London Sinfonietta Travels: Bergen

At the end of May a band of London Sinfonietta musicians headed to Norway to take part in the Bergen International Festival. They performed Clapping Music, Electric Counterpoint, 2 x 5, Radio Rewrite and Double Sextet with Steve Reich – a repeat of the concert we did at the Royal Festival Hall in March 2013.

Our clarinetist was Scott Lygate – a London Sinfonietta Emerging Artist – and he penned a diary to let us in on how the tour went.

Scott Lygate

Wednesday 28 May

Having left the cloudy skies of London behind, I was stunned by the beauty of the landscape descending into Bergen Airport, and was excited about exploring Medieval Bryggen, an area packed with old merchant houses from the Hanseatic Period and a Unesco World Heritage Site since 1979.

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Having kept religiously to my vegan diet for months, I was won over when I heard about Bergen’s famous local fish and thought I’d let myself ‘off the hook’ and indulge in some monkfish that evening. We ate in a charming restaurant carefully chosen by John Constable (the London Sinfonietta’s Principal Pianist) displaying numerous old model ships, in the Bryggen area by the waterfront.

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John is known for finding the best places to eat on tour, and usually a flock of people follow him confident of a fantastic meal. It was indeed delicious, as was the price – of which I had been forewarned by a Norwegian friend! I learned that you simply move the decimal point one place to the left so the kr 300 price tag for my dish was equal to £30. Rebecca Larson, who speaks the language being half Norwegian, helpfully translated the menu for me. We were also joined by Mary Miller, a wonderful Scottish lady who started out playing the fiddle in the Scottish Chamber Orchestra, and now, via various high profile positions as a music critic, and in arts management and artistic leadership, is General and Artistic Director of Bergen National Opera. We learned about the Bergen International Festival, and soon realised that it was a major hub for new music drawing top soloists, conductors, ensembles and composers from around the globe. At the Festival bar that night there was a buzzing atmosphere as we met other artists, and got ready for our show with Steve Reich the next evening.

Thursday 29 May

Having had so much energy from my fish the previous night, it took me ages to get to sleep but I awoke with the sun blazing and a clear blue sky – perfect weather for a trip to Floyen, at the top of a hill via the Flobanen Funicular Railway. The only problem was, I hadn’t brought my sunglasses with me so was ill prepared for the bright sky that waited us. It was a holiday in Bergen so all the main shops were shut, but as we walked toward the railway, we passed a market.

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At first I thought I’d have to make do with a cap as I couldn’t see any sunglasses. I really didn’t want this option because the caps all read ‘I love Norway’, and people might have thought I was copying Steve Reich! Also I’ve never suited caps. I eventually spotted a stall full of sunglasses and as we were in a rush to get going, I simply asked the salesman for something my size that might suit me. He quickly found an apparently appropriate pair and I handed over the kr 98. Having briefly tried them on, I then attempted to pull off the tag. The cardboard bit came off no problem, but there seemed to be a metal hoop which didn’t want to budge. Strange thing about it was, it was actually through the right lens. I knew something couldn’t be right so I took them back and explained that I couldn’t get the tag off. I was then told something that was to be a laughing point for London Sinfonietta throughout the rest of the trip. The salesman told me that this metal bit was not a tag, but in fact an EYEBROW PIERCING! ATTACHED TO THE SUN GLASSES!

Once at the top of the funicular railway we enjoyed the spectacular views and a walk around the forest area, passing this odd sign!

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IMG_6435Scott and Principal Percussionist David Hockings

The sold out concert that evening was a massive success, with the entire audience rising to a standing ovation, followed by a fitting reception with a speech from the Festival Director Anders Beyer, in which he thanked the London Sinfonietta for being an inspiration to him, ‘as a guiding light in contemporary music for 40 years’. Well done to all for a very successful and rewarding tour.

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