flowering is resulting from the cross-pollination at Norway Block, and Alle er hjertelig velkommen! (All are welcome!) Book your reservations and go to the respective websites of Norway House and Miindekirken to register. That is if you aren’t going to Decorah for Nordic Fest. In either case, it’ll be a memorable trip!

Read more:

Attention Grieg enthusiasts and string musicians!

And the winners are …

With Grieg in my heart

Festival schedule:

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The Norwegian American

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