The trip will consist of 17 tour stops in 15 towns. The ensembles will perform five joint concerts in Oslo, Bergen, Molde, Trondheim and Stiklestad. The rest of the stops will feature separate concerts for the choir, while the instrumental ensembles will play a combination of joint and alternating concerts.
On June 17, all of the ensembles will take part in a service of remembrance for B.J. Muus, the founder of St. Olaf College, at the Nidaros Cathedral in Trondheim. Muus, who died in Norway while on a trip back to his birthplace, is buried at the Cathedral along with St. Olaf, the college's namesake.
Also at the Nidaros Cathedral, the St. Olaf Choir will perform three choral pieces with the Jentekor, the Norwegian girls choirs. The performance with Jentekor will be used to create a Christmas special, which will air on PBS around Christmas time next year in conjunction with the re-airing of the 2001 Christmas Festival concert.
According to B.J. Johnson, manager of the music organizations and assistant to the music department chair, the next time Christmas Festival will be filmed on campus with all of the groups that traditionally participate will be in a few years not in 2005, as was originally expected.
Many students who will not be filmed performing in Christmas Festival are disappointed. "I think it's very exciting that Ole Choir is getting to take advantage of a cool opportunity while in Norway to film a special," said David Braasch '06, a member of next year's St. Olaf Choir. "However, I think it's a mistake for such a program to replace taping the '05 Fest. Many of the musicians who take part in Fest have family members who will never make it to watch in person."
David Scalise '06, member of both the St. Olaf Band and Cantorei, agreed. "I do find it ironic that the college has placed so much emphasis on tradition surrounding Christmas Festival and yet it is changing this well established custom," he said.
The decision to film the St. Olaf Choir in Norway was made as a result of timing.
"We had the opportunity, the Choir was available and there was interest from the NRK [the Norwegian broadcasting system]," said Anton Armstrong, conductor of the St. Olaf Choir. "I dont like that it doesnt include the other choirs but we have the chance to do this in an incredible worship space and PBS was interested."
Armstrong emphasized that the Christmas project will be separate from the Norway tour and that the Nidaros Cathedral, the Norwegian government and other resources are sponsoring the project. "The extra costs of this project are in no way being paid for by the other ensembles and those students," Armstrong said.
Johnson and Rich Erickson, associate manager of music organizations, approached the ensemble conductors with an idea for a large-scale Norway tour in 2000. They had at first thought that the tour could take place in 2006 to commemorate the 100-year anniversary of the first St. Olaf trip to Norway in 1906.
When President Christopher Thomforde visited Oslo for the 2003 Nobel Peace Prize Conference, the official Norway 2005 Government Planning Committee (GPC) asked if St. Olaf would instead be a part of the 2005 events and make their tour a year earlier.
The Norway 2005 GPC issued the ensembles a grant to cover some of the costs associated with participating in the events.
Other funding for the trip came from the students involved with the tour and from each ensembles separate endowment fund. The students were responsible for 90 percent of their trip costs, which Johnson and Erickson explained would cover transportation, meals and hotel stays.
"We are also charging admission for the indoor concerts," Erickson said. "Were anticipating a substantial profit. We can command $30-$40 a ticket there [Norway] and thats not expensive to them."
The profits gained from ticket sales will go toward shipping the instruments to Norway by airfreight as well as renting some of the larger instruments that cannot be shipped.
Other events in conjunction with the Norway 2005 celebration will include a symposium in the fall hosted by St. Olaf and the Norwegian American Historical Association (NAHA).