Norway and Scotland : a cultural symbiosis

Norwegian native and committee member, Eva Tyson, reflects on the Grieg Society of Scotland’s special From Norway with Grieg heritage tour & concert project which welcomed Troldhaugens Venner – Friends of the Edvard Grieg Museum, Bergen – to the North East of Scotland this spring.

The Grieg Society of Scotland welcomes Troldhaugens Venner
‘From Norway with Grieg!’ The Grieg Society of Scotland welcomes members of Troldhaugens Venner (Friends of the Edvard Grieg Museum in Bergen) to its special collaborative concert at Queen’s Cross Church, Aberdeen, in May 2023.

In May, Aberdeenshire experienced a Viking invasion of a more gentle kind, when 35 friends of the Edvard Grieg museum in Bergen, were treated to a historic and fascinating tour. This included not just sightseeing in the North, but an important visit to the graves of Grieg’s Scottish forefathers located in Rathen Old Kirkyard in Aberdeenshire.

The tour finished on the 13th May with a concert in Queen’s Cross church in Aberdeen. The concert was well attended with many local Aberdonians telling me how they love Grieg’s music and would not miss such an occasion. The well known Norwegian pianist Rune Alver, played several pieces of Grieg’s compositions, including the popular Wedding Day at Troldhaugen, to great applause. Dr Sally Garden, Honorary Director of the Scottish Grieg Society, is herself a noted mezzo-soprano and her recital included Scottish songs, particularly loved by Grieg’s wife Nina, such as Comin thro the rye and Afton Water both by Rabbie Burns. This was delivered with brilliant technique and emotion to the delight of the audience.

Rune Alver (piano) & Sally Garden (mezzo) in concert
Rune Alver (piano) and Sally Garden (mezzo) in concert in Aberdeen, May 2023. Their programme ‘From Norway with Grieg!’ of Norwegian and Scots piano music and song, brought the spirits of Edvard and Nina Grieg together on the concert platform, and the audience together with the artists in song to a rousing Norwegian-Scottish finale.

Nature was an inspiration both to Grieg and Burns and this leitmotiv was so apparent during the concert, bringing Scotland and Norway together in an expressive and imaginative way.

Author: Eva Tyson (Committee Member, Grieg Society of Scotland)

‘From Norway with Grieg!’ – our novel music heritage tour & special Norwegian-Scottish concert will boost international friendship

The Grieg Society of Scotland is delighted to announce its first major project since the pandemic. From Norway with Grieg! music heritage tour & concert will see Troldhaugens Venner – Friends of the Edvard Grieg Museum Troldhaugen, Bergen – and renowned Norwegian pianist Rune Alver come to Scotland in May to experience for themselves the deep cultural connexions and commonalities between the communities of eastern Scotland and western Norway.

Troldhaugen - summer home of Edvard & Nina Grieg
Troldhaugen in Bergen, the summer home for many years of Edvard & Nina Grieg, enjoys the support of Troldhaugens Venner (Friends of the Edvard Grieg Museum) whose fundraising and volunteer work helps maintain building and grounds for international visitors.

The Society will guide the 30-strong Friends group on a one-day music heritage tour to the gravestone and historic rural environs of composer Edvard Grieg’s Aberdeenshire ancestors, introducing them to the Society’s 2018 conservation project ‘Monumentally Grieg!’ at Rathen kirkyard, and to the area’s musical heritage.

Gables to the sea, stones to the sun, and music in the air. Preparing our music heritage tour of ‘Grieg country’! And looking forward to welcoming our international visitors, Troldhaugens Venner, from Norway.

After a few days visit to the Highlands, to Culloden, and to sites connected with WWII Kompani Linge, the group return to Aberdeen for a special collaborative concert on Saturday 13th May with Rune Alver and Scottish mezzo Sally Garden at the city’s welcoming and well-established music venue, Queen’s Cross Church.

The concert, of Norwegian and Scottish piano music and song, will bring together local community and international visitors in a fresh and informal meeting-through-music, making it an occasion for renewed North Sea friendship. It will also be the first occasion Rune Alver and Sally Garden have collaborated in concert together.


From Norway with Grieg!

The Grieg Society of Scotland present renowned Norwegian pianist Rune Alver and Scottish mezzo Sally Garden in a fun concert celebrating the musical talents and Scottish connections of Edvard Grieg and his wife, singer Nina Grieg. The artists will be joined by Friends of the Edvard Grieg Museum, Bergen, completing their tour of Scotland and visit to the ancestral grave of the Norwegian composer in Aberdeenshire. Come join us for an hour of inspirational piano music, song and international friendship – audience participation may be required!

