Monthly Archives: March 2014

Sea Ice

About 10 days ago large areas of the sea froze over due to large amounts of fresh water, from melting snow, raising the freezing point. At one point there was barely 100 meters of open water between the mainland and Senja. Over the course of a week it mostly melted, although the weekend was ‘interesting’ as some of the remaining chunks of ice were blown in to the ferry terminal, making it impossible for the fast ferry boat to dock. Here are some pictures taken over a few days:

Moody Skies Over Husøy

This weekend our confirmands are raising funds to pay for children to attend school in Congo. As part of the activities we had a trip to Botnhamn to play for a ‘gathering’ (information sharing, coffee and cake, and a stick lottery – always very popular).

On the way home we took a detour to Husøy to fix a couple of minor problems with the chapel organ. These are pictures as a snow storm headed up the fjord:

. . . and Modern

My other substitute job was a couple of days ago, this time in Vangsvik, on the south coast of Senja.

Last year we played a concert there (see here and here) and the church is equipped with a very nice small pipe organ.

In stark contrast to the ancient Torsken church I visited yesterday, the building in Vangsvik is modern, being largely concrete.  It’s also in stark contrast to the stunning environment in which it’s set.

Ancient . . .

Sadly an organist in a neighbouring parish has just hurt her back, so I’ve had a couple of trips out over Senja to cover services for her. Today’s assignment was a funeral in Torsken which lies on the western coast of Senja. Unfortunately it has rained most of the day, so it wasn’t a very photogenic.

Torsken church is an old wooden building, probably from the early 1400’s although rebuilt in the 1700’s and with various other revisions along the way:

The floor and pews have been recently replaced, but the walls are original, looking from the outside like ship-lap planks, and on the inside like a log cabin! For a 360 degree view, visit this link:

The door ways are very low and the gallery at the back which has a (thankfully) now dis-used harmonium is so low that even sitting your head touches the ceiling. Both the galleries are accessed by very steep ladders:

The pulpit hood is also low, with only just enough space for me to stand. The pulpit is beautifully painted.

The sacristy which is in the traditional place behind the communion table screen is tiny, toilet free and with a very ancient door lock (not sure how it can also be a fire escape!).

The ‘wedding chairs’ (used by the bride and groom at a wedding) are beautifully embroidered.  Artwork in the church reflects a strong catholic link:

Much of the glass is also very old and ‘curvy’. Just in case you can’t see any boats out of the window, there is the traditional model hanging up inside:

The organ is quite recent, but I couldn’t find any makers mark. It’s nicely proportioned and the only major problem is that it’s been installed on an uneven floor so it feels like you’re going to slide off the bench! More details on the Organs page.

On the way home we took a small detour to Gryllefjord, another small fishing community, known locally as Gryllefornia! In the summer they have an arts festival and a ferry runs to Andenes on the Lofoten islands: but in the winter, the beating heart of the town looks a bit more ‘wild west’.

Night Lights Over Senja

Sunday night was a full moon and it’s the first time this winter that it’s coincided with clear skies and a fresh covering of snow. I’ve been told several times that it’s very special to see the snow covered mountains by moon light, so I took a late night drive out over Senja to check. In fact I was treated not only to moon light but also a good display of the northern lights too.

These pictures are from the drive out, on the 861, first up the east coast of Senja, with views over the sea to the mainland with Kisterfjell, the lights of Trollvik and then Lenvik Church at Bjorelvnes. Unusually large areas of the sea are now frozen, due to a large amount of fresh melt water and rain which is ‘diluting’ the sea, allowing it to freeze at high temperatures.

Having turned west at Gibostad, it began to snow (not in the forecast and with the distinct possibility of no more photographs). Thankfully just after passing through Lysnes the snow and cloud disappeared, to be replaced with moonlit mountains and norther lights. These views are also from the 861 headed towards Fjordgård and I was amazed to see just how sharp and deep a shadow could be cast by moon light! Taking long exposure pictures (30 seconds) you see the effects of the earth rotating, as the stars become ‘lines’.

