Treasonous fun at Little Norway Festival

Posted: Thursday, May 22, 2008

Call it treason, but I had a transcendent moment last weekend while listening to another country's national anthem.

A small choir and piano in Petersburg performed "Ja, Vi Elsker Dette Landet" in the high school gym to kick off one of the events at their 50th annual Little Norway festival, scheduled during that country's Constitution Day. Closing my eyes, the feeling was similar to standing on a beach in L.A. just before moving to Juneau 15 years ago, knowing I'd be soon hearing the waves of Sandy Beach. Now it was knowing I'd be hearing that anthem in my new homeland.

With a move to the polar town of Longyearbyen only months away, seeing if the Little Norway fest stirred feelings of "homesickness" was obvious. Also, still being an inhabitant of the land of the free, there was the mission to see what gratis musical tour of the event is possible for those who missed out.

Scouring the Web turned up one great freebie detailed below, but there aren't any great MP3 treasuries from the festival's two primary musical performers. Both are from out-of-town, but The Pickled Herring Band probably deserves honorary status after five recent appearances, all doing serious yeoman's work with nearly non-stop street and event performances. Also, the Seattle quartet supplied the Norsk element - along with their trademark polkas, rags and standards - thanks to accordionist Lori Hansen's Scandinavian heritage. Eighteen samples from their "Picked Favorites" can be heard at, but they recommended their follow-up "Second Helping" for what I was seeking. Bought the disc, but had no luck finding legal or illegal sources to share with the outside world.

The other band was the Kodiak Island Drummers, who were at least as prolific with more than two dozen workshops and classes, plus several free performances that were sometimes packed to the point of turning people away. The large Native youth drum ensemble has a long-ago, hard-to-find CD, but fortunately there's a bunch of YouTube videos a Google search away.

Getting a more substantive feel requires outside surfing. Suitable background noise is a visitor's podcast of the celebration at Epcot last year at A collection of four Norsk folk tales in English is at And, in the big Free MP3 Album Find, those seeking something more contemporary can get a Norwegian performance of the Rocky Horror Picture Show in Norwegian at There are many other languages as well.

• Mark Sabbatini is a professional transient who is moving to the polar archipelago of Svalbard, home of the seed vault that will feed mankind after Armageddon, later this year.

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