The second generation

All in the Habbestad family

Photo courtesy of the Habbestand family
The second generation of the Habbestad family—Ida (left), Erlend (center), and Ingvild (right)—started playing together at an early age under the guidance of their father, Kjell Habbestad (back).

Lori Ann Reinhall
The Norwegian American

The Habbestads are a three-generation family of musicians who will be coming to Minneapolis from Norway to give several performances during the period July 29 to Aug. 6. under the sponsorship of the Edvard Grieg Society of Minnesota, a program of Norway House. 

In installment No. 2, we explore the second generation of the family and how they have carried on the family’s musical legacy.

When you listen to a family ensemble like the Habbestad Ensemble, you have to wonder how everything can come together in one family, how much of it was fate, and how much of was the result of a carefully orchestrated plan. In a recent conversation, we asked the second generation of musicians, brother and sisters, Erland, Ida, and Ingvild, how they got started on their instruments.

“I think our parents made a suggestion —a combination that would function well together, although it was perhaps not the most usual one,” Ida explained. “We all started playing at the same time, and our father got us started with some easy arrangements. As he accompanied us, we all had a feeling that it sounded great. This feeling of being able to communicate something together through music was quite powerful.”

The children were between the ages of 7 and 11 when they started playing—they don’t remember exactly. What they do remember is that they practiced together on a regular basis.

Ida explained that they did more group practice than individual practice. “I cannot remember feeling pushed in any direction, and unlike many other young musicians, we did participate frequently in competitions. But I know that our parents gave us many opportunities and a lot of musical experience.”

“I felt some kind of obligation,” Ingvild said, “but I never had the feeling it was not my choice,” she said.

Both Ida and Ingvild remember their first public performance at the local town hall. She recalls performing a little piece written by their father, and Ida added that it was very easy to play and that they only had to practice it for a few weeks.

“It sounded really nice because of the way it was arranged for us,” Ingvild said. “I felt motivated to play more.”

Soon thereafter, the Habbestad children started to think of themselves as performing artists, but they weren’t all sure about becoming professional musicians.

For Ingvild, the inspiration to become a professional musician started early, already at a second performance at the local library when she was 8 years old. “I played the Vivaldi A-minor concerto and rushed the tempo to new limits and felt I could fly!” she said.

But Ida was intrigued by other academic disciplines, and she was never attracted to the idea of playing in an orchestra or larger ensemble, which is a quite common career goal for a classical performer. She was also not very fond of practicing, which made her consider other career paths.

Ida chose to became a music journalist and currently holds an administrative position in addition to her performance gigs and duties as a young mother. Despite this busy schedule, she still enjoys performing. Ida explained:

“Every time I play, I think that I should have played more often,” she says. “But I do enjoy my other roles too, and I feel very fortunate that it is possible to combine them. Mainly, I play together with the family ensemble—people who know me well—and this is a great help. When you are interacting with someone who knows your strengths and struggles, it is so much easier to communicate and build from whatever situation you are in.

“I feel incredibly lucky and grateful for the esprit de corps we have together. Since I am playing only once in a while, I also very much feel the joyfulness of an amateur when playing. To me, this is simply the best combination of roles,” she said.

The Habbestads made several concert tours of the United States as the Habbestad Ensemble during Ida, Ingvild, and Erland’s teenage years.

Ida remembers traveling through many fascinating landscapes and visiting many small towns. They learned that the United States is so much more than the large cities with their skyscrapers. She also remembers visiting many private homes and the hospitality they experienced there.

“This way of traveling really brings you much closer to people than on a tour staying in hotels, which more or less all look the same,” says Ida. “We met many wonderful people, and on one of our tours in Wilmar, Minn., I met one of my very best friends, Kari. I think we were both 17 at that time. She came up to us after one of our concerts to tell us that she would be coming to Oslo for a year the following fall. We exchanged contact info and met up again in Oslo, Wilmar, and these days, most frequently in the Bergen area in Norway, where she now lives with her family.”

Ingvild was in agreement with Ida on all of the above: “It’s all about meeting a lot of nice people and relatives, making new friends, and experiencing a warm welcome wherever we might be!”

The entire Habbestad Ensemble is looking forward to returning to Minneapolis this summer.

“We cannot wait,” said Ida. “With so many memories, we are very much looking forward to showing this area also to our children, who have not visited the United States before.”

Ingvild added that on their last trip in 2006, she had her little son Elias with her, and now he is all grown up at 16. He, too, is very much looking forward to seeing the United States with his own eyes.

Also see: Three generations make music in the March 2023 issue of The Norwegian American.

This article originally appeared in the April 2023 issue of The Norwegian American.

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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.