In 2004, the Lofoten International Chamber Music Festival established itself based in Nusfjord, west of Lofoten. The increased tourism unfortunately made rehearsal conditions unpredictable, and the festival moved to Henningsvær in 2013. After almost ten years, the festival is now on the move again. From the summer of 2023, Svolvær will be the new base for the festival.
For almost ten years, chamber musicians from all over the world have occupied Henningsvær for a week in July. Centrally located in the fishing village, Festiviteten has been the festival’s headquarters. In the immediate vicinity, the church and school have also been used for rehearsals for both orchestras, quartets and soloists. The festival’s musicians have also been accommodated in houses and apartments that the local population has willingly rented out. The local population has also offered to rent out houses and apartments, which has created closeness, both for the festival and the musicians.
– The time in Henningsvær has been perfect for us. The combination of modern fishing village and summery small town has helped to make the festival unique. We have had “compact games” with Festiviteten as a meeting place, the school as a rehearsal space, and the church as a concert space. Especially for our foreign musicians, a place like Henningsvær is something they don’t experience otherwise, says general manager Knut Kirkesæther.
Read more about the history of the festival here.
Having a chamber music party in a small fishing village also engages the local population. There are rumors of neighbors who have delivered mulberry jam for breakfast, washing and ironing of concert clothes, babysitting, and guided fishing and mountain trips.
– This can be confirmed – and the list is even longer, smiles event manager Christian Winther Farstad. We are very grateful for all “help in need”, but perhaps most of all for the warmth and helpfulness that we and the musicians have been greeted with every summer. This was also one of the reasons why we chose to place our one Steinway grand piano in Henningsvær church. We hope this has given something back, including the 51 weeks of the year we have not been there.
Read more about the grand piano in Henningsvær here.
Visibility and collaboration
Like the rest of the cultural sector, the organizer has some challenging years to look back on. In 2020, the festival had to be canceled twice, followed by a somewhat limited festival in 2021. Despite the fact that summer 2022 looked brighter, the festival was hit hard by the strike in SAS.
– The situation means that we have to take some action. Among other things, we have decided to move the festival to Svolvær. As the largest gateway to Lofoten, we hope to make ourselves even more visible, while reducing costs. In addition, we now enter into closer cooperation with both Thon Hotell and Lofoten Kulturhus, says Winther Farstad.
Lofoten Kulturhus has been a partner and permanent concert venue since 2009. In addition to concerts in the main hall, the cultural center has assisted with a system for ticket sales, marketing and stage technical equipment. Now the agreement has been signed for even closer cooperation.
– For Lofoten Kulturhus, this is very positive, says managing director Torunn Rørvik Wilhelmson. Since the cultural center opened in 2009, we have collaborated with the chamber music festival. We are normally inactive in the summer, and have halls, meeting rooms and offices ready when the festival now comes to Svolvær. We are also looking forward to more concerts in the house. This is a win-win for both of us.
Thon Hotell Lofoten has also previously been involved. In addition to catering during the opening concert, the hotel’s chefs have for several years been responsible for the meals at the Festiviteten in Henningsvær. The hotel is now looking forward to an even closer collaboration.
– We have had visitors staying at the hotel for many years. In recent years, groups from abroad in particular have taken up the cause, which we believe will continue. The fact that the festival will now move into the same building, I think, only increases the “festival feeling” and atmosphere with us, says director Erik Taraldsen. Like the cultural center, we also have empty conference rooms that are now being used as rehearsal rooms. We are also looking forward to creating a dining room and meeting room on the hotel’s top floor – perhaps one of the city’s most impressive rooms.
A new base does not mean a new festival
The collaboration with Kulturhuset and Thon Hotell gives increased flexibility and predictability to the musicians’ intense rehearsal schedule during the festival. In addition, Svolvær Church is in the immediate vicinity, where the festival’s other Steinway & Sons are located. But according to the organisers, this does not lead to changes in the programming of the festival.
– The opportunity in Svolvær primarily makes it easier to plan and implement what the public doesn’t see. This means that our main program is going to be pretty much the same as before. We will still have concerts in both Henningsvær and Vestvågøy, notes Knut Kirkesæther.
In connection with its support schemes, the Norwegian Culture Council follows up what concert and festival organizers do to create greener events. Among other things, there are rumors of festivals that only offer train tickets to their artists and bicycle hire for their audience. This is also an aspect of the move to Svolvær.
– Even if we move to Svolvær, we are not betting on trains or bicycles going forward. On the other hand, our ambition is to reduce the need for transport. In Svolvær, we are within walking distance of several facilities we depend on, such as marketing materials, food and supplies. We are also getting closer to both Hurtigruten and the airport. With the immediate proximity to the Kulturhuset, Svolvær Church, and the Lofoten Cathedral, several concerts are also possible with reduced transport. We naturally think it’s good to save both time, money and the environment, concludes Kirkesæther.