Living with intent, social engagement, learning, growing, giving
Norwegians love to sing. On the historical music tour of Trondheim at the end of summer we visited Vår Frue Kirke and a friendly Norwegian woman told me about the 24 hour singing concert she had attended during the summer in that church. It was all local choirs that sang one after the other for an entire 24 hours. Trondheim is not a big city (187000 people) so that will give you an indication of how many Norwegians like to sing.
According to Michael Booth, the Danes love to sing too, in the book he talks about spending a weekend with a choir at a singing camp and the choir spends their free time in the evenings singing folk songs even though they spent the whole day singing already.
My new friend lives in a lively part of town and as we walked home on Thursday night after an excellent orchestra performance of Liszt and Bartók, we could hear many young men singing together. She said that every weekend groups of young, drunk Norwegians get together in the apartments in her street and sing loudly together.
My daughter sings with a government funded culture school choir and I’ve enjoyed helping her to practice sing. I’ve never sung with a choir nor had any singing lessons. In fact when I did my 3rd grade clarinet exam I was almost failed for not singing the notes correctly but that was without any training in how to do that or notice that I would be tested on singing in a clarinet exam.
When the local church put a flyer in our letterbox advertising their new choir and inviting people to join I was ready to try it. I walked into a humble Lutheran Church and I was greeted by friendly middle to older aged Norwegians. I spoke to the choir master and told him that I’ve never sung before and I don’t understand much Norwegian but I’d like to join and I can read sheet music. He asked if I’m a soprano or mezzo-soprano to which I mumbled that I don’t know. I looked at his face to gauge his reaction and told him that if it’s a problem for me to be in the class then I’m happy to leave. He smiled and encouraged me to join them, said that my voice is light so he guesses I’m soprano and told me that because they are new they don’t have auditions. I could hardly believe it but I was in! I didn’t mention that I’m a non-believer… As an expat in Norway and as an open person I like to push my boundaries. Joining a choir didn’t seem a big deal but most people in my position wouldn’t try!
We have 5 songs so far, 1 that’s half latin, half Norwegian, 1 that’s all Norwegian, 1 Swedish, 1 Danish and 1 English. I love it. I love singing in harmony with the piano and the other sopranos. I love the mingling of the bass, tenor, mezzo-soprano and soprano voices. I love the challenge of singing in foreign languages while reading the notes and keeping time. I love the good humour and kindness of our choir master and I admire that he composed 2 of our songs himself. I love that the generous and kindly choir members have embraced me into their group and they speak to me in Norwegian and only revert to English if I ask them to.
There was an awkward moment last night though. After the choir master had finished our class a choir member stood up to tell a joke in Norwegian. The others in the choir laughed uuproariousy. I understood the words but I couldn’t see how it was funny and I had an unsettling feeling that it was racist or at least exclusionist. It was something like this:
Two new students are introduced to their class in Norway. Both are different to the other students. One is Pakistani and the other is gluten-free.
Last night a young Colombian woman joined the choir and I enjoyed chatting with her over a cup of tea at my home afterwards, brought together as the only two foreigners in the homogeneous choir. I’ve visited Colombia a few times and I really like her country, the culture and the food! She has tried to join a few other choirs in Trondheim but none had any space. It makes me feel even more lucky to have been accepted in this choir.