‘A wonderful place’
MSU Concert Choir brings home from Norway memories & lasting friendships
Emerson Eads, Ph.d, director of the Minot State University Concert Choir, describes the group’s recent trip to Norway as “a wonderful place filled with lovely memories, lasting friendships, and lifted voices.”
Eads and 24 choir members left Minot May 13 and traveled to Oslo, Norway, then spent the next days traveling in that country. They left there May 25 to return to Minot.
“When I arrived in Minot, I had no idea how strong a connection was felt (and I mean FELT) to Norway. Then I went to Hostfest in Minot and began to realize the magnitude of the identification and the connection,” Eads wrote in his blog about the trip.
Eads said being in Skien, Norway (also Minot’s sister city) “has been fantastic in every way, but experiencing their Syttende Mai was particularly special.”
Syttende Mai observed on May 17 is Norwegian Constitutional Day, the national day of Norway.
Eads said the Skien and Telemark governments “bent over backwards” to make the group comfortable and happy every day while they were there. “Not only have we experienced daily guiding, daily banquets and daily treatments as if we were dignitaries, we were given the opportunity to accompany the mayor of Skien and other luminaries on the porch of the Skien City Hall looking out over the thousands of people celebrating the Norwegian Independence Day,” he said.
He said they were also featured in the Ibsen House Syttende Mai Concert with the Telemark Symphony Orchestra.
“The choir sang the Norwegian Anthem with the TSO (Telemark Symphony Orchestra) under the direction of Cedomir Popadic, and then the ‘MSU Alma Mater’ and my arrangement of ‘He’s Got the Whole World In His Hands.” These performances featured soloists: Maddy Sem, soprano; Bethany Kolschefsky, soprano; J’Kobe Wallace, Baritone,” Eads said.
“And if that wasn’t enough, we sang in their beloved Brekkeparken Concert, and were featured at the head of their Syttende Mai Parade that wound through the streets of Skien. I am honestly without words for the absolutely splendid treatment that we have received here,” Eads said as he wrote about the trip.
Skien’s Brekkeparken sits above the hotel where they stayed, looking out over the entire city. Here, he said, Nathan Bowles and the MSU Choir sang an improvisational version of “Danny Boy.”
Concert choir members were the featured guests in the Syttende Mai Parade. “We marched around Skien, accompanied by a marching band and surrounded by the mayor and city manager of Minot, the mayor of Skien, the mayor of Telemark, and the city council and so many more people! We marched and sang our hearts out today! What an honor to be able to represent Minot State University and the City of Minot this way,” Eads said.
He said many of the chorus members have Norwegian connections and were excited to be involved in Syttende Mai in Norway.
Later during the trip while on a boat taking them deep into the Langesund Fjord, one of the choristers, Anthony Schreier proposed to his girlfriend Arnikka Thompson. Gunnar Aasbo, the conductor of the Langesund Mandssangforening choir, started leading Elvis’ “I Can’t Help Falling in Love With You.” Then Schreier got down on one knee and proposed,” Eads said. He said Thompson said yes “and we all felt the profound emotion that comes with such a profound moment.”
While visiting Telemark County, Eads said they went to the Morgedal Ski museum, the hometown of Sondre Norheim, the famous Telemark skier who moved to North Dakota. “There was an entire wall dedicated to Minot,” he said.
They visited many places during the trip and also gave musical performances.
In Oslo, their last stop on the trip, they were surprised to meet Eric Furuseth, Ph.d., a Minot State University faculty member who also was visiting Norway. He joined them to visit Stortinget (Norwegian parliament) and the Oslo Philharmonic concert.
Shaun Sipma, Minot mayor, and Tom Barry, Minot city manager, accompanied the MSU group on the trip. “There wasn’t a moment when Shaun and Tom weren’t working for the benefit of the city of Minot and its citizens,” Eads said.
Libby Claerbout, director of the MSU Office of International Programs; Rick Hedberg, vice president for advancement at MSU; and Rolf Haugen of Skien, who has led many delegations from Skien to Norsk Hostfest in Minot, are among those who were instrumental in making the trip possible for the MSU group.
“This trip was beautiful. And we are all so grateful to all the people who made this possible. Eads wrote in his blog, adding, “Our hearts are full.“