Welcome to the 19th annual Oslo International Church Music Festival.

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Welcome to the 19th annual Oslo International Church Music Festival. Climate change has become a noticeable challenge in many people's lives: extreme weather, drought, forest fires, ruined crops, food shortages and flooding have become everyday events. This is a central theme of our 19th festival on which we wish to shed light through the Norwegian premiere of a new church opera, the world premiere of a commissioned work for girls' choir, an organ programme dedicated to endangered species, and other performances, lectures and debates. We also showcase ancient and modern church music history, Te Deum compositions and the Estonian composer Arvo Pärt.

The festival opens with one of the foremost contemporary choirs, theEstonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir, in collaboration with The Norwegian Chamber Orchestra under the direction of Kaspars Putniņš. Arvo Pärt's Te Deum, his beautiful prayer for peace Da pacem Domine and Handel's work for young people Dixit Dominus are on the programme. For the closing concert we have the pleasure of welcoming back the Scottish ensemble Dunedin Consort and John Butt performing J. S. Bach's masterpiece Mass in B minor, BWV 232. The work is today considered one of the most important compositions in music history.

Upon this Handful of Earth is an opera composed by Gisle Kverndokk and librettist Aksel-Otto Bull. The opera is written to be performed in a church and uses texts by the Catholic priest, philosopher, geologist and palaeontologist Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, paired with ancient texts from American indigenous peoples and newspaper articles written in our own time. The opera tells stories of human lives that have been impacted by environmental disasters. We have long wished to illuminate our shared responsibility for man-made climate change in the festival, and in 2014 began a dialogue with the composer about an opera on this theme that would fit naturally in a church space with its strong symbolism. The opera is written for boys' and girls' choir, mixed choir, chamber orchestra and six vocal soloists, with a central role performed by the boy soprano Philip Weiss-Hagen.

Maja Ratkje's final part of a trilogy written for The Norwegian Girls' Choir and conductor Anne Karin Sundal-Ask premieres during the festival. The new work addresses environmental and nature conservation, and flight and migration as a consequence of climate change. Part two of the trilogy, premiered in 2013, is also performed. In addition, an organ programme for endangered bird species – our feathered friends – is presented by the versatile Australian organist and conductor Aaron Carpenè. There are several lectures, introductions and a debate with young nature conservationists on the same theme.

Outstanding choral music. Once again, the festival has the pleasure of presenting some of the world's foremost choir and vocal ensembles. In addition to the Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir we present the world-renowned English choir Polyphony under the direction of its legendary conductor Stephen Layton, a sought-after maestro and one of his generation's biggest influences on vocal music.

Voces Suaves is a newer ensemble originating from Schola Cantorum Basiliensis. The ensemble, founded in 2012, has taken audiences and the press by storm. They come to Oslo with the programme Papal Music from Baroque Rome.

A world premiere of a composition from 1756 is definitely a rare event. Nevertheless, we can promise a fantastic passion oratorio: Jesu, deine Passion will ich jetzt bedenken (Jesus, On Thy Dying Love) by the German composer Ernst Wilhelm Wolf. The oratorio is influenced by the ideas and philosophy of the Enlightenment, and uses Rococo's tonal language. The work is performed in concert for the first time by Die Kölner Akademie under the direction of the American conductor Michael Alexander Willens.

First-class organ music comes our way with the outstanding organist Hans-Ola Ericsson. There is a master class for students at the Norwegian Academy of Music and a concert on the Setterquist and Silbermann organs in the Swedish Church of St Margareta. 32 Foot – The Organ of Bach – Bach's organ work for five saxophones – becomes an unforgettable "organ concert" with the amazing Belgian BL!NDMAN [sax]. We also host the Estonian organist Aare-Paul Lattik, a specialist in French organ music, but who also comes with the music of his countryman Arvo Pärt. This time the Boysen bus rolls out of Oslo and visits Greater Oslo's organ treasures with Olav Rune Bastrup and Espen Melbø.

Te Deum is the short name for the Ambrosian song of praise, one of the oldest and best known Christian hymns. The Norwegian Soloists' Choir and the Norwegian Radio Orchestra under the direction of Grete Pedersen perform Anton Bruckner's beautiful version, accompanied by Haydn's Harmoniemesse (Harmony Mass). James MacMillan's Te Deum is performed by the two cathedral choirs from Oslo and Bergen, who also perform Alfred Schnittke's Three Sacred Hymns and Dopo la Vittoria by Arvo Pärt – the festival's featured composer this year. We experience his beautiful Te Deum in the opening concert and in several works performed by the renowned choir Polyphony, one of MacMillan's two favourite ensembles, the other being the Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir. There is also a lecture on Arvo Pärt's music during the festival week.

Hymns are an important part of church music. This year we host Den Danske Salmeduo (Danish Hymn Duo) which has held more than 500 hymn concerts and released a number of critically acclaimed albums, including Salmer til folket – Luther-salmer i nyt lys (Hymns for the people – Luther's hymns in a new light). From Fredrikstad comes the Borg Vocal Ensemble with none other than Tord Gustavsen, Berit Opheim and Gjermund Larsen. Under the direction of Tore Erik Mohn we experience a homage to Luther and Bach entitled Alle dine veier - Hommage à Luther & Bach. They ask the question: How can the musical legacy of J. S. Bach serve as raw material for improvisation?

 

Jazz musician and composer Trygve Seim and his ensemble Trygve Seim Nordic Orient perform Rumi Songs, a commission from Tora Augestad and Anne-Lise Berntsen. The work is based on texts by the Persian poet Jalal al-Din Rumi. Erling Kittelsen, who has reinterpreted a number of Sufi poets, including Rumi, recites the poems during the concert. This year's festival has no less than seven festival High Masses over two Sundays during the festival period, several open rehearsals, and a lecture series on environmental topics. We will meet representatives from CICERO, WWF, Nature and Youth, Spire, Greenpeace and, last but not least, a priest with climate as his main focus.

Sincere thanks to our important partners: nevn alle!

We also wish to give a warm thank you to all church music enthusiasts

Bente Johnsrud
Festival director and artistic leader