East meets west in Beijing

December 15 will see key Norwegian participation to a major concert event in the Chinese capital as “The Pilgrim”, a mass composed by Sigvald Tveit and Harald Olsen, is staged at Beijing’s Century Theatre.

Sigvald Tveit

“The Pilgrim” features more than 150 players as well as Norwegian Hardanger Fiddler Gunnar Stubseid and is supported by the Norwegian Ministry for Foreign Affairs and the Norwegian Embassy in Beijing in co-operation with the Chinese Musicians Association. “The Pilgrim” was premiered in Hong Kong in 1997 and has since then been performed in the Philippines and USA. Says Tveit of his composition: "The Pilgrim" is a concert mass based on a deep fascination for and interest in Chinese culture and the music tradition of this huge country. Since we represent a Western culture, its form is an encounter between East and West within the framework of the classic mass, although with a rather free elaboration of each single movement.

The concert is described as a cultural encounter where east meets west in the shape of a concert mass. Harald Olsen, director at the Oslo National College of the arts, is the project’s initiator and the author of the binding recital texts. Says Olsen of the meeting of cultures in “The Pilgrim”: This cultural encounter is tied up to a dramatic element which goes through the mass, imparted through recitation texts which bind the elements together, where a Western pilgrim meets the culture and spirituality of the East. This encounter happens on different levels of time, both in the past and the present. The texts are presented partly in the original Chinese and Norwegian languages, and partly in English.

The music is comprised partially of Norwegian folk tunes, partially of Chinese folk tunes, and partially of an original composition by Sigvald Tveit. Says the prolific composer and Oslo University music teacher of his eclectic approach to his work: It is arranged in a way that tries to mirror the aforementioned encounter between these two traditions. The instrumentation of the orchestra is flexible. Since this is a cultural encounter, it is desirable to use one or more Chinese instruments as well as instruments from a Western, for example a Norwegian folk tradition. However, both the Norwegian and the Chinese music traditions are distinguished with a homophonic structure, and this suggests among other things that the instruments double both each other and also the vocals. The folk traditions in these two cultures are in other words characterised more of different shades of sound colours then of contrapuntal devices. This implies that one should not feel that one have to be tied up to the specific instrumentation that is suggested in the score - there is some freedom of choice.

In addition to the aforementioned types of instruments, this mass is also arranged for symphony orchestra. A symphony orchestra presupposes a broader and richer sound of the piece, but it is not necessary in order to perform the mass states the composer. In many places, the Chinese instruments double the symphony orchestra instruments. In some cases one should use either of these while other places both could be applied. It should be mentioned that there are parts both for church organ and synthesiser. The synthesiser part is mainly to be regarded as cue notes. Both of these parts can partly be regarded as parts for supporting choir and vocal soloists during rehearsals, but they can also be used during performances. This is especially true when the mass is performed without the symphony orchestra. Synthesiser and organ are in fact enough (beside the vocals) in order to perform the mass, although much of the feeling of the cultural encounter may be lost in this situation says Tveit.

"The Pilgrim" was commissioned by The Scandinavian Christian Mission To Buddhists for their 75th Anniversary (1922-1997). The first performance in Hong Kong Concert Hall occurred during the same year that Hong Kong was incorporated back into China. The mission was founded by Karl Ludvig Reichelt, who in 1922 started his special work among Buddhist pilgrims in Nanjing. Later, he built a mission center at Tao Fong Shan in Hong Kong. The mass is modelled in the spirit of
Mr. Reichelt and is meant to be an effort for the continuation of his important contribution as bridge-builder between East and West.

Share the story on:
                    |     More

Headlines:



New acquisitions from the National Library (sheet music)

MIC-pages is managed by Aslak Oppebøen
Tel: +47 90175338 · aslak@musicnorway.no