Ep. 117: Sound of Your Heritage: What role does music play in Norwegian culture & celebrations? With Melissa Holm-Johansen, DMA

Norwegian flag

Photo by Mark König on Unsplash

The Twin Cities is the unofficial capital of Norwegian America, and our own Dr. Melissa Holm-Johansen, native of Halden, Norway, highlights the unique role music plays in Norwegian culture. We discuss what she misses most about Norway’s music traditions, what sets it apart from the music of other cultures, and the aspects of everyday life that Norwegian music permeates.

Dr. Melissa Holm-Johansen
Dr. Melissa Holm-Johansen


Dr. Melissa Holm-Johansen is a native of Halden, Norway, and is a professional singer and award-winning voice teacher. Melissa majored in both vocal performance and music education at St. Olaf College, and holds a Doctor of Musical Arts (DMA) degree in vocal pedagogy and performance from the University of Minnesota. She teaches at Shattuck-St. Mary’s Schools and also in her private studio.


We discuss:

  • The Twin Cities’ bond with Norway and the Norwegian representation we have here.
  • Main categories of distinctively Norwegian music:
    • Patriotic music:
      • Sung at sporting events
      • Also sung at baptisms, graduations, confirmations
    • Folk music:
      • Heavily based on dance
      • Learned by children in school
      • Most are in a minor key
    • Lutheran choral music
  • The most important Norwegian holidays, and the role music plays in celebrating them, including:
    • Constitution Day on May 17: celebration of the signing of the Constitution in 1814
    • Midsummer Eve: Longest night of the year/summer solstice
    • Christmas Eve
    • At family gatherings, they sing! They make physical programs for the event/gathering; personalized lyrics are written to commemorate the occasion or celebrate the guest of honor; the lyrics will be set to a familiar melody so everyone can sing along
  • Edvard Grieg and why he is so important in the Norwegian musical canon
  • Melissa’s new CD!

Connect/Other Resources

In-Episode Promo

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Melissa shares the trailer for her Songs from the Heart album & concert.

Closing Words

Thank you so much to Melissa for sharing that clip with us, for sharing with us today in this episode. Melissa does have a couple concert events coming up – one is this weekend, December 17-19; she will be a soloist for Handel’s Messiah with Bach Roots. She will also be performing at a Norway House event on January 15. These links and links from today’s show – and a transcript of this episode – can be found in the show notes at mpetersonmusic.com/podcast; this is Ep. 117. All links are also in the episode details right in your podcast app. While you’re there, I’d love to hear from you! Tell me how music is enhancing your life. You can reach me on email (mindy@mpetersonmusic.com), Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or LinkedIn. Thanks so much for joining me today. Until next time, may your life be enhanced with music. 

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