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The Way North


|A selection of Norwegian Folksongs for Voice, Violin and Piano: 

transcribed by Grieg (piano) + Halvorsen (fiddle), improvised upon/arranged by Choy Siew Woon + 92steel&guts|

Edvard GRIEG - Sonata Nr. 3 in C minor for Violin and Piano, Op. 45 | Ottorino RESPIGHI - Sonata for Violin and Piano in B minor, P. 110 | 


| Kulokk | Siri dale visien | Der stander to Piger | Rotnamsknut | Springdans (etter Myllarguten) | Haugelat (Halling) | 

Presenting these folksongs in the constellation of voice, violin and piano developed after we stumbled upon an amazing CD recording from the norwegian artistes Reidun Horvei, Geir Botnen and Knut Hamre.  It was also a reflection of our wish to present a complement to Edvard Grieg's Violin Sonata Nr. 3 which would pay homage to the inspirations and soundscapes of Grieg´s homeland - the vast horizons of the norwegian Fjords, the harsh solitude and isolation, the unique aural diaries of life in the mountains and valleys. Although it is widely known that it is his second Violin Sonata which is truly nationalistic, Grieg himself said, "I have used here (in the third Sonata) much more rapidly changing pictures and surprise alternations, just like the spirit and landscape of our beloved Norway".  

The process in putting these folksongs together as we presented them in concert was a long one, spanning more than half a year, filled with much searching, setbacks and lovely surprises. We started with only Grieg's piano transcriptions of certain folksongs, from which we selected six. For months, we searched not just for the violin and vocal transcriptions, but also the texts to these songs, writing to many in vain. Our research finally led us to the violin transcriptions made by the famous norwegian fiddler Johan Halvorsen. Imagine our delight when we thereafter read all about this historical process amongst the multiple correspondences between Grieg, Halvorsen, Ibsen, Myllarguten and many others! Grieg was a dedicated letter writer whose correspondences (some of which are hilarious!) have been so well documented - we spent many hours excitedly poring over his letters, feeling so much closer to him and his contemporaries after that. 

We were very honoured to receive generous help and support from the Norwegian Embassy in Singapore, in particular from Ellen, Stine and Marianne. Not only did Ellen and Marianne help us obtain the precious texts and some rare manuscripts from the Grieg Museum in Bergen, Stine also spent time patiently going through the tricky dialect pronunciations with us, translating the poems for us in a way which made them all come alive for us, and allowing us to record them for reference purposes. 

Hearing our good friend and guest singer Siew Woon as she joined us for our first rehearsal was pure magic. It was all we had imagined and hoped for, and much more. The last pieces of this giant jigsaw puzzle finally fell into place as the three of us tentatively experimented with different (clashing) keys, tunings, spatial positions, stripping each folksong down to its barest elements and turning it inside out, and ending up having a whole lot of fun. 

The research we did inspired our end interpretations of the folksongs. It also led to the inclusion of our three narrators who made a huge difference to the concert  with their narrations of Grieg´s letters, which captured the significance, difficulties, and whirlwind excitement of the entire process of initiating the transcribing of the folksongs by himself and Halvorsen. 

Edvard GRIEG - Sonata Nr. 3 in C minor for Violin and Piano, Op. 45

Ottorino RESPIGHI - Sonata for Violin and Piano in B minor, P. 110

a few pictures from the concert, taken by Josh Koo 

To end off this post, here is the publicity trailer we did, filmed and edited by Lee Guo Sheng

Read more about this concert on my blog post 

Concert Review by Dr. Chang Tou Liang