Arkhangelsk chamber orchestra shined in the Northern lights

In Tromsø, Norway the 25th international music festival “the Northern lights” was held. The festival gathered professional musicians from all over the Barents region.


Arkhangelsk and Tromsø have been cooperating for many years in different spheres such as culture, youth politics, science, sport, and many others.

Arkhangelsk State Chamber Orchestra concert in Tromsø. Photo: Nikolay Gernet.

Tromsø draws attention on cross-border cultural development. Almost every month there are different international cultural events carried out among them are festivals, concerts, master-classes, theatrical performances and so on. Relatively young University of Tromsø has an Art faculty and Conservatory, which is the basis for the pianist annual competition. Three years ago there was introduced the Arctic Philharmonic Orchestra, the Arctic Symphonette is performing. 

The most important international events during the year are Film Festival and music festival “Northern lights”, in which this year the Arkhangelsk State Chamber Orchestra participated. 

According to its conductor Vladimir Onufriev, every concert or a musical event has its particular aim or is devoted to some special topic. But it does not matter how hard the organizers are trying, every event turns out to be multidimensional, has several layers.

What is your personal view on the aim of the event you have taken part in?

“From our brief but comprehensive conversation with the festival director Ulf Jensen before the performance, it became obvious that this man is a real professional, and organizing the festival aimed to society development and creativity, not to profit.  He is highly concerned about the country issues, this is close to me. Mr. Jensen pointed out that cultural component is not that developed in the North. This cold region, where simple people engaged in mostly in fishing live, needs to experience cultural growth. That is why the musical festival the “Northern lights” has a very high professional level to introduce the artistic standard, and not everyone can be invited. During 25 years already the festival level is professional, among the Russian participants several can be named: Maryinsky Theatre, State Hermitage orchestra “St. Petersburg Kamerata”, Chambers Choir of Smolny Cathedral and Petrozavodsk Symphonic orchestra, it is a pleasure to be invited among such high professionals. It is a pleasure to feel that we are known and respected. Besides there is a regional component as well – many different ensembles came here from all over the Barents region.”
Vladimir, did you have an opportunity to communicate to other participants?

“The festival is organized in such a way that the participants do not interact. There was no atmosphere of a jazz festival, when the participants communicate a lot, exchange their ensembles’ members, play together. Such form is more suitable for summer festivals. It is a pity though, that we were not able to listen to other musicians, it is very interesting to see how the festival is made.”

What positive sides of participation in such an event for the Arkhangelsk Chamber orchestra can you note? 

“The fact of taking part in such an event itself is raising the orchestra’s status in the eyes of professionals and critics as well as of listeners. The orchestra is growing on the feeling of self-respect.”

It was not your first time in Norway, what impression do you have of the country in general?

“I have been only in the Northern part of Norway, and it is obvious that North differs from the South very much. I feel very natural in the Northern Norway, here the spirit of the North is the same, just the color of the Sea is different.”

Many say, the Norwegians are more reserved, than Russian people, what do you think?

“I absolutely agree with this. It is clear, that they are people of a different culture; however I do not have a large experience in communicating with the locals. By the way, for the second part of our musical program four Norwegian musicians were put in our orchestra. We actually needed four wind-instrument players and the organizers provided us with them. This was a very interesting experience both for us and for the musicians. I would like to point out their specific ensemble culture, they are brought up on a different music tradition, and they have a different reaction on the musicians around and on the conductor. They amazingly quickly adapt in the orchestra, only the best Russian musicians have this peculiarity. Besides, with our orchestra two more Norwegians performed: Lilly Jørstad a singer and Miriam Helms Ålien violin player. Both girls have a big future, I think.”

What future perspectives for development do you see?

“It is very difficult to build up a professional cooperation; this always demands substantial resource spending. Musical cooperation between Arkhangelsk and Tromsø has been developing for a long time. Musical schools students and musicians-amateurs participate in different international events, carried out both in Tromsø and Arkhangelsk.”

Arkhangelsk State Chamber Orchestra concert in Tromsø. Photo: Nikolay Gernet.

“I know that Ulf Jensen has a very interesting idea to gather together several small orchestras from all over the region and probably to play some symphonic compositions. Orchestras exist in Luleå, Bodø and in the Northern Finland. However, comprehensive support is needed for such a project implementation. Of course we would like to continue participating in international cooperation in future; we hope that we will take part not only in the next “Northern lights” festival, but in other musical events held in the Northern Norway as well,” says Vladimir Onufriev.

Text: Ksenia Kipurova