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An Evening of Norwegian Song and Story

The Western Plains Opera and the Norsk Hostfest Association will bring some Scandinavian flavor to Minot during its concert, “An Evening of Norwegian Song and Story,” at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday in Ann Nicole Nelson Hall in Minot State University’s Old Main, followed by a gala and reception at the Northwest Arts Center in the basement of Olson Library on the MSU campus.

“People are missing the Hostfest and we’ve had two years without it,” said Eric Furuseth, so he said it seems appropriate to provide a little bit of what has been absent.

Concert-goers will be treated to a performance by Dr. Melissa Holm-Johansen, a native of Halden, Norway, who is currently living in the Twin Cities area, and her collaborative pianist Stephen Swanson. They will share a recital of selected Edvard Grieg songs in new English translations by Grieg scholar Dr. William Halvorsen.

“She’s a beautiful singer,” said Furuseth, who is on the board of directors for the Western Plains Opera.

According to information provided by the Western Plains Opera, last year Holm-Johansen and Swanson made the first professional recording in English of Grieg’s songs. Halvorsen’s translations are said to capture the spirit and soul of Grieg’s works. There are 25 songs on the album, “Edvard Grieg: Songs from the Heart,” which is available through the Norway House and through streaming platforms. Proceeds benefit the Norway House and the Edvard Grieg Society of Minnesota.

Longtime Hostfest presenter and Scandinavian American Hall of Fame honoree Rolf Kristian Stang will be returning to Minot to talk about Grieg, an important Norwegian composer, and the growth in interest in his works. Stang, who is based in New York City, came to the Hostfest for the first time to present in 1993, which was the 150th anniversary of the birth of Grieg. Stang was also one of the founders of the Hostfest in the Schools program, which has educated generations of Minot children about Scandinavian heritage. Stang has portrayed Grieg and other historical figures like Hans Christian Andersen and Henrik Ibsen.

“He’s just lively and funny and wonderful,” said Furuseth about Stang, who is still performing in his 80s. Stang has also received numerous honors, including a knighthood by the Norwegian Crown.

Halvorsen, who was knighted in 1997 by King Harald V of Norway, is Associate Dean Emeritus, Office of Academic Affairs, at The Ohio State University. He is the author, translator and editor of 15 books and numerous articles, including a book about Grieg that is considered the definitive biography in English of Grieg. His English version of Grieg’s song texts are used in printed public concert programs and in the notes in CDs of Grieg’s work, according to information provided by the Western Plains Opera.

The reception will also make attendees feel like they are back at the Hostfest. Paintings created for the Norsk Hostfest by Norwegian artist Sigmund Aarseth will be on display at the reception., along with other works by Norwegian artists from the Northwest Arts Center collection. People will be served Norwegian foods during the reception.

Tickets for the event are $35 for adults and $15 for students. Tickets are available for purchase at wpopera.org, by calling 858-3369, or purchased at the door.

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