Driving past the turn-off to Fjordgård, the 861 becomes the 862 (the “classic” tourist route around the north west coast of Senja), first with views over Mefjordbotn:

and then across the  main body of Mefjord to the mountains which divide it from Fjordgård, including the spectacular cliff of Segla. If you zoom in (click view full size under the images) you can see the lights of the salmon farms out in the fjord, and past them, the opening to the Atlantic Ocean, with a bank of cloud out to sea.

And a final look back across the frozen Mefjordvatnan.


Running Repairs

Having responsibility for instruments in 9 different buildings keeps us on our toes, especially in winter.

One of the surprises for us here was finding out just how dry it gets in the winter. Once the temperatures are consistently below freezing all the moisture gets ‘sucked’ out of the air (literally freezing to all exposed surfaces). This plays havoc with any instrument containing wood, as the wood shrinks. Thankfully the ‘sanctuary’ area in Finnsnes church is humidity controlled so the main organ and grand piano are protected, but not so in the other buildings, so it’s always interesting to turn up to play and discover what doesn’t work. Examples include:

  • Notes that stick on once played (OK if there are one or two, but problematic when you get half a dozen!).
  • Notes which are stuck to their neighbours (sadly most hymns don’t sound good with tone clusters)
  • ‘Couplers’ which hold notes on permanently.
  • Pipes which are wildly out of tune (some times by several tones) because they’re made of wood and the tuning stopper has ‘shrunk’ and fallen down the pipe.

Therefore on Friday we took a trip to Bjorelvnes, ahead of a family service in Lenvik church today, to fix some problems. And we’re glad we did – it sounded horrendous! Despite arriving to find the whole town without power, it’s all fixed now.

Here are the innards of the instrument, and Sarah at ‘the helm’.

A Run On Everything

Sorry (again) for the sparsity of posts. We’ve just had a week of illness, hit by some kind of cold / flu thing which has really wiped us out, leading to a concert being cancelled and substitutes drafted in to protect the congregation from it’s infectious organists.

We’re slowly getting back to full strength, so over the next few days I hope to have some bits of catch-up news . . .

. . . the first of which is that a couple of weeks ago I visited our local Euro Spar supermarket and it looked like this:

It was the result of panic buying, thankfully not due to an imminent Russian invasion or the type experienced in the US or the UK recently ahead of bad weather, but rather (sadly), because the store was closing and everything was half price.

For us Euro Spar had been the ultimate ‘convenience’ store, laying directly between our apartment and the church, and open until 11pm at night. It also offered the best ‘trawlings’ (food with marked down prices because of it’s sell by date), and it probably had the friendliest staff too.

Now we are forced to walk an extra 150 m to one of two other shops.

Concert Postponed

Due to sickness the Våpenhuskonsert in Finnsnes Church tomorrow (Friday 7th March) is postponed.

New date will be announced soon.


Våpenhuskonsert 2

Vapenhuskonsert_2_01This week is winter half term in Finnsnes and to celebrate, we have Arctic Weekend (yes a 7 day weekend!).

Vapenhuskonsert_2_06The church is taking part in the festivities by holding another Våpenhuskonsert (Weapon House Concert). In Norway the ‘weapon house’ is the entrance hall to the church, where in less peaceful times folk were obliged to leave their armaments. In Finnsnes church it’s big enough to seat about 60 people with space for the performers (or a couple of ICBMs and some AK47s).

Sarah and I will be joined by some friends: musicians Frank Olav Eriksen (Clarinet) and Benjamin Olsvik Nilssen (Percussion), and reading poems will  be Randi Eriksen.

The idea is to create an intimate and informal atmosphere – kind of ‘unplugged’ with candles.

The program is wide-ranging and music provisionally includes:

  • Early English songs for voice and harpsichord
  • Handel – Recorder sonata in A minor
  • Bach – English suite in A minor for harpsichord
  • Piano music by Mozart and Tchaikovsky
  • Clarinet arrangements of Norwegian wedding marches and a song from Chess
  • Norwegian contemporary songs Har du fyr & Å kunne æ skrive på himmelen by Lars Bremmnes
  • Mozart – Bassoon concerto

Entrance is free and refreshments will be served. All proceeds from a ‘collection’ will go to buy furniture (in one of the pictures below we’re sitting in some of the seats brought with money from the last concert).

So, as ever, if you’re in the area, do come!