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 Høstfest in Minot and began to realize the magnitude of the identification and the connection! Being here in Skien has been fantastic in every way, but experiencing their Syttende Mai was particularly special. The way the Skien and Telemark governments have bent over backwards to make us comfortable and happy every day that we have been here, has been utterly overwhelming. Not only have we experienced daily guiding, daily banquets, and daily treatment 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. Not just that, we were also featured in their Ibsen House Syttende Mai Concert with the Telemark Symphony Orchestra. 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!

We woke up to the same fabulous breakfast spread. Many of the choristers who had Norwegian connections were excited to be involved in their Syttende Mai.

Our guardian angel, Rolf, greeted us and brought us toward the city building.

Then we went on a jaunt to the Skien Church, a Neo-Gothic-looking structure from the turn of the century with marvelous acoustics, where we got to hear the Skien Men’s Choir sing a few numbers to open the celebrations for the 17th of May.

Then we were led to the Skien City building where we were invited to join the Mayor of Minot and Skien on the porch looking out over the city square to join in singing the Norwegian Anthem, and the Skien City Song.

Here are some reflections from some of the choristers before we left the Skien City Building:

Then we walked to the Henrik Ibsen House, where we were invited to sing with the Telemark Symphony Orchestra. The choir sang the Norwegian Anthem with the TSO 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.

Then, we sped across town to Skien’s Brekkeparken which sits above our Hotel, looking out over the entire city to perform a few numbers. Here is Nathan Bowles and the Minot State University Choir singing an improvisational version of Danny Boy:

After this opportunity to sing, we joined the parade. Rolf informed us that we were the featured guests in the parade that march at the very front. So we marched around Skien, accompanied by a marching band, and surrounded by the mayor of Minot, the mayor of Skien, the mayor of Telemark, and the city counsel 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!