United in song

Choir’s Norway tour builds relationships

Photo courtesy of Rosalie Grosch
Incarnation choir sings in Nidaros Cathedral in Trondheim, a highlight of the journey that bound them together as family.

Rosalie Grosch
Arden Hills, Minn.

Why would a choir from Shoreview, Minnesota, travel by bus from Trondheim, Norway, to a village called Sparbu, two hours north?

My daughter, Heidi, married a Norwegian in 2007 and moved to Sparbu. Settling into a new culture was not easy for her, but she found a place to belong and feel at home in the Sparbu Songlag, a community-based choir. In 2011, Sparbu Songlag came to the U.S. Participating in the Nordic Fest in Decorah, Iowa, was a major reason for their trip, but they also sang in our community of faith, Incarnation Lutheran Church. Homestays were a part of the experience for the Norwegians.

Dr. Dave Ellison, Director of Music at Incarnation, and his wife, Cindi, traveled to Norway in 2015. The trip included a visit to the Sparbu area.

In the fall of 2016, Dave asked the choir if anyone would be interested in a tour to Norway and Sweden, the goal being to have enough of us to fill one bus. The response was good and by mid-March rehearsals began. Over the next three months, the group, made up of Incarnation choir members and others, not only rehearsed but also gathered socially. Friendships were established.

On June 13, 2017, before boarding the plane for the first leg of the trip, the choir sang “Stay With Us, Lord Stay With Us.” It was an informal moment, but other boarding passengers gathered to listen. Getting off the plane in Trondheim, one of our choir members fell and everyone had a wake-up call. We would take care of each other. We were family.

Seeing the sights and hearing the history from our guides was expected of the trip, but the thrill of singing in the famous Nidaros Cathedral in Trondheim was a definite highlight.

Two couples from Incarnation who had hosted couples from Norway in 2011 were excited to visit their Norwegian friends, but many of the choir members expressed great apprehension about the weekend we were to spend in Sparbu and Steinkjer, a more rural part of Norway where tours seldom traveled. There were unknowns that might be waiting, such as homestays and an entire weekend in this off-the-beaten-path location. How could singing in the Steinkjer Cathedral compare to singing in Nidaros?

The bus ride from Trondheim gave us a first glimpse of the amazingly beautiful rural scenery in Nord-Trøndelag. Our tour guide commented, “This area is a first for me. Most tours don’t travel to this area.”

Upon our return to the States, one of the choir members said it best: “Had it not been for Sparbu and Steinkjer, this would have been just another great tour. But the hospitality shown by the Sparbu choir and the Kammekor choir of the cathedral in Steinkjer was beyond what we hoped for.” All anxieties disappeared and many new and lasting friendships were made with the homestays.

It’s music that makes the Spirit sing when played or sung in any land. Concerts in Bergen, Stockholm, and Uppsala united us choir members in special ways. Sights, sounds, smells; walking, singing, sharing meals, talking together; mid-summer in Sweden; memorable, yes, everything! The theme for the choir concert in Steinkjer had been Coming Together. That is exactly what happened from start to finish on this 11-day tour. Incarnation choir became Incarnation family.

Rosalie Grangaard Grosch was born into a Norwegian/American family in Decorah, Iowa. A graduate of Luther College, she has taught music, English, and drama in the U.S., Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, and Papua New Guinea. She is a contributor to Chicken Soup for the Soul and has written numerous articles for publication.

This article originally appeared in the Sept. 8, 2017, issue of The Norwegian American. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.

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The Norwegian American

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