Sommer Musikk Fest kicks off with flair—with more to come!

Two-week music festival to culminate with 2022 Competition Winners’ Concert

Justin Anthony Spenner and Kerrigan Bigelow

This year’s Sommer Musikk Fest, sponsored by the Edvard Grieg Society of Minnesota, will feature a magnificent performance by Justin Anthony Spenner and Kerrigan Bigelow, winners of the 2022 Voice Competition, on Aug. 4 at Mindekirken on Norway Block in Minneapolis.

Synneva Bratland
The Norwegian American

On the evening of July 28, the Edvard Grieg Society of Minnesota (EGSMN) kicked off its 2023 Sommer Musikk Fest. Hosted at Norway House in Minneapolis, the second annual festival is a “family-friendly expression of community togetherness surrounding performances, scholarship, networking, food and drink, and above all, music.” Over the course of two weeks, the EGSM puts on “a variety of concerts, lectures, dinners, happy hours, and performances from last year’s voice competition winners.”

Alexander Rybak

Eurovision winner Alexander Rybak brought the house down with his performance at Norway House on July 28, as the 2023 Sommer Musikk Fest kicked off.

The festival started on July 28 with an extraordinary concert from Alexander Rybak, Norwegian singer-songwriter-violinist and Eurovision winner, and Stefan Ibsen Zlatanos, one of Scandinavia’s most talented pianists. The duo performed a unique mixture of classical, jazz, film compositions, and originals, woven together with operatic comedy, personal serenades, and a playful display of lifelong friendship.

The next day, this blowout performance was followed by a full program of music and community. In the afternoon, Peter Skjervold, a Minneapolis-based musician, led a multicultural singalong, which gave everyone a chance to sing in both Norwegian and Swedish. Attendees also heard Danish, Turkish, Ukrainian, and Oromo (Ethiopian) songs.

That evening, guests at Norway House enjoyed a gourmet Bacalao dinner prepared by Chef Francisco and ELMO Catering. Although it originated in Spain and Portugal, Bacalao has become immensely popular in Norway since it was first introduced in Norway in the 19th century. Recipes vary around the world, but traditional Norwegian versions of this dish contain salted and dried cod in a stew of tomatoes, potatoes, onions, and olives. Guests at Norway House enjoyed Kirsti and Joe Grødahl’s own special version. Bacalao is particularly popular in the Norwegian county of Møre og Romsdal on the west coast.

The day culminated in a concert by Peter Skjervold & Friends for an audience of jazz fans, many of whom were new to Norway House. In addition to Skjervold on saxophone, the ensemble consisted of two vocalists, a string bass, guitar, flute, and piano. The group opened with a rendition of George Gershwin’s “Summertime,” and set the tone for a wonderful evening full of favorite jazz standards.

On Aug. 3, the festival continues with daytime events specifically geared toward children and families. Families are first invited to get a taste of Barnehage at Norway House. Children aged 2-4— along with a parent or caregiver — will sing, play, and create with teacher Kari Stern. Registration is required but is free of charge.

Sommer Musikk Fest

Rolf Erdahl and Carrie Vecchione will bring delight to young and and old alike with OboeBass!, a program filled with stories, dances, and Norwegian folk tunes.

Following the class, OboeBass! will present stories, dances, and Norwegian folk tunes to be enjoyed by anyone “age 5 to Bestefar og Bestemor!” The local duo consists of oboist Carrie Vecchione and bassist Rolf Erdahl and will perform a mixture of traditional folksongs and music by Edvard Grieg, Rikard Nordraak, and Adrian Mann.

Aug. 4 will be a night of music and scholarship centered around the work of Edvard Grieg and other Nordic composers. First, Bradley Ellingboe will give a “non-technical and fun presentation about the fascinating world of music arranging,” moderated by Edvard Grieg scholar and translator William H. Halverson. Ellingboe, an award-winning choral music composer and arranger, will also describe EGSMN’s brand-new 2023/24 Arranging Competition.

Bradley Ellingboe Sommer Musikk Fest

Award-winning composer and arranger Bradley Ellingboe will describe EGSMN’s brand-new 2023/24 Arranging Competition.

Following the lecture, guests can enjoy a pre-concert reception to celebrate the second and main weekend of the 2023 Sommer Musikk Fest. A ticket to the gathering includes a complimentary drink and heavy appetizers, as well as a chance to enjoy the exhibit, New Nordic Cuisine.

The night will culminate with the 2022 Competition Winners’ Concert. The top vocalists from last year’s competition, soprano Kerrigan Bigelow and bass-baritone Justin Anthony Spenner, will make their debut with EGSMN. Held at Mindekirken, the Norwegian Lutheran Memorial Church on Norway Block across from Norway House, the concert will also include an announcement of a fourth competition category for 2024.

Upon the conclusion of the 2023 EGSMN Piano Competition, Norway House is hosting a perfectly Norwegian dinner—a Saturday evening pizza party. Norwegians consume the most pizza per capita in the world, and it is most often enjoyed on Saturdays, giving rise to the term Lørdagspizza! Guests will have a chance to participate by enjoying homemade pizza by Chef Francisco.

The final concert of the 2023 Sommer Musikk Fest, PONYFOLK!, promises to be “a joyful evening of folk music and toe-tapping from a local favorite.” Described as a blend of Scandinavian, Bluegrass, Folk-Rock, Jazz, and Classical music, Clif Nesseth and Paul Sauey present a “unique combination of original songs and retooled classics” that are sure to please!.

For more infomration on Sommer Musikk Fest and to obtain tickets, please visit the festival page on the Norway House website at norwayhouse.org/egsmn/sommer-fest-2023.

All images courtesy of Norway House.

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