Music from a local Norwegian immigrant composer from the late 1800s to early 1900s will be brought back to life during the Elvidal Sons of Norway annual Fall Membership Banquet and Program on Saturday, Nov. 10 at Bootlegger's Supper Club in Granite Falls.
At the event Gustavus Adolphus College Music Professor Michael Jorgensen and his wife, pianist Bonnie Jorgensen, will reanimate the music of Theodora Cormontan while recounting her life story and the story of discovering the music she composed while living in Norway, studying across Europe and finally immigrating to central and southwest Minnesota.
The event will mark the first time Cormontan's music has been heard in Granite Falls since she herself gave a concert here on Oct. 21 1887.
At that time, Cormontan had just immigrated with family to Sacred Heart and was beginning to teach music in the area. A pair of stories published by the Advocate Tribune (Then the Granite Falls Journal) preview and recount the concert and were dug up by Kathy Hendrickson. The first reads:
"Miss Theodora Cormontan, of Sacred Heart, will give a concert at Winter's Hall Friday evening, Oct. 21st, consisting of vocal and instrumental music. Miss Cormontan has studied music for seven years in Germany and other countries in Europe; has given concerts at Copenhagen, Denmark and Arendahl and other cities of Norway. She will sing English, Norwegian, Swedish, German and Italian, some of the pieces being of her own compositions. The concert promises to be a rich treat and let all remember the day and place."
As a first-generation Norwegian-American composer, Cormontan spent the next 30 years of her life living in the area before moving with her sister to the Aase Haugen 'Sunset Home for Old People' near Decorah, Iowa where she died in 1922.
In 2011 Michael and Bonnie Jorgensen rediscovered over 150 of Cormontan's original compositions in St. Peter Minnesota. Cormontan had found publishers in the United States for a few of her works, but most remained unpublished despite their overall quality. Challenges related to women getting their music published, her immigrant status, not living in a metropolitan area, and dealing with a significant physical disability (that was caused when she fell from a train at the Granite Falls depot) likely mitigated her success at disseminating her music despite her best efforts.
Now over 90 years later, the Jorgensens are "dedicated to sharing Cormontan's life and music; believing that she deserves to be heard, appreciated and remembered".
During the Nov. 10 performance, Bonnie Jorgensen, an accomplished pianist herself, will portray Theodora while Michael recounts Theodora's story and provides his voice to songs that will be sung in both Norwegian and English.
"In this presentation you will learn a little about Theodora's life in Norway and the many challenges she faced in the United States. You will also hear the wonderful music of this gifted musician. She wrote in a romantic style with a frequently nationalistic flavor to celebrate her native Norway, clearly influenced by Edvard Grieg as well as other Norwegian composers of her day... Theodora's music features charming melody, intriguing harmonies, rhythmic energy and a sparking sense of creativity we trust you will enjoy. Come share with us the forgotten, yet unforgettable Norwegian-American composer Theodora Cormontan," say the Jorgensens.
Page 2 of 2 - The event is open to the public and begins with a meal at 6:30 p.m. Tickets purchased by Nov. 5 will cost $15. After Nov. 5, the ticket price will be $17.
To make reservations you can contact Elvidal Sons of Norway members Don Korstad at (320) 765-2691, or Larry Stensrud at (320) 669-7134.