I’m often asked to tell the story of how I fell in love with Norway. It began by falling for the music, the sound of Jan Garbarek, Terje Rypdal and the world that ECM was opening up. But it was when I began to get to know the people that my life changed.
I could say that my first true Norwegian friends were in a band I met at Kansas City Airport (and that really is a story for another time). As a result of that encounter I began to visit Norway and realised that the country’s small population (around 5 million) and a tightly knit music scene, meant it was possible to get to know a lot of music and musicians very quickly.
I’d been playing Norwegian music on BBC Radio 3 whenever I could, being pretty much the only UK radio exposure this music was getting. As my experience grew and I became involved with festivals and venues, working with different musicians, it was a privilege to ‘spread the word’. My discovery was that it didn’t matter what the musical genre – jazz, folk music, classical, experimental or contemporary, there was such a high quality in performance and production, and a real desire amongst musicians to create something new, something which expressed themselves. There was also a lot of support for the arts in general both in terms of education and professional development.
There’s so much interaction between music and the other arts – film, literature, the visual arts, theatre and I found myself drawn into these worlds too. Amongst the events I’ve curated have been two major celebrations of the Norwegian arts scene at Kings Place in London called Scene Norway. I’m thrilled now to bring Scene Norway Plus to a venue I love, to the rich cultural scene in Bristol. A day, of course, isn’t long enough to give a true picture, but I hope there’ll be something to give you an appetite for more!
Award winning children’s writer Maria Parr was a big hit at last year’s Scene Norway with her delightful stories from her book Waffle Hearts, then newly translated to English for Walker Books. To celebrate the paperback edition this autumn Maria comes to St George’s to tell more stories in her own engaging way, with music and – of course – Norwegian waffles!
The band JøKleBa is a legend in Norway and this is their only performance in the UK, an opportunity to see the three musicians whose improvising work in the 1980s caused a sea-change in the Norwegian music world, and, as individuals, they have gone on to play an important role in the development of Norwegian music. Jon Balke is an adventurous keyboard player and composer whose work has ranged from working with Sidsel Endresen, to African musicians, to classical. He has a rare sensibility and sense of adventure. Per Jørgensen’s music comes from the heart, from Norwegian folk music, to experimental music and an ability to open up deep seated emotions in his playing. Audun Kleive is one of the most remarkable drummers Norway has ever known, and is responsible for inspiring younger generations for whom he is a true role model. JøKleBa have been on an eco-tour this year, trying to keep the Co2 emissions of their travelling to a minimum. They’ll be telling us a little more about that as well as pinning us to the walls of St George’s with their music.
I’m delighted to welcome Italian writer and Norwegian jazz expert Luca Vitali to Bristol. Luca’s acclaimed book Il Suono del Nord will be published in English next year and he’ll be talking to me about the journey of discovery he made while researching his book, and opening an exhibition of his photographs of Norwegian jazz musicians.
The day ends in the company of someone much loved by audiences for his warm and engaging communication and his playing of depth and beauty which comes from his years as a classical musician as well as one of the key figures in the early days of Norwegian jazz. Ketil Bjørnstad is also a best-selling novelist and an expert on the art of Edvard Munch, so expected a compelling evening of conversation and stunning music.
Norway in a nutshell then at St George’s on 22nd November. Welcome to Scene Norway Plus!
Fiona Talkington is best known as presenter on BBC Radio 3, most notably the award-winning Late Junction. She celebrates 25 years with Radio 3 this month.