Being in Trondheim for the hymn book Slow TV event, meeting probably hundreds of people, talking about hymns, hymn numbers, asking questions - well, I need a bit of preparation and putting my head in places where hearing Norwegian in the right environment gives some kind of acclimatisation.
I'd researched to see if there were any Norwegian communities who were likely to use the Norsk Salmebok; there's the Norwegian Church in London - not far, I think, from where much of the Norwegian government and Royal Family lived in the UK for most of World War II having escaped the Nazi occupation of Oslo by hours.
On the two production trips to London there had not been any suitable events on at the church, even with helpful and pleasant in tone responses from the minister there.
I did track down a Nordic Church and Cultural Centre in Liverpool; thankfully their Norwegian church service fell a couple weeks before the trip to Trondheim. Slightly closer to home than London, off I went by train to Liverpool - sending my greetings to the football club for a few Norwegians I've been in touch with - at least three known to me are supporters of Liverpool FC!
Having picked my way through the centre from Lime Street station, the church came up quicker than I expected. I grabbed a few photos before entering and receiving a warm welcome from Stan; not exactly sure of his 'job title' but Stan seemed pretty much to be a cornerstone of the life of the church and centre.
I grabbed myself a brew and ended up on a table with a Welsh woman, English woman (doing a PhD on Norwegian music during the Nazi occupation - interesting) and a Danish man. Not the exact recipe for hearing more Norwegian in the coffee morning that I had intended, but nevertheless good and forming a meaningful contact.
Having spotted an excellent picture of a troll pondering his age (TROLL!) by T H Kittelsen, the signal was given for those attending the service to head upstairs to the chapel; the din of several languages being spoken over various hot drinks and merriment of the raffle draw was left behind.
The chapel was peaceful, blue pews; I picked up the Norsk Salmebok (1984 edition) and order of service and gained a rough idea of what was coming. Only two hymns in the service, but the woman to my rear left sang with great clarity and diction - it helped my following the words in the hymn book and insights into pronunciation. I still pronounce too much Norwegian like German in my head - but it's getting better. I've got a handle on those extra vowels now!
A short peaceful service with a clear sense that those who attended it did so for personal and meaningful reasons, with some furthering of my feel for hearing and reading Norwegian, all left me with a sense of gratitude for having been there and a little more prepared for 60 hours of 899 (largely) Norwegian hymns.
If you end up in Liverpool and you have Scandinavian origins and heritage, or have a reason to engage with Scandinavian culture (like researching Sakte TV) - do look up and support the Liverpool International Nordic Community at the Nordic Church and Cultural Centre. Their website is here.
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