Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Today we have a short post from Viking magazine editor, Amy B about the 13th Annual Ibsen Festival. If you have unique ways that Norwegian culture is celebrated in your area, share them with Viking magazine by e-mailing

This past weekend marked the Commonweal Theater’s 13th Annual Ibsen Festival in Lanesboro, Minn—a “weekend celebrating Scandinavian theater, visual art, music and dance.” This year’s festival centered around Ibsen’s lesser-known play “John Gabriel Borkman.” The story of a banker who steals from his customers, the play is a timely examination of greed, lust and power. (It’s funny how well Ibsen’s work holds up, isn’t it?)

Next spring, the Commonweal will stage a production of Ibsen’s “Enemy of the People” and will take its production on the road throughout the Midwest. Sounds like a great lodge outing to me!

Friday, April 9, 2010

April 9: Never Forget

Today is an important day in the history of Norway, as it marks the 70th anniversary of an event that would have a major impact on Norway’s national identity as a country that believed in freedom and independence above all else.

On April 9, 1940 Nazi Germany launched Operation Weserübung, the full invasion of Norway. By the end of the day, citizens of Norway would see German warships in the fjords leading to Oslo and hear the voice of Vidkun Quisling making the first-ever radio-effected coup d'etat. In memorial coverage of the invasion, Aftenposten recently wrote that, “Norway was woefully unprepared for the attack by the forces of Adolf Hitler. Norway had been neutral during World War I but reports of its horrors gave rise to widespread pacifism in Norway that extended through the 1930s. By the time Hitler’s aggression was finally recognized, it was too late to build up a military defense.”

It was a dark day for Norwegians to be sure.

But today, 70 years later, the event is memorialized in places like Oscarborg fortress and elsewhere throughout Norway. Many Norwegians are participating in some form of ceremony today, in remembrance of the events that kicked off Norway’s now famous resistance movement which led to the eventual reclaiming of their homeland. Additionally, Norway’s state archives, the Riksarkivet marked the anniversary by releasing thousands of pages of war documents, which reveal new details about the resistance effort, the deportation of Norwegian Jews and plans by Vidkun Quisling to set up a Norwegian Aryan colony in the former Soviet Union.

Events like this should never be forgotten, if for no other reason than to prevent them from happening again. That said, I’d like everyone reading this today to join Norwegians around the world in taking a moment to pause in reflection of the horrors of what happened in 1940, and during the war years that followed.

Sons of Norway members in New York in 1940, drawing up papers for a formal protest of Germany's invasion of Norway.

If Norway circa World War II, or its resistance movement are of interest to you, I highly recommend you check out the October 2008 issue of Viking magazine, or click here to read stories from the resistance that we posted on the blog last year. There's also some great articles over at on the remembrance and the release of war documents this year.

A Smorgasbord of Nordic Cinema

The Norwegian blockbuster, “Max Manus,” was highlighted in February’s issue of Viking magazine. If you live in or around the Twin Cities, now is your chance to see the WWII thriller, which sold more than 700,000 tickets in Norway. Not bad for a country of less than 5 million movie-goers!

The screening of “Max Manus” will kick off the 28th annual Minneapolis-St. Paul International Film Festival, which runs April 15-30 at St. Anthony Main Theater in Minneapolis. The film will be introduced by Norwegian resistance hero Gunnnar Sønsteby, who, at the age of 92, remains the most highly decorated citizen in Norwegian history.

This year’s film festival includes six films from Norway, plus nearly a dozen other Nordic films. Whether or not you live in the Twin Cities area, if you love the cinema, you’ll want to check out this year’s festival entries and add some to your must-see list.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Fiddling Builds Bridges

In the April issue of Viking, Sarah Nagell credits her study of Hardanger fiddle as the cupid's arrow that began her love affair with Norwegian folk music. Over the past 30 years, St. Olaf music professor Andrea Een has taught Hardanger fiddle to about 50 students at the college, exposing many to a new musical genre and inspiring several to continue studying, playing, and performing the instrument throughout their adult lives.

To see and hear what Een and her students have been up to recently, check out “Bridge of Peace: Swedes and Norwegians Fiddle in Harmony,” a joint concert between The Lars Skjervheim Spelemannslag of St. Olaf College, a group that Een leads; the Twin Cities Hardingfelelag, some of whom are Een’s former students; and the fiddling group from the American Swedish Institute. You can find the archived concert—along with the concert program—on the college’s website. Enjoy!

Photo: David Gonnerman