Rolf Haugen and his friend Hermod Monsen met us at our Hotel and we went by bus to the Langesund Fjord. When we rolled into the city center, not only were the dignitaries from Langesund there, but the Langesund Mandssangforening, a male choir of shanty singers, and their charismatic director, Gunnar, were wildly singing, to the accompaniment of an enthusiastic accordion.
After this raucousness, and after our Minot Mayor and City Manager had ceremoniously met the Langesund representation, we headed to what is now a cliffside park overlooking the sea, but was once an enormous barricade built by the Nazis after they invaded Norway, to defend agains an allied invasion. The Nazis built up canon and anti-aircraft bunkers all-around the cliffside, but beneath the barricades a veritable town, with a barracks, storage, food, and a hospital to accommodate 400,000 Nazi troops. All of these tunnels and underground system are now closed off to the public. But some of the Shanty Singers who grew up post-war, told us tales of spelunking through the Nazi-built caves and tunnel systems.
As we looked out to the fjords from the armaments, Gunnar led us in a moving rendition of the spiritual, My Lord What A Mornin’. For a few of the choristers it was the closest they had ever been to the sea. We walked back through what is now a recreational park, and made our way back to the harbor.
We boarded a boat that was once owned by one of the original Langesund Mandssangforening with our singing friends, and set off into the fjord.
Gunnar led us in song deep into the fjord, singling out particular student choristers to sing, or to somehow contribute personally, which revealed individual talent and personality that we all felt privileged to witness.
What was most astonishing, and so beautiful was that one of our choristers, a countertenor, Anthony Schreier took a moment to propose to his girlfriend, Arnikka Thompson. Gunnar started leading Elvis’ “I Can’t Help Falling in Love With You”. Then Anthony got down on one knee, and proposed. She said yes, and we all felt the profound emotion that comes with such a profound moment. We all wished them happiness and health, and perhaps there was no better MC than our Langesund Mandssangforening conductor, Gunnar.
We sailed into Paradise Bay where we sang, all the songs that we had committed to memory. Perhaps the most moving moment in this area was when we sang the beautiful Lutkin The Lord Bless You and Keep You. We sailed through an “eye of the needle” which is called Geitespranget which means, The Goat Leap, because of a mythical leap a male goat made to accompany a female goat on the opposite side of the fjord. It was captaining.
After such an emotional and beautiful voyage into the fjord, we disembarked and headed to the Shanty Singer’s headquarters for lunch. They fed us sumptuously, and after sharing in a few more songs, we made toasts and said our tearful goodbyes. What a way to finish our time in the Langesund Fjord.
We boarded our bus and embarked on a long journey into Telemark County to the Morgedal Ski museum, the hometown of Sondre Norheim, the famous Telemark Skier, who moved to Minot, North Dakota. There was an entire wall dedicated to Minot! We stayed and had dinner, which included fresh Norwegian Salmon.
Then we boarded our bus again and headed to Rauland Acadamiet which is a university campus that specializes in folk art and folk music. We are being boarded there in the student quarters which is really quite clean, and accommodating.