The Opera Gala and the tour of Northern Norway are just around the corner in early January. I’m a bit stressed because we will go from Bodø, which is the venue of the first concert, to Tromsø, on to Alta then finally to Mosjøen. Unfortunately it’s virtually impossible to get from Alta to Mosjøen on the same day using scheduled flights. We made a booking that was changed and then changed yet again…it’s fortunate that we at the Arctic Philharmonic love action.
I have a meeting with the Organ Festival. We are contributing to the opening concert of the 2016 festival at Bodø Cathedral. It’s one of the best places imaginable to play ecclesiastical music. The acoustics in the church are wonderful and there is a brand new magnificent organ, which will fill the room with beautiful sound. Not to mention the new bell tower, which really makes us feel like we live in a big city. What I like about our cathedral is that it is an important meeting point and it prioritises people’s access to music.
Today is spent making last-minute preparations for our Christmas visits tomorrow. Christmas visits are something we do every year, where we play concerts at companies, kindergartens and nursing homes. So, I’m booking transport and ensuring that all the places are ready. A lot has to be arranged and we’re very excited. It’s also time to sit down and think about the next day, the next production and the next task. At the Arctic Philharmonic there are no quiet days, no two days are the same and, as far as I’m concerned, no job is more exciting.
We have our first day of Christmas visits, and the atmosphere is completely unique. We start at the Central Atrium, where many of Bodø’s main businesses are located; like local newspaper Avisa Nordland, advertising agency Riktig spor and IT company Itet. The next stop is St Eystein School, which is a Catholic primary and lower secondary school. We are the Christmas surprise for the staff and it is a wonderful session. Our last visit is the parish kindergarten at Rønvik, where our 14 musicians took up half of the space. As a result it’s very intimate and the children sit attentively. In the middle of the concert, Sveinung, our concertmaster, asks the children if they want to hear some Baroque music and gets a resounding JA! They probably thought they would hear rock music!
We visit Sølvsuper nursing home. The elderly residents stand and sing-a-long with the Nordnorsk julesalme (a North Norwegian Christmas carol), by Trygve Hoff. A beautiful song, and very special to us living in the far North. It is a pure and spiritual atmosphere: some residents can’t walk or speak so it is a very emotional experience, with tears and smiles as far as the eye can see. We stop back at Stormen Concert Hall, which is the new pride of Bodø. We are based here and hold regular lunchtime concerts every Friday. Many retired people are in the audience as well as a kindergarten, so the age gap is very wide. A lively sing-a-long ensues and everyone stands up for Deilig er Jorden (Fairest Lord Jesus). We end this year’s Christmas visits with a concert in the gymnasium at Alstad primary school attended by all 350 pupils and teachers. We didn’t know what to hope for, but it exceeds all our expectations. The children respond wonderfully to the music – some conducted while others danced. Mission accomplished!
Working at the Arctic Philharmonic is one of the most rewarding jobs imaginable. The need to work at top speed all the time is ideal for me as I’m an impulsive person who likes lots of things happening at once, though it can get a bit tiring. Today I actually have a day off to relax and enjoy myself with my family. Glorious.
So much for my weekend off, I have to rush to the office for a while (which does not make me very popular with my family). But it’s a big day tomorrow and I have to make sure everything is ready before the rehearsals of Coppélia, this year’s pre-Christmas ballet involving the entire symphony orchestra. This week we are collaborating with Pias Ballet Studio and many children of all ages are involved. It’s going to be a truly wonderful and magical production.
Cathrine Terese Sørensen is a producer at Artic Philharmonic based in Bodø, Norway. In January the company tours a show of opera highlights from Don Giovanni, Gianni Schicchi, Carmen and Cosi fan Tutte to Mosjøen, Tromsø and Alta.