Northwest Edvard Grieg Society premieres with intimate house concerts and exciting plans for the future

Seattle-Bergen Sister City Association helps launch a new group to promote the music of Bergen and Norway’s most famous composer

The newly founded Northwest Edvard Grieg Society held its first house concert at the home of Lori Ann Reinhall (VP) with soprano Laura Loge (president) and pianist Steven Luksan (secretary), together with Norwegian guest artists pianist Knut Erik Jensen and Hardanger fiddler Skogen Sällström. Photo: NWEGS

Seattle has long been a center of Norwegian culture in the Pacific Northwest, with dozens of ethnic clubs, the largest Scandinavian department in North America and its Nordic Heritage Museum that will soon be housed in a world-class facility in May of 2018. Within the community, music has always played an important role, both folk and classical genres. It is no wonder that Edvard Grieg, Bergen and Norway’s most famous composer, is so often heard here, with his uniquely Norwegian Romantic interpretations of traditional melodies within the classical composition structure.

Naturally, Grieg has always been one of the most popular composers featured at the Mostly Nordic chamber musics series at the Nordic Heritage Museum, currently led by soprano Laura Loge, also a well-known interpreter of his art songs. She received her training in both the United States and Norway and sings the Grieg lyric repertory in fluent Norwegian, much to the delight of her listeners.

But all of this is all not without challenges. While the poetry in Grieg’s music transcends the language barrier through the sheer beauty of it sounds, there is also textual meaning that is lost to non-Norwegian-speaking audiences. Much of the Grieg oeuvre was composed to works of the great poets of his day: Henrik Ibsen, H.C. Andersen, Arne Garborg, A.O. Vinje, to name a few. The composer himself always wished that their poetry was more easily translated into other languages, but in the end, few have succeeded with this. For this reason, there is always much to talk about when performing Grieg, something which large concert venues do not easily accommodate.

Loge understood that there was a missing component and began to make plans to organize a local chapter of the Edvard Grieg Society, but with the demands of raising a toddler and a grade-schooler, things were put on hold. Then a colleague and good friend from Trondheim, Norway, pianist Knut Erik Jensen, approached her about performing the entire opus of Grieg lyric songs over a three-year span, and Laura realized that it was time to put her plans for the Northwest Edvard Grieg Society on a fast track — performing with Jensen was an opportunity too good to be missed. When she reached out to me to me as friend, collaborator and president of the Seattle-Bergen Sister City Association for advice, and I immediately told her, “Go for it!”

Soon I was on board as vice president of the Northwest Edvard Grieg Society, as Laura continued to recruit a board of directors with a wide range of talents. We were happy to be joined by accomplished pianist and composer Steven Luksan, who has also composed music to the same poetry that inspired Grieg, Rob Weltzien, a serious classical music aficionado from music retailer Silver Platters, and James Bernard, Professor of Mathematics and Computer Science at the University Puget Sound and skilled webmaster.

In a nutshell, the mission of the Northwest Edvard Grieg Society is to “promote the music of Edvard Grieg through performance, educational outreach and research in the Northwest of the United States.” We knew that we needed to build a membership to do this, and in the spirit of Grieg, we realized that a series of house concerts would provide an ideal venue to recruit interested music lovers.

Edvard Grieg was an accomplished pianist and would often play for his wife Nina, one of Scandinavia’s most acclaimed sopranos of the day. Their home at Troldhaugen outside of Bergen became a hub of musical activity, as they surrounded themselves with friends and other musicians in a warm, cozy and friendly environment. It was this ambience that we strove to recreate last August with our first house concert in my own Leschi home. Laura and Steven took the lead with songs of Grieg as well as Luksan’s own original compositions, and we were fortunate enough to be joined by our Norwegian friends Knut Erik Jensen on the piano and Skogen Sällström on the Hardanger fiddle. The Northwest Edvard Grieg Society was off to a running start.

Steven Luksan, Lori Ann Reinhall and Laura Loge celebrate after another successful house concert a the home of Al and Janet Berg. Photo: NWEGS

A second October house concert took place at the home of Janet and Al Berg in North Seattle with Loge and Luksan performing again, and many more musical offerings are scheduled to follow. In April of 2018, Jensen will return for the performances of the Grieg song cycle, with performances at the Resonance at SOMA Towers in Bellevue. Jensen will also return to Seattle in June together with Skogen Sällström to perform at the Seattle-Bergen Sister City Association’s annual Grieg Gala in June, which will also feature Laura Loge in a performance of Grieg’s Haugtussa cycle.

Going forth, the Northwest Edvard Grieg Society has plans to present programs throughout the entire region, including all of Washington, Oregon, Idaho and Montana: concerts, lectures, films — any all and channels to further our mission. Founder and president Laura Loge expresses the excitment we have for the future:

“Whether it be for the first time for the one hundredth time, we hope audiences will fall in love with Grieg and desire to help in our mission, explore Grieg’s and other Nordic composers’ music, and inspire musicians and composers to perform and compose Norwegian inspired music.”

Together with other Nordic organizations, the Northwest Edvard Grieg Society continues on with the work of Olav Kvamme and Anne-Marie Frodesen Murphy Steiner, who laid the groundwork with the Seattle-Bergen Sister City Association and the Edvard Grieg Festival in years gone by, as we reach for new musical horizons to the pleasure and enrichment of our community.

For more information about Northwest Edvard Grieg Society thmembership and programs, visit www.nwegriegsociety.org.

To contact the Seattle-Bergen Sister City Association, email seattlebergensistercities@gmail.com.