A Yoik is a Sami song. It can be about anything. It was thought to be improper, even scandalous, to perform or utter such a thing in Norway until the 1980’s. To an educated American, the Sami Yoik is reminiscent of Native American incantations. They are not as long, and they can be sung sweetly or with vigor, depending on the topic.

At midnight last night in Tromsø, at the Arctic Cathedral, a musical trio entertained us for almost an hour. They were cello: Georgy Iideykin;  piano/organ: Robert Frantzen and soprano: Gro-Anita Gyring Skog.

The acoustics in the sanctuary were as advertised: pristine in clarity, ambiance and reverb. However, it was the performance of the trio and the songs they selected to perform which stole the entire trip for me.

The program was thusly (and I’m providing this so you can poke around on the internet to find versions of the tunes and/or recordings by these artists and composers — it’s the least I can do!):

Gaskaijabeaivi / Midnight Sun (Instrumental piece based on Sami Yoik)  by Øyvind Bakery Moe and Robert Frantzen

Wedding Song (from Sørfold) a Norwegian Folk Tune

Norwegian Sunset (from the movie “Flåklypa Grand Prix”) by Bent Fabricius-Bjerre

Neslandskyrkja (Norwegian Folk Tune) Text: Magnus B. Landstad

My Little Daughter (Instrumental Piece) Robert Frantzen

Solveig’s Song (Norwegian romantic song) Halfdan Kjerulf Text: Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson

Prelude Cello Suite No. 1 in G Maj J. S. Bach

Ingrids Vise (Norwegian Romantic Song) Halfdan Kjerulf Text: Bjørnstjerne Bjornson

Fjellsti / Mountain Trail Piano Piece  Robert Frantzen

Har du Fyr North-Norwegian Song Ola Bremnes

Touristjoik Instrumental Piece based on Sami Yoik Johannes Mahtte Skum

Wedding March Norwegian Wedding March Jan Magne Førde

As you can see, two of the songs they performed were adaptations of Sami Yoik. There were several adaptations and original compositions by Robert Frantzen which were delightful in every way. We were treated to two Norwegian Folk tunes described as wedding songs or wedding marches.

To my ear it was Norway meets Bill Whelan (River Dance) style twists and turns of harmony and key changes around solid, dynamic, engaging melodies.  Sprinkled in for just the right gut wrenching, heart warming sweetness that exceeded even the most stunning of sights I have seen so far. As grand as God’s Great Earth is, His greatest creation in my humble opinion is the ingenuity, symbiosis and perfection of the concert we heard last night.

In the middle of the program Cellist Georgy Iideykin played a moving and finessed inspiring performance of Bach’s Prelude from Cello Suite No. 1 in G Major.

Pianist Robert Frantzen also played the grand organ in the sanctuary (they call it the Polar Cathedral but in reality is the parish church). Frantzen’s playing was all of the best parts of Jim Brickman, Billy Joel and Herbie Hancock or Dave Brubeck sometimes all in the same song. His original compositions of Fjellsti/ Mountain Trail and My Little Daughter were truly inspired.

Soprano Gro-Anita Gyring Skog sang to the room as if she owned it. Several times she had to initiate a song with no pitch reference from the piano or cello.  Upon their entry to the piece the piano and cello came together as if pulled along on a single golden thread of holiness. It really moved me that much.

But that is where my head and my heart truly are. As I have shared with my priest friends: “You can give the greatest sermon of your life and not a word will be remembered if the organist blows the next hymn.” They have all agreed. To wit: if the concert would have turned out differently, it would be all that I could think about—forgetting the grandeur of the scenery of this trip so far. However, since the concert was marvelous in every positive way possible, it enhances the beauty of the entire trip and adds a dimension of greatness that overrides any blemish on the rest of the experience.

As photos and video of the event were forbidden, I can only share images of the outside of the venue.

The reason we have to get out of our echo chambers is to have the experience of something greater than ourselves. The Norwegian coast line, the beauty of it inspires the spirit and invigorates the soul. People from around the world come to share in-require that we all get along-even as we push and shove our way into the front of the buffet line (as if they will run out of food?), into the gangway as we exit the ship (as if the bus will leave without them?) on the the railing of the ship to get the best shot (who do they work for, National Geographic?) at the bar (they won’t run out of alcohol either).

So, as my brain works, I begin with last things first and work backwards into the blog. This morning we crossed the Arctic Circle, this time going south. The crew arranged for us to have a  traditional spoonful of Tran (pronounced: trahn) with a commemorative spoon!

Tran is an Omega-3 concoction that tasted to me like ripe olive oil. Others, you would have thought they were being forced to take a spoonful of skunk spray.

As with all cruises, or so I have been told by cruise veterans, everything else is for sale, and the congratulatory sparkling wine to wash down the Tran was no different. 99NOK for a flute of sparkling wine. It will feel like Monopoly money until we get our Chase bill, and then we will work hard to remember how much we enjoyed the experience as we eat rice and beans for the rest of the year to pay for our Tran wash. (Sweaters, caps, wine package and gifts!)

The trip has been peppered with walks, talks and bus rides. Judit has arranged for some very pleasant and informative side trips. We visited a farm-turned-event space and golf course. There was commentary floating around the bus about “couldn’t make it as a farmer,” but it all comes down to economics and preferences.

Apparently the new generation prefers being in the hotel/resort and restaurant business than farming—I suspect they can can earn income year round with a guest services business model, rather than trying to make their whole year in four months of sunlight.

And there were dozens of stops, trips, places, people, things, sights, sounds, smell, baa, baa baa, and we have discovered: It’s a Cod’s World After All.  “For the love of Cod, quit it with the Cod puns will ya?”

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