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Today was a very exciting day indeed. From 9 o’clock till 1 o’clock we attended lectures held by guest speakers. The first lecture at 9 o’clock was taken by Arne Torp, a Norwegian professor from the University of Oslo. He spoke about the Norwegian language revival as artistic inspiration for Edvard Grieg. To begin with he pointed out the connection between the Scandinavian countries Norway Sweden and Denmark. He explained that for some time Denmark and Norway had a union, in which Denmark was the mothering country. This was because the higher classes spoke Danish. People learnt how to write in this language but often they spoke Bokmål, Norwegian Danish. Then when Norway became independent in 1814, the people of Norway wanted to speak a language connected to their own nationality, hence they began to speak Nynorsk, (Landsmål). In 1944 it reached its popularity peak as the language was then taught on the school curriculum. Torp continued his lecture on the subject of music as an element for building national identity. He explained Grieg’s involvement in these projects and how he chose poems in the new language Nynorsk in order to promote this change and support Norway’s identity. An example of this is his setting of Arne Garbourg’s Haugtussa.


At 10 o’clock the lecture was led by Cheryl Christensen from the USA. The theme of the lecture was Grieg in the “world of unborn music” and his creative journey through the use of language in Haugtussa. This was a brilliant lecture because she incorporated live performances with musical examples from her research through the help of two American workshop participants. She spoke about the structural dissonances in Grieg’s Haugtussa. For example he only chose to set eight songs from the overall collection which spans over two volumes. In the story that Grieg chose to create the audience experience her transforming from a scared and fragile girl to a courageous young woman due to the experience of heartbreak.

Markéta Štefková a professor from Slovakia furthered this discussion through an in depth analysis of the musical motifs that occurred in Haugtussa. Sharon Lavery from the Juilliard School gave a lecture on the marriage of music and poetry in Grieg’s Haugtussa. She spoke about how as a singer we can choose how to modify and project the vowels and consonants in order to portray the meaning of the text. This was very interesting and tied in with the work that we were doing with the Norwegian specialists in the workshops hosted by the Grieg Academy.

Gregory Martin, gave a lecture on the midnight sun that occurs in Norway and how this affected Grieg’s desire to present a sense of timelessness in his music. Avrid Vollsnes a Norwegian professor ended the morning session by explaining about the old culture and society at the time when the poems were written. This was great to hear as it gave insight into how the character of Haugtussa was affected by her relationship to other townsmen and to nature around her.

In the afternoon George and I had a lesson with Audun Kayser, who is a very talented pianist. He worked on quite a few pieces with us and provoked us to question how we performed the music by offering a little guidance in juxtaposition whilst encouraging us to take risks and liberate ourselves within the music. It was a fabulous session and one that I will remember for a long time.



At 5 o’clock we caught the coach to Troldhaugen.  It was here that we got to visit Grieg’s villa. It was his first permanent home after starting his married life with Nina Grieg. It was brilliant to see where he forged his ideas and created this magnificent pieces such as Haugtussa. We then went to a concert performed by the professors who led our vocal workshops at the Academy. This was both outstanding and at the same time very inspirational. Both duos had a real sense of connection and kept you engaged for the whole time you were there. Even though I do not speak Norwegian, Danish nor German I was able to follow the stories that they told through their fabulous performances. I hope that one day I can perform to a similar high standard it was truly breath-taking.


To finish a wonderful day we had a delicious dinner at Spisestedet Troldhaugen and we chatted and told stories and anecdotes into the late evening. I’ll be very sad knowing that it will be my last workshop day here tomorrow. But I will make the most of time here by absorbing as much of the culture, knowledge and experiences as possible.

Day two of my exciting adventure in Bergen. Today we had the pleasure of going to the Grieg Academy to begin our intensive course on Grieg song and Norwegian pronunciation.

In the morning we met with our friends: Kristiina Watt, Donal McHugh and Esther Knight who are also students from the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland. Together we left the hostel and arrived at the Grieg Academy at 9 o’clock in the morning. We went to the welcoming reception which was held in the Prøvesalen ( rehearsal hall ).

It was at the session that I met the other participants who had been invited to take part on the course and we all had to stand up and introduce ourselves. I’ll admit I always find this quite daunting, I never know what to say. When it was my turn I stood up fairly quickly announced that “I’m Charlotte Hoather”  and then promptly sat back down again. Thinking about this now, I maybe I should have said a funny fact about myself, or a joke, if any one has any advice please let me know! Haha


Following the welcome meeting we were allocated a practice time slot between 9:30 till 11:00. George and I were shown to a lovely room, 322.  The room was very inspirational as it was filled with music and pictures to set the atmosphere along with two grand pianos. I was quite nervous in the morning, all of a sudden it hit me, I was in Bergen, Norway about to sing some beautiful Norwegian songs in front of leading specialists and performing artists. This is quite a daunting task! Before now I had not participated in any masterclasses in my own country and the enormity of the challenge hit me smack in the face. But luckily I had George with me, he was ever so positive and told me to smile and that I’d be fine. It was just a kick up the bum I needed and pretty soon I was back to my normal self.


