Berit Sem

2. Violin

− What brings me the greatest joy in my work as a musician, is the communication of the music itself, the feeling of the “I” ceasing to exist, the music which can be felt in every nerve of your body, and the complete silencing of feelings which the relevant music demands. It’s not something which comes automatically; for me the mental preparation in the form of meditation on the concert situation is important in working up the right spirit and the will to give of oneself.

Berit Sem

Berit Sem grew up in Sandefjord and gives her mother much of the credit for the fact that she is working as a violinist today:

− Had it not been for my mother’s firmness and unshakeable faith in my musical abilities, I probably would not be a musician today.

− When my father died, he left an old violin, and I started playing it. When my two friends wanted to give up “the playing”, and I wanted to do the same, it was out of the question. Mum didn’t know anything about music or instruments herself, and there were no musicians in my family, but she trusted her intuition.

Berit’s first teacher was Sverre Grønsleth, a retired trumpet player from the Navy Band in Horten, who played the violin and the viola in Vestfold Symphony Orchestra.

− He inspired me a lot through his fine playing, and was at the same time a warm father figure, traits which prompted a lot of progress in a short space of time. That I got the opportunity to play in Vestfold Symphony Orchestra and Sandefjord Church Chamber Orchestra, led by Georg Notøy, saw me through those “critical” teenage years.

− She has left a mark on a whole generation

At Musikkhøgskolen Ørnulf Boye Hansen, Ernst Glaser and Camilla Wicks were influential teachers. Wicks was of particular importance through two years in Oslo and one year in the United States:

− She was very inspirational for me and many others. Through her glittering virtuosity and warm personality, which was also expressed through her playing, she has left a mark on a whole generation of musicians from near and far. Here in Oslo we had the chance to hear her as a soloist several times while she was a professor at the school, and that spurred us on greatly.

Berit had a firm engagement with the Oslo Philharmonic in 1976, was given a permanent position in 1979, and has had many great experiences with the orchestra, particularly with Mariss Jansons, Herbert Blomstedt, Heinz Wallberg and Paavo Berglund on the podium.

− What brings me the greatest joy in my work as a musician, is the communication of the music itself, the feeling of the “I” ceasing to exist, the music which can be felt in every nerve of your body, and the complete silencing of feelings which the relevant music demands. It’s not something which comes automatically; for me the mental preparation in the form of meditation on the concert situation is important in working up the right spirit and the will to give of oneself.

− Training your listening will make the experience greater

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart has a special place in Berit’s heart.

− It is what I would call spherical music; of another world. But most of all I love Beethoven's music. He describes what I would like to call the dilemma of the human being. The human struggle between the earthly and the heavenly. It is absolute music, which speaks to us as spiritual people.

Her advice to the audience is to be prepared by listening to the works beforehand.

− Training your listening will make the experience greater. Then the music will be recognisable and you will be able to notice more details. Reading the programme before a concert will always create an interesting frame of reference. In this sense, making time for the pre-concert talk - “Bak Notene” − is a good start to the concert.

When she isn’t playing, Berit greatly enjoys gardening.

− I’m especially fond of pruning fruit trees and bushes, but working in the ground without gloves also gives me an especially good feeling. It’s relaxing and rewarding and gives you something back for your efforts through visible results and crops − which has provided raw materials for a great hobby − winemaking!