“Nystemten”

A song to celebrate a city

Photo: Inge Gjellesvik / NTB scanpix
At the 1986 Eurovision Song Contest, singer Sissel Kyrkjebø stole the show when she sang the Bergen Song during intermission.

LORI ANN REINHALL
The Norwegian American

“Sang til Bergen” (Song to Bergen), with the subtitle “Udsigter fra Ulriken” (Views from Ulrik Mountain), is the town song of Bergen. It is also known as “Bergenssangen” (The Bergen Song}, “Bergensiana,” “Jeg tok min nystemte” (I Took my Newly Tuned), and more commonly among the residents of Bergen as “Nystemten”(Newly Tuned).

Today, the song is sung at major festivities, both public and private, and it is customary to stand up together.

The lyrics were written in 1790 by the priest, politician, and poet Johan Nordahl Brun, then vicar at Bergen Cathedral. The melody, however, has French origins, taken from an old minuet. 

In 1913, Norwegian composer Johan Halvorsen wrote his orchestral variations on the melody “Bergensiana, Rococo Variations on an Old Melody from Bergen,” frequently performed by symphony orchestra, marching bands, and ensembles.

At the 1986 Eurovision Song Contest held in Bergen’s Grieg Hall, a young Sissel Kyrkjebø stole the show when she sang “Nystemten” during the intermission. She was only 16 years old, and the performance marked her big breakthrough, as she rose to fame in Norway and abroad.

Sang til Bergen  — Song to Bergen

Jeg tog min nystemte Cithar i Hænde;
Sorgen forgik mig pa Ulrikens Top.
Tænkte paa Bauner, om de skulde Brænde,
og byde Mandskab mot Fienden op;
følede Freden, blev glad i min Aand,
og greb til min Cithar med legende Haand.

Translation (by Lori Ann Reinhall)

I took my newly tuned zither to Mount Ulrik
Sorrows were gone when I reached the top
Wondered if beacons would soon be burning
And called up men to protect our land and lot
I felt a peace, my spirit full of joy, and
Took up my zither with a playful hand.

To hear Sissel’s famous Eurovision rendition of “Nystemten,” visit:

www.youtube.com/watch?v=V56XCxor9jc

This article originally appeared in the Oct. 23, 2020, issue of The Norwegian American. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.

Lori Ann Reinhall

Lori Ann Reinhall

Lori Ann Reinhall, editor-in-chief of The Norwegian 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.

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