At 11 o’clock I went to an open lecture called ‘Troubleshooting Norwegian pronunciation in classical singing’ taken by Wencke Ophaug. I sat next to Tessa Romano and Mary Rose Norell, it was lovely to meet them they had travelled all the way from the USA and I had the pleasure to listen to them later this afternoon. The lecture discussed how Norwegian doesn’t have a standardised pronunciation and the problems that can occur due to this. It explained that this was because people can speak many dialects in the same city. As a singer I strive to be as accurate with the pronunciation as possible, so this was really interesting. I have studied IPA ( International Phonetic Alphabet ) at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland so I was familiar with most of the symbols that the lecturer was using apart from the odd few. I learnt so much from this talk, for example I found out that there is no voiced ‘S’ in Norwegian,  unlike English or German.

We then took a short break for lunch and we ate at the Grieg Academy canteen. I had an interesting sandwich, I’m not quite sure what was on it but it was very tasty! The staff are ever so friendly and the students that were taking us around the building were brilliant, so helpful and made you feel really welcome.

At 1 o’clock I had an open teaching session with Solevig Kringlebotn in the Prøvesalen. It was an incredible session, I performed four songs from the Haugtussa cycle, Det Syng, Veslemøy, Killingdans and Ved Gjætle Bekken.  Solevig was full of life and she provided me with so much help and encouragement during the session.  Later on I made a note of everything she said in my diary, lots to think about and work on.

For the rest of the afternoon I watched two of the open lessons, it was hard to decide who to listen to. For today George and I listened to lessons that included work from the Haugtussa cycle. Each duo and teacher had something different to say, and the interpretations were fabulous to watch.
After that we nipped out for a quick bite to eat. We visited a fabulous café recommended by my lovely friend Martina called Godt Brød, here we had some delicious pastries and I got an English breakfast tea! It was a delightful place and they also did takeaway sandwiches to your choosing, I might be visiting this place again. 🙂


To finish a very musical day we went to a concert at 5 o’clock performed by USA pianist Daniel Baer. He performed a wonderful program of Prokofiev, Barber and Grieg. It was both dramatic and powerful, his dynamics were crisp and clear. thoroughly enjoyed it.

I then went back to the hostel for a quick chill, wrote this on my iPad and now I’m going to go and find somewhere to eat.

Looking forward to tomorrow!

Following a really early start in Glasgow we arrived in Bergen at about 11:15 am local time and the first thing we did was to look for the bus we needed to catch into the city centre.  As you can see I used my nice big suitcase :D.


At first we were very unsure of what we were doing but the man there on duty was so helpful and explained what we needed to do and where to go.  He told us to get off at the first stop which was the Bergen bus station instead of the bus stop at the Radisson Blu hotel as that was closer to the area where we were staying.

After getting off the bus we went to find the living accommodation that had been organised for us during our stay in Bergen. We are staying at a lovely guest house,  my bedroom has a lovely wallpaper with birds and flowers and trees and quite quirky ornaments hanging on the wall it’s got a fabulous view of all the colourful houses climbing the hills and yet feels secluded. I started to unpack and pretty soon it started to feel very homely, a nice little place to relax.


After getting our bearings we decided to go and have a little explore. We agreed that we both wanted to sample some of the more traditional local areas and headed off to find the fish markets.  However after such a long morning of travelling and having not eaten we had to give the fish market a rain check and kept our eyes peeled for a nice café to eat lunch.



We happened upon a few lovely coffee bars but continued exploring until we reached a beautiful park in the centre of Bergen, which had at its centre a beautiful lake Lille Lungegardsvann. It was here that we found a fabulous cafe in which we had lunch, we chose a ham and cheese toastie and a chicken and bacon pasta. Both were very yummy however we were still quite hungry so we treated ourselves to a Daim cake (like we get in Ikea at in Glasgow).


After that we went to the Kode Art Museum complex and visited Kode 4 which was full of Norwegian artist such as Nikolai Astrup, whose paintings had beautiful depth and intricacy which had similarities to themes from Haugtussa poems. The student price for two day ticket was 50 kroner which is about £5.00 or $7.50, this meant that we could go today for as long we wanted and return tomorrow time permitting. It was a brilliant experience and I do hope that we can get back tomorrow and perhaps will go to building three or two.

We then went to find where the Grieg Academy was located so that we were prepared for tomorrow morning ready to start at 9 am sharp. It was a little tricky to find at first but when we succeeded we found the most beautiful yellow building.

To finish our day we decided to try again to find the fish market which was called Bryggen. At The fishmarket we found a variety of stalls. It was here that we met I lovely salesman who offered to let us taste some of his fish. We tried Norwegian salmon from a locally sourced farm and also wild salmon which was very delicious.  We also tried whale which had a strange meaty texture and the sales assistant recommended that we ate it raw on salad instead of cooking it.



For dinner we then went to a lovely restaurant called Bryggeloftet & Stuene for a lovely one course meal. I had beef and George had salmon. It was very delicious and George tried an India pale ale brewed locally. To end the day we found a supermarket to get some supplies for the evening back at the hostel along with some breakfast things for the morning.

