A group of singers will give the upcoming Norge Ski Jump Tournament the Norwegian flavor it was founded on 109 years ago.
The Normennenes Singing Society, www.norwaysings.com, will perform during the tournament’s opening ceremonies noon Sunday. The ceremonies also include an introduction of all of the skiers.
Formed in 1871, the group is one of the oldest male choruses in the country. Once boasting 100 members and a waiting list in the 1950s, the group now has 13 singers, who celebrate Norwegian heritage by singing in four-part harmony many of the traditional folk songs of Norway as well as some Swedish and Scandinavian music.
These days, their music is about 75 percent in English said Thor Fjell, the group’s president and a second generation singer. His late father also performed with the group.
“We have quite a history,” said Fjell, who’s performed with the group since 1980. “We’re approaching 150 years of continuous singing.”
Along with the tournament for the past several years, the group performs at its own functions, such as anniversary and Christmas celebrations, concerts and conventions, as well as at various nursing homes. Members meet weekly to rehearse.
The group is accompanied by Una Stroda on piano and directed by Chuck Kessell.
They’re always looking for new members who don’t necessarily have to be of Norwegian descent, but do have to enjoy singing, Fjell said.
“We’ll teach ‘em,” Fjell said. “If you have the spirit, you learn pretty quickly.”
Fjell has attended the Norge Ski Jump Tournament since he was about 10 years old.
The event is more than a sporting event, organizers say. With music, food and drink, as well as a Saturday tournament in which competitors take on the smaller hill, as opposed to Sunday’s larger, 70-meter hill, the event is a draw for the entire family, said Gene Brown, corresponding secretary for the Norge Ski Club.
The tournament’s mascot, the Viking, is on hand throughout the weekend.
“From an entertainment standpoint, I really think this is an incredibly large social event built around an extreme competition,” Brown said. “You’re actually getting to watch a precursor to the Olympic games, but right in your backyard.”
The tournament draws top athletes from around the world, including Finland, Norway and Ukraine. Roughly 5,000 people are expected to attend, Brown said.
“It’s probably the largest, aside from the sporting event, party in McHenry County is how some people have described it,” Brown said. “It’s a time to get out, when you haven’t had a lot of sunlight.”By JAMI KUNZER firstname.lastname@example.org