Youth Concerts in the University Aula

Already in the 1920s, the Oslo Philharmonic was aware of its duty to facilitate the discovery of classical music for younger listeners − during those years the orchestra’s schools concerts were a central part of this work. Later, the so-called Academic Concert Series was introduced. 

From the 1952/53 season onwards, these youth concerts became an important bridge to a new generation of concertgoers. The newly established Friends of the Philharmonic Assocation was a  strong partner from the two very first concerts, on 2 December 1952 and 3 February 1953. 

Kristian Lange, who was known for his series of radio shows about music, took on the role as moderator, and the headline for the little concert series was “The Melody Which Became Something More; Music is not Mathematics”.

The youth concerts were a big enough success for the orchestra to justify extending the series to four concerts in subsequent seasons. After a little dip in interest, a conference and public survey were held towards the end of the decade in order to determine what young people themselves wanted to hear. This resulted in the concert A Challenge: From Mozart to Jazz.

Young people were asked which composers whose music they most wanted to hear. The results are summed up in the anniversary programme of the Oslo Philharmonic from 1969: Beethoven was mentioned by 116 people, Mozart by 102, Grieg by 76, Tchaikovsky by 69, Chopin by 63, Bach by 56 and so on.

The youth concerts continued with considerable success also into the 1960s. The young university lecturer Jon Medbøe became a permanent host, and his inspiring introductions to the concerts became well-known. The concerts continued to draw full houses until the 1970s.

(Translation from Norwegian: Sarah Osa)

Fra gangen utenfor Universitetets Aula under en av ungdomskonsertene.

The First School Concert

The desire to reach younger audiences with orchestra music is nothing new.  

In the Philharmonic Association’s first concert season, in 1919/20, 135 concerts were performed. Most of them drew full houses, and the orchestra’s activities were a hot topic in popular and newspaper debate. In the following season, thousands of Christiania’s children were also given the opportunity to hear the orchestra.  

After a period with concerts in Gamle Logen, most of the activity was moved to the University Aula, which remained the orchestra’s main stage until the 1970’s. In addition, the orchestra frequently used the mission house on Calmeyers gate, where the hall had space for 2,830 listeners.  

It was in this great hall that the first school concerts took place, in 1920. Were the children very well-behaved compared to those attending the family concerts of our time? Not at all, if reports from the concerts are to be believed: 

In the beginning, there seems to have reigned a curious calm in the hall, but the programme might have been a tad long and challenging for the children. It was reported that, “..after a while, whispering, talking and giggling took over, not to speak of fighting … and sleeping”.

The highlight of the programme was a piece by Grieg, which was well-suited for the children to sing along to with a humorous rhyme. When it was time for this piece, the children cheered, and wanted to hear it again. Their wish was granted, accompanied with a somewhat strict order from the conductor Ignaz Neumark to “…be quiet and listen to the music” in a strong Polish accent.

(Translation from Norwegian: Sarah Osa)