Monday, June 21, 2010

Day 11 - Back in Bergen

In the morning we went to the Museum of the the Hanseatic League. The Hanseatic League was a powerful German trading company in the middle ages that was centered in the "Hanse" cities Bremen, Luebeck, Rostock and Hamburg. These cities basically controlled the European trade. Bergen was a trading partner of the Hanseatic League, bartering dried fish and fish oil for grain and other necessities of the rough life in northern Europe. This system existed for around 400 years, and only came to an end towards the end of the 18th century, when countries became more powerful, and were able to take better control of trade themselves. The Museum of the Hanseatic League in Bergen is located in the Bryggen (wharf) area, and the singers went on a tour of two old trading houses.

The choir then split into groups, some proceeding to the local mall for clothes shopping, some to tourist shopping, others to museums. We were again very lucky with the weather, and it was a pleasure just to walk around in the beautiful city of Bergen. This was a day at the singer's disposal, and they all had a lot of fun.

Tomorrow we'll be heading back to the US. The singers will have to get up at 3am, as the bus leaves for the airport at 4am.

We've had a great tour of Norway! Hopefully this blog has helped with keeping in touch. Thank you very much for your support, and we'll see y'all back home again.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Day 10 - Fana to Bergen

Today the choir performed its last concert of the Norway tour. The setting was beautiful: Ole Bull's villa on Lysoen Island.
This year Norway celebrates Ole Bull's 200th birthday, and it was a great experience for the singers to perform in the famous violin-virtuoso's summer villa:

The concert was packed, with several of our "regulars" (from Dr. Munsen's Nowegian relatives and singers' families that have travelled with us), plus many, many of the island's tourists attending. The choir performed in the music room, where Ole Bull also performed on his violin.

We then returned to the Montana hostel in Bergen, where we had dinner, and closed down the official part of the tour with fun games.
(We apologize, but due to technical problems we have not been able to update the blog for the last two days.)
Day 9 - Sandnes to Fana

A travel day that concluded with a concert. We started out early in Sandnes, saying goodbye to our host families. Again, all ACC travelers were impressed by the hosts’ hospitality and kindness, and would like to extend a very special Thank You.

Early in the morning the choir got on the bus and started the trip back to the Bergen area:
Just to mix things up a bit, we stopped at a beach
After a few hours, and two ferry rides (which are always a lot of fun for the singers) we arrived in Fana. The weather was glorious, and we enjoyed the 800 year old church and its beautiful setting.
The singers got ready for our last formal concert of the tour.
This was a very good concert, well attended, and everybody enjoyed the setting. The singers then connected with their Fana host families, and went home early – tomorrow we’ll have two more concerts, and everybody needs to rest.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Day 8 - Sandnes

A busy day, and a long day, but one that ended on a high note. The day started out with a visit to the Oil Museum in Stavanger. Then the choir had a concert in the Stavanger cathedral, took a short break, had a second concert with Sandnes’ Viva Choir, and then enjoyed a great party hosted by the Viva Choir.

Oil is Norway’s major source of income. There are many off-shore drilling platforms along the coast of Norway, exploiting some of the richest oil fields in the world. The Oil Museum in Stavanger hosts many interesting and interactive exhibits of the technology involved.
The singers really enjoyed tumbling down the escape shute, and finding their way in the “dark room”, which simulates a platform emergency situation at night.

The first concert of the day was in a very exciting and special location, the Stavanger cathedral. The cathedral is the oldest still operating in Norway, built early in the 12th century.
The acoustics were amazing, and Dr. Munsen took the opportunity to attempt some recording for the next choir CD.

Returning to Sandnes, the singers went to their host families for a short rest. Refreshed for the second concert of the day, the choir enjoyed singing with the Viva choir:
This was a wonderful meeting of two great choirs. The Viva choir has won prestigious competitions in Norway. With the concert alternating Viva and ACC performances, the audience could really enjoy quality choir performances of different styles.

In the evening, the Viva choir invited the ACC choir to a party. This was a very enjoyable event, for the singers from both choirs, and all the adults, too.
After dinner the Viva singers had organized games, where mixed groups of Viva/ACC singers would have to solve puzzles and perform tasks. Of course we also joined in for some songs, and before anybody knew it was quite late in the evening. A great time!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Day 7 - Rosendal to Sandness

Today's key words were "travel", "waterfalls", and "glacier". In the morning we said Goodbye to our host families in Rosendal - they really were the secret to making our visit most enjoyable. They not only provided housing and meals, but also transportation and extra activities for the singers. Many thanks to our Rosendal friends for their extraordinary hospitality.

Our bus ride again took us past many incredible sights, but the the waterfalls are always worth stopping and taking a picture:

But the main nature attraction today was the Folgefonna glacier. The choir hiked for 40 minutes along a stream and to a lake from which we could catch a glimpse of the glacier. Luckily the weather cooperated, and the sun came out just in time: Having hiked back to the bus, we proceeded on our way to Sandness. Driving along the coast of Norway is a bit of an adventure, as the coastline is very rugged, and the road is very narrow and twisting. There are quite a few tunnels - one tunnel of 11 km length took us under the Folgefonna glacier, another tunnel went under a fjord. Finally we had to take a ferry:Late in the afternoon we arrived in Sandness, and met our host families. Tomorrow will be another exciting concert day!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Day 6 - More Rosendal

The choir's second full day in Rosendal seemed to be rather quiet, compared to all the excitement of the previous day. But there was quite a bit of activity, with a concert, an educational tour, sight-seeing, and a bit of hiking and light singing thrown in for good measure.
First thing in the morning we visited the Malmanger school, first to sixth grade. About 200 students attended the choir's performance for about an hour, and were a great audience.
Then the singers were invited to visit 4 different classrooms. They met students, and compared school days and daily life between the U.S. and Norway. Finally, we were invited to a very nice lunch at the school:
After lunch we took a short stroll up to the Steinparken (Stone Park), which tells the story of the geology in and around the Folgefonna National Park. Various samples of ground rock are displayed in a beautiful park setting.

After the guided tour through the Steinparken, the choir took another short hike to the Rosendal Barony.The building was erected in the 17th century, by a member of the same Rosenkrantz family that the tower in Bergen is named after. The choir sang here without an audience, and took pictures. Finally we went to one of our prepared dinners, and took the opportunity to celebrate Andie's birthday (which was actually yesterday):

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Day 5 - Rosendal

Today was our best day in Norway, yet! We took an educational tour, enjoyed the great outdoors, and had a wonderful concert.

It all started in the morning with a short bus drive to a historic farm. Our tour guides were great, and explained details of a Norwegian farm, its buildings, tools, history, and, most importantly, people.
Then we drove to a historic school house, where our lessons started and ended with a Norwegian song.

It was a rough life back in 19th century Norway, but who wouldn't want to go to school with a scenic backdrop like this:

The next leg of our bus tour was a bit longer, maybe 40 minutes, and it took us to Bjornebole, Dr. Munsen's ancestral farm, which is beautifully situated on a lake:

Actually, the farm was originally located in the valey where the lake now is. In the 1960s a dam was built, and the farm house was moved up the hill to its current location, plank by numbered blank. Dr. Munsen's relatives made use feel very welcome, and provided wonderful thin pancakes, a Norwegian speciality, which all singers very much enjoy. The weather was gorgeous, and so were the surroundings - everybody was glad for the break, the food, the great company, and for a chance to explore nature. It was a most enjoyable afternoon.

Just some snapshots of happy faces:

After all this excitement the singers returned to their Rosendal host families for a short rest break. Then they assembled for our big concert in the Rosendal church, where host families, Dr. Munsen's friends and extended family, as well as many other visitors listened to the choir perform their full repertoire, for one and a half hours!

Monday, June 14, 2010

Day 4 - Bergen to Rosendal
After our big concert yesterday the choir took some time off today for sight-seeing in Bergen, and then took the afternoon to travel to Rosendal.
In the morning we visited Bergen's Bryggen Museum, which records the history of the wharf district, and hosts an exhibition about its medieval history. After a fire in the early 1950s that destroyed several of the wooden houses along the wharf’s water front, the Bergen city administration embarked on an expansive archeological investigation of the area.
From the beginning of the medieval era (in Norway considered to be starting around 1000 AD., following the Viking era), the houses at the waterfront repeatedly went through a cycle of construction, regular city life, destruction by fire, the charred debris being shoved into the water, and reconstruction. Consequently the ocean floor contains layers of burnt house debris, alternating with disposed artifacts of regular city life. As the dates of the fires are very well known, the sandwiched artifacts can be dated quite exactly, giving a very clear picture of Bergen’s medieval history.
The choir watched a short film describing the 1950s excavations (in English!) and enjoyed the detailed exhibits about medieval life in Bergen.
After a quick lunch we then moved on to a very interesting and entertaining tour through King Haron’s banqueting hall and the adjacent Rosentkrantz tower, both initially built in the 13th century.
The structures were severely damaged in 1944, during Norway’s occupation by Nazi Germany, when a ship loaded with dynamite exploded nearby in the harbor. Although resistance forces were first suspected of having planned the blast, it soon became apparent that it was actually caused by a fire in the ship’s engine that ignited the dynamite cargo. The force of the blast was so great that the ship’s anchor was later found 2 miles from the harbor, on a hill.

The solid outer medieval walls of the banqueting hall and most of the tower survived the blast, but almost everything else was destroyed. The small silver lining of this explosion was that it gave archeologists a chance to conduct a very detailed investigation of the site.

After visiting these museums, the choir went on a short shopping trip in Bergen, and then we loaded up the bus for our trip to Rosendal, to the south-east of Bergen. The trip along the coastline offered glorious views, and the short ferry ride was also very entertaining. We arrived in Rosendal late in the afternoon, and all singers (and even chaperones) were greeted by their host families, with whom they will be staying for the next three days.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Day 3 - Domkirke

Today was a big concert day. We performed in the Domkirke (Bergen Cathedral) in downtown Bergen – twice. The cathedral itself has a long and turbulent history, reaching back to the 12th century, with Franciscan roots. During the latest renovation in the 1880s, the Roccoco interior was replaced to give the interiors back their former medieval appearance:

The choir arrived at the Domkirke in the morning, bright and early. By now, most singers have gotten over their jet lag. We participated in the Protestant service with 4 songs, and the cathedral acoustics were amazing.

Having done a good day’s work already, the choir was happy to do some sightseeing. It was a short walk to the Floibanen funicular. One of the chaperones had just been told by a Bergen friend that “if you can do only one thing in Bergen, then you should do the Floibanen funicular”, and indeed it delivered on the promise. We all went up the mountain in a stepped train car on a 30% incline ...
... and were rewarded by a great panomaric view:

Then the choir returned to the Domkirke for our big concert with two Bergen choirs, Jentekoret Hogskolen and the Bergen Guttekor. The three choirs sang individually and together:The concert had a big audience, and the Norwegian songs by the ACC choir were a great success.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Day 2: Stave Church and Edvard Grieg's Home

Today we visited the Fantoft Stave Church in Bergen. This is one of the few Stave Churches still existing in Norway today. In the 12th and 13th century over 1000 were built all over Norway, but today only about 30 survive. The Fantoft Stave Church was originally built in the 13th century, and moved to the current location in the 19th century. Unfortunately it burned down in 1992, and had to be entirely reconstructed. The church is really the size of a small chapel, and is built entirely of particular pine wood, on a stone base.

The choir was able to get a very detailed introduction by a Stave Church expert (Dr. Munsen's relative), toured the church, and even sang two Norwegian songs, much to the delight of the guide and the other visitors.
Visiting the Stave Church was very exciting, but the highlight of the day was clearly our concert at Edvard Grieg's home. The concert hall was beautiful, with a view onto Edvard Grieg's "composer hut" right on the water (the red building behind the singers in the picture above). We saw many of the parents that have also travelled to Norway, and the choir sounded great.

Unfortunately we were a little bit rushed, as the Chinese Vice President was paying a surprise visit. So we returned to our Hostel, where we enjoyed a great dinner. The views of Bergen from right behind the Hostel are glorious:

Looking forward to day 3!