Just back from… Norway
Tell us more… I was sent to the remote village of Geilo, in the Norwegian mountains, to film at the annual Ice Music Festival. Ice Music? Well quite. It turns out it’s exactly what it says on the tin: a series of concerts where all the instruments are carved out of ice and even the stage is built from snow!
In a nutshell… Geilo is a tiny mountain community best known for skiing and other winter sports, but for one weekend a year it’s all about the ice music. Over the course of three nights, musicians from around the world perform otherworldly and surprisingly melodious tunes on instruments made almost entirely of ice – carved with chainsaws and chisels out of huge chunks harvested from nearby frozen lakes.
Defining moment? We attended a late night concert held in an outdoor amphitheatre, where the audience sat huddled in parkas and furry hats on benches built from snow. Just as the performance was about to begin more snow started to fall, thick and heavy. If you’ve ever been outside when it’s snowing you’ll know how still it makes everything, and how it muffles sounds. Add to that the ethereal harmonies of the ice music and the effect was at once both calming and uplifting. It was like stepping into the magic kingdom of Narnia.
So, learn anything new? Ice resonates! And it’s really tuneful! I filmed the festival’s founder, a Norwegian musician named Terje Isungset, tuning an iceophone – that’s an ice xylophone – using a pitch pipe and a knife. He picked up each bar in turn and tapped it to produce a note. If the tuning was a bit off, he simply shaved away some of the bar and tried again. When he was done, he had a full scale that could be played just like a regular xylophone. As long as you don’t hit it too hard… ice is fragile!
Fav activity? The day after the festival I filmed my presenter trying her hand at driving a husky sled. I sat in the front and tried to keep from whacking myself in the face with the camera every time we jolted over a bump. It was hard work, but for someone who spends most of her time in overcrowded London, the experience of swishing over the snowy landscape pulled by a team of dogs, far from any traffic or people, was incredibly exhilarating.
You’d be a muppet to miss… Norway in winter! The country is famed for its wild, rugged natural beauty, and it’s hard to imagine how it could be any more wild or beautiful than when enveloped in a thick white mantle, with frozen lakes, iced-up waterfalls and postcard-perfect snow-topped cabins as far as the eye can see. And I discovered that the old saying, ‘there’s no such thing as bad weather, only unsuitable clothing’ is completely true. With a proper Arctic-grade coat and boots to protect me it turns out minus 25 is not nearly so terrifying after all.
Bella Falk travelled to Norway with support from Visit Norway (visitnorway.com) and Ice Music Festival – Geilo (icemusicfestival.no). Lonely Planet contributors do not accept freebies in exchange for positive coverage.