You Deserve a Song, but I have only words
He skidded foward to the head of the aisle, unusally close to the audience. I didn’t expect that, I don’t supposed the others did as well. With lips trembling and a stammering voice, he croaked. To be fair it was intentional and a melodiuous croak, but that too was a surprise. But I suppose that if you were tasked to inform the king he was breaking the holy law by whittling on the Sabbath, then you might be a tad nervous.
I only have one year in Norway, that is, I will never get to repeat a week. As such I have found a new motivation for action. Tired from traveling, voice haggered from doing too many workshops in a row, fretting about the price in Norwegian Kroner…? So what, live now! I haven’t become a full subscriber to carpe deim but I am siezing more days this year than I have in a long, long time, like today .
The world’s most northern Gothic cathedral stands in Trondheim. It is a marvel dating back over 900 years. The exterior is impressive, we met in September. The interior was a mystery until today. Since it is Lent, I hoped to find a service in a nearby historic church, so many to choose from. My first search was my last. Nidaros was hosting a choral concert, Passio Olavi, based on the Norwegian King, St. Olav.
I arrived early expecting a big crowd. I hold a stereotype that Norwegians really like their choral events. Passing through the dual set of leather-covered double doors I found that I was proabably guest number 11. Fine with me, I got a good seat up front next to an elderly couple.
Waiting 30 minutes for the show gave me time to look and let my eyes feast on the intricacies of the interior. The faith and resolve to labor over the course of a lifetime knowing you would not see it through to completion is something I find difficult to understand. If we can’t build a new school in less than two years then heads roll. Clearly there is a correlation between time and effort to build something and how beautiful and fussy the details.
The cathedral had signs prohibiting pictures and videos. I did my best to respect them, but I did sneak a couple. Afterwards I lit a candle to ask for forgiveness. The dearth of photographs in this posting is hereby explained.
At the appointed hour a man in a red shirt with a high black vest addressed the audience. His British english accent threw me for a moment but I was grateful to get an introduction to the work I could understand.
With his accent and the distortion from the speakers I managed to understand that he was commissioned to write this choral arrangment based on manuscripts of ancient songs and verse from the Nidaros cathedral about St. Olav that had been looted during the reformation and scattered across Europe. Fragments of the manuscripts in Latin and Old Norse have been slowly recovered to the royal libraries of Denmark and Sweden.
The arrangement celebrates seven miracles attributed to the martyr, King Olav, that propelled him to sainthood. The opening scence from this posting was about the third movement, “The Holy Man’s Hand Could Not Burn.”
An octet from The Edvard Grieg Kor (choir) of Bergen was featured, four women in shades of blue, and three men in dark suits plus the intial speaker. He was filling in for a tenor who unexpectedly deceased. They use chairs of four mimicking an inverted “V” on the raised platform.
But first, in processed the Schola Sanctae Sunnivae, a selective local womens choir that specializes in medieval religious music. They walked in a column of files to the alter area, forming a semi-circle of 14 signers centered on their conductor. All the women wore hodded red robes with the look of crushed satin. The sleve collars featured coppered gold trim, as did their neck and border of the hood. The appearance was like that of a Masters degree collar on an academic robe. At their lumbars were crosslacing in red to drawn in the waist.
Schola Sanctae Sunnivae began the evening and the pattern. They sang a floating introduction and then the Greig choir would rise, perform the movement and then sit. The final movement brought the Greig choir into the alter area with the other choir, it seemed like an attempt at musical solidarity.
The conductors accepted flowers for the performance. Scholar Sanctae Sunnivae recessed and the Greig choir accepted a second round of applause. It was 7:58.
That ancient building was made to host that immutable instrument, the human voice. I wish you could have been there. Even if I had some photos or surreptitious video you would be disappointed. Really good art necessitates live attendance. You deserve a song, but I have only words.