‘Norsk Julesangfest’ brings ‘God Jul’ cheer at Christmas

What does this mean?  Take a look, and see the delightful event we discovered in the Mill Park neighborhood …

Members of the St. Matthew Bell Choir ring in the service to begin this Norwegian Christmas festival.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
People dressed in Scandinavian costumes, and carrying ordinary and unique musical instruments, filed into Mill Park’s Gethsemane Lutheran Church on the afternoon of December 15.

By 3:00 p.m. the church’s sanctuary was filled with guests and musicians, ready to take part in the annual “God Jul Norsk Julesangfest” program.

“Welcome to our 32nd annual Norsk song fest,” smiled Karl Jurisons, the program’s director.

The sounding of the lur signals the beginning of the music festival.

“This is a festival of Norwegian Christmas music,” Jurisons explained. “We’ll be singing carols and Norwegian. And we’ll be hearing a Christmas message in Norwegian.”

The festival was started by a professor of Norwegian studies at Portland State University, Jurisons told East Portland News. “He is a member of Central Lutheran Church. His purpose was to have a purely Norwegian experience of a purely Norwegian Christmas.”

The Procession of Lucia begins.

Although it’s taken place for more than three decades every year, this was the first concert held at Gethsemane Lutheran, he explained.

A bell choir started off the program, playing selections using hand bells and hand chimes.

Then, following the Nordic tradition, the Procession of Lucia commenced with members of the 2013 Lucia court. The young lady elected to portray Lucia entered, wearing a white gown with a red sash and a crown of candles on her head. She walked at the head of a procession of women, each holding a candle.

Members of the Court of Lucia sing a song about the Saint who “overcomes darkness with light”.

The candles symbolize the fire that refused to take St. Lucia’s life when she was sentenced to be burned. The women sing a Lucia song while entering the room; the lyrics are fashioned for the occasion, describing the light with which Lucia overcomes the darkness.

After the gathered group sang hymns together, Anna Arneson Mosey presented “Christmas Reflections”.

A “Christmas Reflections” message is presented by Anna Arneson Mosey.

“Christmas is a very important time for Norwegians,” Arneson Mosey said. “Yes, it is cold and snowing. But the overall theme in all homes is to make things cozy.  Christmas time is the time to do that.

“They light candles and they gather, as families, in their homes,” Arneson Mosey told.  “They enjoy the season together in the warmth and the light inside their homes in the midst of the dark and cold outside.”

This group of musicians, The Psalmokiken Ensemble, plays single-string instruments.

Attendees were then treated to music played by the Psalmokiken Ensemble.  The psalmodikon is a single-stringed musical instrument, developed in Scandinavia in the early 19th century, for simplifying music in churches and schools, and providing an alternative to the fiddle for sacred music. Immigrants brought the instrument to the United States.

The Scandinavian Chorus of Portland performs during the Norsk Julesangfest.

The service continued with music and spoken word, and featured the Scandinavian Chorus of Portland singing Christmas music and other songs.

After the program, the guests were invited into the church’s social hall, where they were offered coffee and traditional treats.

Getting traditional Holiday treats ready are Daughters of Norway volunteers Kay Nakao, Karen Jones, Jody Carter, Sondra Dutra, and Jean Akre.

This was a fascinating program in East Portland that provided for many folks of Scandinavian heritage or interest a unique way to celebrate the Christmas season.

© 2013 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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