From Norway with Grieg!
Saturday 13 May 2023 at 6:30pm
Queens Cross Church, Aberdeen
Tickets £8 at door (students, under 18s free) | Approx 60mins

Author: Dr Sally LK Garden

Byways of Bergen: a trip to school with Edvard Grieg

Meeting up in the byways of Bergen, two of our committee members spurr memories of a famous kirk, a forgotten school and a fleeting musical reminiscence of the young Edvard Grieg’s schooldays.

Two of our committee members, both natives of Bergen, Johanne Grieg Kippenbroeck and Eva Tyson, took a trip down memory lane this autumn when they met up by Bergen’s Domkirke – the city’s old cathedral kirk and much-loved landmark dedicated to Norway’s eleventh century Saint Olaf.

Images of Bergen Domkirke
Bergen Domkirke in the autumn sun. The kirk, rebuilt many times over the centuries, is dedicated to Olaf, Norway’s patron saint. ‘Holy Olaf’, in his life Olaf II Haraldsson, was king of Norway from 1015 to 1028. (Images: Eva Tyson)

Kirk, school and cannon ball

Domkirken – the kirk of the deanery – stands just a few minutes walk from Bergen’s harbour and famous Fisketorget or fish market. Set at an angle to King Oscar’s ‘gate’ (pronounced ‘gaht-ih’) and down from a street called Lille Øvregaten – a familiar-sounding placename to shoppers of Dundee’s ‘Overgate’ – the kirk overlooks a building the young Edvard Grieg once knew very well and would still recognise were he alive today.

That building, with its grand neoclassical façade, a contrast to the simple, ‘medieval’ belltower and cannon ball marked walls of its gentle neighbour Domkirken, was Grieg’s place of education – the school which shaped his boyhood years and memories.

Whether or no Grieg loved the school – named after wealthy Bergen merchant Hans Tank and his wife, and constructed in 1855 – is another question! A less than keen pupil, Grieg was wont to wander on his way to its large-windowed classrooms. Shivering beneath a gushing roan pipe in the rain, so he might arrive soaked through and be sent home, was a favourite ploy!

Image of Bergen c1870
Bergen Domkirke c1870 with Tanks School, a solid 3-story building, in the background. (Image: Bergen byarkiv)
Image of Tank school register
An extract from the school register: Grieg entered Tanks Skole at the age of 9 and completed his schooling in 1858. His schoolmates were all boys. Girls were not admitted until the 1880s! (Image: Bergen byarkiv)

Norway’s patron saint in song

But that was a long time ago – indeed, more than a century and a half since the young scholar Grieg, clutching a schoolbag stuffed with his first musical creations, announced to his teachers and classmates at ‘Tanks skole’ that he was going to be ‘a Composer!’.

Naturally, no-one believed him. But, later in life, when he had indeed become a professional composer and was busy writing incidental music to Henrik Iben’s play Peer Gynt, Grieg was also editing and arranging for piano, a large collection of Norway’s Melodies [Norges Melodier EG108] in amongst which was a tiny but precious reminder of those formative years – an old ballad about Domkirken’s ‘Holy Olaf’.

Few outwith Norway will know the words to this ballad about the Nordic nation’s patron saint, its words written by poet Welhaven to an old Norwegian folktune, but all can admire the simple and affecting melody, and Grieg’s sympathetic arrangement of it for piano.

Grieg’s piano arrangement of ‘A Ballad about Holy Olaf’ – performed and translated for the Grieg Society of Scotland. (Video: Mons Graupius)

A plaque for Grieg?

Den Tankske Skole
The former Tank’s School awaiting refurbishment – with street art where once was pinned a plaque to Grieg. (Images: Johanne Grieg Kippenbroeck)

Tank’s school, brand new in Grieg’s boyhood, seems a slightly tired looking veteran of the city, today, and stands empty. But, full of potential, it is expected to be put to new purpose soon. The plaque commemorating Grieg’s time at the school, and for long affixed to its graceful stone doorway, has gone, but should it return to tell the building’s story – and we hope it will – then visitors to Bergen’s stunning Domkirke and the streets around will be able, just like our city natives Johanne and Eva, to walk once more down a very special and musical memory lane.

Author: Dr Sally LK Garden (Dec 2021)