I’m going to have a quiet night in to recuperate from the 3 o’clock start this morning.

So excited for tomorrow!

Soprano Packing!

May 24, 2015 — 74 Comments

I was amazed when I spoke to George and he said that he was only taking hand-carry to the Grieg workshop.  I’d already booked a hold bag and was worried about fitting everything in my case that I want to take 😄.

I looked up some travel guides and one of the first tips is to check the weather forecast.

So sunny with lots of rain showers 7 degrees C to 9 degrees C. So an umbrella, rain mac, scarf.

I’m not sure there will be WiFi but I’ll take my IPad and charger (I must try to scan all of my scores for my exam repertoire onto my iPad) but I will still take my Haugtussa book, travel plug, mobile phone. But I’ll keep all this in my backpack.

Clothes (5 days)
I like to travel in leggings, t-shirt, pullover and wear trainers to travel in.

Then I thought I’d take two pairs of smart trousers, a couple of t-shirts, a couple of blouses one long sleeve, one short sleeve, a skirt, a cardigan, a jumper and maybe a day dress or two.

PJs it’s quite cold at night, underwear, socks, tights.

There’s a final performance so I’ll have to pack a long dress, one that doesn’t crease too much.  I think I’ll take evening shoes.The list is getter longer 🙂

Packing-May-2015I always put my clothes in my cases flat and with as few folds as possible but I have been told that they may be better rolled as that helps to stop creases.  Do any of you more seasoned travelers have any tips for me ?  I am only going for 5 days this trip but in the summer I have to pack for FIVE WEEKS !! in the same size case so no room for an iron 🙁


Grieg Academy


This year I have been working solidly on acquiring more languages and concentrating on sensitive interpretation of the new songs I’m adding to my repertoire.  As you know I’ve been digging deeper into the texts and musicality of each piece. At the beginning of the academic year George Todica and I sent in an audition application for a master-class in Bergen, Norway.





We were thrilled to be accepted to take part in the ‘International Workshop on the Songs of Edvard Grieg’ from May 29th to 31st.

The conference selected 25 applicants, eight in the form of duos (singers and pianists) plus individual singers and individual pianists.  The applicants are from many Countries: USA, Canada, UK, Romania, Russia, Ireland, Japan, China, Hungary, Italy and Sweden.



Edvard Grieg – ( 1843 to 1907 )


The workshop will consist of informal, open teaching sessions with teachers from the Grieg Academy Staff and also professional free-lance singers including: Njål Sparbo, Marianne Beate Kielland and Ann-Helen Moen.  An expert in phonetics Wenche Ophaug will be working on language pronunciation and there will be a final concert in Grieg’s Villa at Troldhaugen on the last evening 31st May.



Grieg’s Villa at Troldhaugen


I am very grateful for the support of my fellow vocal student Martina Starr-Lassen who grew up not far from Bergen, she has been wonderful in helping me with Norwegian pronunciation as I wanted to learn my chosen song cycle in the original language they were composed in.  This has been an enjoyable challenge.

We were very grateful to receive financial support from the Deablitz Fund awarded by the RCS Director of Music towards this opportunity to help to purchase our airfare and the conference organisers have funded the course and part of the accommodation which has made our participation possible.



Inside The Grieg Academy – Bergen


When we received our acceptance letter we chose to start learning the Haugtussa, Op. 67, or The Mountain Maid which is a song cycle for soprano and piano composed by Edvard Grieg in 1895 and published in 1898. It is the only song cycle in his entire repertoire. The text was written by the Norwegian writer Arne Garborg from his book of poetry Haugtussa.

It tells the story of , a young herding girl, and her first love affair with a boy, her first heartache. Both the lyrics, which brim over with imagery of gurgling brooks and tasty blueberries, and the music that mimics this imagery, intertwine the main character’s personal story and the mystic spring-like landscape that surrounds her, which may even motivate it.

The song cycle consists of the following eight songs:

1. Det Syng -“The Enticement” – Haugtussa is dreaming
2. Veslemøy – ‘Young Maiden’ – A description of the slender 18 yr old Haugtussa. She has second sight and sees what others fail to see. Viewed by others in her community as strange. She can see the spirits of the other worlds – trolls, hill folk, even the devil.
3. Blabaer-Li – “Blueberry Slope” – Haugtussa is watching over her flock and sees a field of blueberries.
4. Mote – “The Tryst” – Haugtussa looks out upon the hill and sees the boy of her dreams.
5. Elsk – “Love” – Haugtussa declares her love for the boy Jon. She finds it easy to cope with her gifts while she has her love, there is lots of pathetic fallacy, so love comes in summer, but when she hears of Jon’s desertion it is ‘an evening towards autumn’ trolls and spirits appear in the night, in mist and cold shadows.
6. Killingdans – “Kidlings’ Dance” – Haugtussa dances with her flock of goats.
7. Vond Dag – “Hurtful Day” – A rainy day; he promised he would come, but she sat there alone.
8. Ved Gjaetle-Bekken – “At the Brook” – Haugtussa sits by the brook speaking to it of her sadness.

Only three weeks away now, very exciting.