Kvam and Sellanrå school band practising for the national day at Sellanrå skole. Photo: Zelda Nyangari

The sound of May 17th

All over Norway, it is the children school’s marching bands that delivers the soundtrack to the celebration of the national day. 

Before the national day, Panorama met up with the marching band from Kvam og Sellanrå skole – which is the two neighbouring childrens schools of Molde University College, to see what they have been getting up to in preparation of the big day.

Jens Kristian Mordal, the conductor of the band, gave us a brief insights on their training:

Second from left, conductor Jens Kristian Mordal in formation with some children from Kvam and Sellanrå skolekorps during warm up. Photo: Zelda Nyangari

Jens, in brief, what is May the 17th about?

It is the biggest day for everyone! It is celebrated enthusiastically and uniquely in Norway. The parade is a big celebration for the children and for everyone. People dress up in their fine national costumes – ‘bunads’, and a lot of children are playing in the school band; playing wind, brass and percussion instruments. During the parade, the children from each school will march with flags and school banners. For some people it will be strictly cheering. We also also have other participants from social groups and representatives from different organisations. In Molde we have five school bands. Langmyra, Nordbyen and the two schools in the east have their own bands.

To what extend does the Norwegian culture contribute to the ational day.

The children play a huge role and a big part of the day is dedicated to them. It’s the childrens day, like we use to call it. In regards to the national day, the children are in the centre and we all dress up in our national costumes and eat a lot of ice cream and hotdogs.

Do you audition for the band?

No, It’s voluntary for all members. Other bands have a close relationship with the culture school, and for the children that are interested in playing and instruments, they go to the culture school and are taught by a professional from the age of two and then they come to join the band.

Kvam and Sellanrå skolekorps during practice for May 17th. Photo: Zelda Nyangari

For how long have you been part of the  preparations?

I played in the band when I was a kid (laughs), I have been a conductor for the past 12 years.

Do you recognize talent in the band?

We have several in our band who have come professional musicians, and a very good jazz artist trumpet player who came from the band. So the most eager ones and the talented ones who find a passion for this, continue with their music career.

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What inspires you as a conductor?

I am very fortunate to have a fantastic and dedicated group of kids and players who show up for every rehersal and are eager to get better. That is the greatest motivation for me, just being with them throughout the journey and helping them to become better.

What has become a tradition for the national day?

Well, there is no tradition of having a big family meal or something like that. Some do, but it’s not for all. The tradition is that we are out all day and we eat hotdogs and ice cream in the streets and celebrate with each other.

Tell us about the national day celebration you will never forget, the best one in your experience?

That’s hard to say, because I enjoy it every year and I look forward to the celebrations. I have to say the next one maybe (laughs). As long as the weather is okay, because it’s not so fun marching hour after hour in bad weather. There was a year it was snowing, and that was not good.

Is there one thing you would want to change about the celebrations if you had the power to do so, and do you have some advise to first timers and visitors?

There is absolutely nothing I would have change, it’s just what is: ‘The big Day”. And for the first timers, I recommend you put on nice clothes, bring flags if you have and go out and enjoy the day with the rest of the population. You’re very welcome!

Kvam and Sellanrå school band marching by Romsdalsmuseet in preparation for the celebration of the Norwegian constitutional day. Photo: Zelda Nyangari