Luther College presents performance in honor of Norwegian composer
As part of the continuing effort to pay homage to its strong Norwegian roots, Luther College will host a performance in honor of a highly accomplished Norwegian composer. "The Life and Music of Theodora Cormontan" will take place at 7 p.m. Tuesday, April 2, in the Noble Recital Hall of the Jenson-Noble Hall of Music on the Luther campus.
The performance is open to the public with no charge for admission.
Performed by Bonnie and Michael Jorgensen of Gustavus Adolphus College, "The Life and Music of Theodora Cormontan" combines storytelling and musical elements to showcase the life of the Norwegian composer. Bonnie portrays Cormontan, playing the piano pieces the composer wrote throughout her lifetime, while Michael tells Cormontan's story and sings in Norwegian and English.
Cormontan's music combines charming melodies, intriguing harmonies and a sparkling sense of creativity. The performance uses this music to tell both of her life in Norway and the challenges she faced in immigrating to the United States.
Cormontan was born in 1840 in a southern, seacoast town in Norway. With her father holding an influential position in the community, Cormontan was able to study music in Denmark and Germany. She became a popular performer in her home region and managed to publish her compositions in 1875, despite the reluctance of publishers to accept music written by women.
After the loss of the family home in 1886, Cormontan immigrated to Minnesota with her father and three unmarried siblings. Over the next 30 years, she moved around Minnesota with her family teaching music lessons, conducting choirs, giving public performances and continuing to compose. Theodora passed away in 1922 while living in Aase Haugen Homes, a senior service community located in Decorah, Iowa.
Although Cormontan spent decades composing music, much of it remained unpublished until 2011 when the Jorgensens rediscovered more than 150 of her compositions in St. Peter, Minn. Since then, the Jorgensens have been dedicated to crafting a performance that would properly honor the woman who managed to defy gender discrimination and life in a foreign land to bring her music to the world.
Bonnie Jorgensen has acted as a professional staff accompanist at Gustavus Adolphus College in St. Peter and Minnesota State University-Mankato. She also accompanies the St. Peter Choral Society and performs with the Mankato Symphony and the Minnesota Chorale. She holds degrees in both music and business administration from Indiana University.
Michael Jorgensen is a professor of music at Gustavus Adolphus, where he teaches voice and other music-related subjects. Recently, he turned his attention to the music of Minnesota composers, giving world premiere performances of songs by Libby Larsen and Steve Heitzeg. He holds degrees in vocal performance from Indiana University, Northwestern University, and Ball State University in Muncie, Ind.