Jorgensens’ Discovery: Handwritten Compositions from a Norwegian-American Composer

A chance meeting led to a major discovery by this Gustavus music couple. Their farewell concert is March 10 in Björling Recital Hall; 3:30 p.m., free.
Posted on March 5th, 2019 by

A chance meeting in a Saint Peter grocery store led to the discovery of 150 handwritten compositions from Norwegian-American composer Theodora Cormontan, one of the first Norwegian women to have her music published. Vocal music professor Michael Jorgensen and his wife, Bonnie, were ecstatic with the find, which had been in a friend’s family for generations.

Cormontan immigrated to the area in 1887 from Arendal, Norway. In May of 2015, the Jorgensens and friends traveled to Norway to perform some of the works and donate the handwritten original musical scores by Cormontan to the National Library in Oslo, Norway. They also performed at the KUBEN museum in Cormontan’s hometown of Arendal, as well as at the Elvespeilet Concert Hall in Porsgrunn with the classical singers Operagutta and at the Western Norway Emigration Centre north of Bergen. Other venues where the couple have presented Cormontan’s music include St. Olaf College; Luther College in Decorah, Iowa; the American Swedish Institute in Minneapolis; the Schubert Club in St. Paul; the national convention of the Daughters of Norway in Minneapolis; and the Norwegian-American Historical Association biennial members meeting on the campus of St. Olaf College.

The work pictured here is called “Ungbirken” or “Young Birch.”

Young Birch (Ungbirken)

You beautiful birch, you dear one, How like you I long to grow. God make my vision a clear one To see what you gently show:

Your branches spread ever higher The more your roots sink down; A humble heart I desire,
 And God will provide the crown.

—text from poet Jørgen Moe translated by professor Jorgensen

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Media Contact: Director of Media Relations and Internal Communication JJ Akin
jakin@gustavus.edu
507-933-7510

 

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