Volcanoes, glaciers, waterfalls, geysers, a leisurely soak in the renowned Blue Lagoon, the exciting new Harpa concert building complex, and a ferry trip out to an island with Yoko Ono, were among the many memorable joys experienced by 15 Other Minds fans travelling to Iceland with Other Minds Executive Director Charles Amirkhanian and his wife Carol Law.
The inspiration for the trip was the famous Nordic Music Days festival, begun in 1888, and continuing to this day in a different Nordic country annually. This year's event in Iceland's capital city Reykjavík coincided with the opening of a sensational new structure called Harpa, boasting extraordinary acoustics in three concert halls and a design by Henning Larsen Architects that is simply ravishing.
Other Minds patrons Renate and Ron Kay enjoying a sun-drenched moment (below).
Our group enjoyed a private tour of the facility and we marveled at the contribution of artist Olafur Eliasson, whose multi-faceted glass façade sparks the imagination with its cubist reflection of the city in its thousands of windows and magnifies interior lighting with its projection of light in every direction inside the structure.
Among our many musical discoveries were standout performances by Swedish bass recorder virtuoso Anna Petrini who played a version of the instrument made by Herbert Paetzold in Ebenhofen, Germany. Her astonishing sound palette was enhanced by altering the air passages and modifying the sound with live electronics.
We also heard Velodrom, a spatial composition for children's orchestra arrayed around a balcony and directed by its composer Østen Mikal Ore from Denmark.
Since there were ten other concerts with composers from Finland, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Iceland, and even the Faeroe Islands, we'd have to say that this was just the tip of the iceberg. Speaking of which, we saw several glaciers, in addition to a rich panorama of natural wonders that exceeded our hopes and dreams for the trip.
Our tour guide Orvar Kristinsson (pictured below) was also is an accomplished tenor. He sang to us Icelandic folk tunes, Lutheran church music and modern Icelandic operatic arias as we moved from location to location. And he was masterful in his command of geography, geology, genealogy, history and literature, with never a dull moment during our long bus rides through the tundra.
The last night of our stay was October 9th, the birthday of John Lennon. Since 2006, that date has been the occasion for Yoko Ono to light her Imagine Peace Tower, an artwork in memory of her late husband. The event takes place of Videy Island, 30 minutes by ferry from Reykjavík. About 1000 people were ferried out to the site and most of us were very close to Ono as she thanked onlookers for sharing the moment with her. After the lighting of the "tower," comprising five laser beams arranged in a circle to form a projected cylinder high into the sky, we walked back toward the ferry landing for the return trip. Music historian Mauro Piccinini from Basel, who with his wife Geri had joined us for their honeymoon trip, turned to me and said, "Now we've seen everything except the Northern Lights!" Just then we turned back from the ferry toward the Peace Tower, and there it was in the sky—a slowly-morphing wash of green, forming an aurora that had our jaws dropping in complete awe.
Other Minds thanks Nordic Music Days Festival Director Pétur Jónasson, Iceland Tours associate Carolina Castillo, and tour leader Orvar Kristinsson, for their extra effort in making our first Other Minds music tour a wonderful success. And our thanks to the lovely group of Other Minds concert-goers who journeyed with us to this inspiring outpost of natural and artistic wonders.
Photos and reflections from tour participants: