Photo courtesy of Bergen Sister City Association
This year’s musical program at Bergen Place on the 17th of May features Norwegian jazz gospel singer Eva Vea from the island of Karmøy, onstage at 4:30 PM, followed by a dedication to those lost at sea on the crab boat Destination last February. The musical program kicks off at noon running until parade start at 6:00 PM.

Voice of Joy: Sister City Association Celebrates Syttende Mai at Bergen Place with Norwegian Guest Star Eva Vea

By Lori Ann Reinhall

During the past six years, the celebration of Norwegian Constitution Day at Bergen Place in Ballard has taken on new dimensions and risen in popularity under the musical direction of Lori Ann Reinhall, longtime volunteer in the Nordic community and popular performer in her own right. Last year crowds were wowed by a new rendition of Edvard Grieg performed by an entire orchestra of accordions, as the music director and emcee has been careful to balance the program with new and returning performing groups. “I love the festival for its connection to tradition,” comments Reinhall, “but I also very strongly believe in renewal. That’s why I always try to feature at least one new act or guest artist to keep up the interest and expand everyone’s musical horizons.” No wonder, then, that Lori Ann was delighted when she heard that Eva Vea, a popular gospel singer from the island of Karmøy, was interested in coming to Ballard to perform at Bergen Place on the 17th of May.

Lori Ann didn’t hesitate to check out Eva’s clips on YouTube as was just as quickly sold on the concept. She just as quickly got on the phone to talk to Eva’s U.S. manager and plans were firmly put in place. “Eva has a naturally beautiful voice, and it always wonderful to have direct cultural exchange with Norway,” remarks Reinhall. Through her relatives, Eva also has personal connections to the Ballard fishing community, so it also seemed particularly appropriate for her to visit us this year after the tragic loss of the Destination and its crew of six. Following Eva’s performance, the two have planned a moment of silence to remember them, followed by an official commemoration.

Eva got her start as singer around age 16, first singing in local church youth choir at home in Karmøy. Music came easily to her, and she soon starting working on arrangements. Her talents were quickly recognized, and with time, she was selected to train as a choir director. Eva felt a strong urge to sing, her voice developed, and she moved into solo work. Taking inspiration from American singers including Simone, Smokie Norfol and the late Eva Cassidy, as well as Norwegian-born Solveig Leithaug based in Nashville, she navigates between a gospel and jazz sound. Her voice is smooth and mellow, an expression of her calm and loving demeanor. Eva is committed to using music to enrich the lives of others. In world that is becoming increasingly secular, she sees that music can fill a void for many. “People need guidance,” Eva observes, “they are getting lost in all the information and are searching for something.” She often sings Christian songs at non-Christian events, and people can relate to them. “Music is a language that everyone can understand,” she notes, “a vehicle for happiness and fulfillment.” Helping others is at the core of Eva Vea’s life philosophy. In Norway, she works with special needs children, helping them confront their physical and social challenges. Here her music also plays important role with its strong therapeutic effect, jazz in particular having a soothing effect.

Eva Vea made her first trip to Seattle five years ago when she as on tour with the gospel group Voice of Joy. She met up with her father’s aunt and cousins, and reports that she immediately fell in love with our city and its people. She finds Americans to be very warm and friendly, in contrast to Norwegians, who tend to be more reserved. Eva appreciates our open American hospitality, but she also values the generous security of Norwegian society. “We all come from different frames of reference,” she wisely observes, “and we have so much to learn from each other. The most important thing is our own humanity.”

For Syttende Mai at Bergen Place, Eva has planned a program that will include traditional Norwegian songs, as well as gospel favorites. A highlight will be her rendition of Jeg er en seiler paa livets hav (I am a Sailor of the Sea of Life), dedicated to the memory of those lost at sea. Eva shares that Syttende Mai is her favorite day of the year and that it will be an honor to celebrate it with friends abroad.

The day’s show at Bergen Place kicks off at noon, with the Matt Jorgensen Trio, followed by accordion favorites with Ione and Brenda Bard in Nordic Reflections at 1:00. At 2:00, Lori Ann Reinhall leads a Norwegian singalong with pianist Aaron Otheim. The Leif Erikson Lodge Leikarringen folk dancers take the stage at 2:30 together with Bill Boyd on the Hardanger fiddle. In accordance with tradition, the Norwegian Male Chorus and the Norwegian Ladies Chorus then fill the timeslot between 3:00 and 4:00. Following is another new act for Bergen Place this year, the Norse Home Celebration Orchestra, under the direction of Noreen Jacky. After Eva Vea’s performance at 4:30 and the dedication at 5:00, the afternoon will be topped off with a performance by Seattle Lilla Spelmanslag, a group of exuberant young fiddlers. “It wouldn’t be Syttende Mai without the kids,” notes Reinhall, “and we are delighted that they will be back right before the parade starts at 6:00.”

This year is slated to be Lori Ann Reinhall’s last as Music Director at Bergen Place. “The new museum is going up, and I foresee a restructuring of the celebration in Ballard,” she remarks. “This has also been a landmark year for me with my own 60th birthday and the Golden Jubilee of the Seattle-Bergen Sister City Association. I feel it is time for me to pass on the torch to someone younger, who in turn can bring something new.” Reinhall continues to serve as president of the Seattle-Bergen group and has taken on new responsibilities as Washington State Representative for Sister Cities International. She is also looking forward to spending more time on her own musical production again. “Over the past few years, Bergen Place has been very important to the Seattle-Bergen Sister City Association, and we plan on continuing to offer our support to a place and event that we love,” she adds. Reinhall is honored to be sharing the stage with Eva Vea and all the friends she has made over the years for both a meaningful and enjoyable Syttende Mai 2017.

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