Memories flood in when Sondre Lerche plans a midnight concert at Kongsberg

It was here that Sondre Lerche got to sing with his Brazilian hero Milton Nascimento in 2004. Now he returns to Kongsberg church, ready to create a festive atmosphere with a midnight concert.

Midnight concert in Kongsberg church is in itself a unique and beautiful concert format during the jazz festival. It's not just something happening with festival-happy audiences strolling in from Kirketorget and the bright summer night. Something special also happens with the musicians on stage.

- That makes it tempting to offer something a little different that has been curated especially for this evening. There is something about the church room that in itself makes it exciting, at least for me who has not played too many church concerts, says Sondre Lerche.

- The "Avatars of Love" album is the most dramatic and narrative I've made so far. The church room can suit this music well. You have surroundings that invite you to build dramaturgy and draw big pictures for the audience. I myself think that I often gave hectic and chaotic concerts in the past, but now we get the opportunity to stretch out these epic songs and at the same time create breathing space in the live experience.

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The hero invited to a duet

The ways of music are inscrutable. Although Sondre Lerche has only occasionally played church concerts throughout his more than 20-year career, he has actually performed in Kongsberg church in the past.

In 2004, the Kongsberg Jazz Festival celebrated its 40th anniversary. Sondre Lerche himself was only 21 years old. A brilliant Norwegian musical talent still in the starting pit of his career, the fresh second album "Two-Way Monologue" was released a couple of months beforehand.

By this time, the young Bergen native had already experienced international impact and great media interest. In several of these interviews, in leading newspapers and music magazines, he had willingly talked about his musical preferences and role models. Among other things, the fondness for Brazilian music in general, and especially the intense relationship he has with the 1972 album "Clube da Esquina" by Milton Nascimento and Lô Borges.

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Clube da Esquina, 1972.

This did not go unnoticed. And one day the request came. Could this young Norwegian, who constantly mentions him in interviews, imagine singing with Milton when he first performed in Norway during the Kongsberg Jazz Festival?

- At the time, I had no very conscious relationship with which songs were Milton's and which were written by Lô Borges. I was primarily a fan of the record. So when I was asked what songs I might like to sing, one of my suggestions was what turned out to be one of Borges' songs. It was a bit of an "ouch". But it worked out, and we sang "San Vicente" and another song from a later record, explains Sondre Lerche.

CHECK THE JERSEY: Milton Nascimento wearing a Sondre Lerche jersey. The image is taken from

"Better than Sting"

The deep fascination with Brazilian music came a bit by accident. But the start of this interest was also absolutely crucial for there to be any artistic career at all.

- It started with me wanting to learn to play the guitar. Then I ended up on a classical guitar course at the municipal music school. With sheet music and footstool. It was not the I was interested in. So I felt a bit cheated and kept threatening to quit.

A change of guitar teacher was the salvation for the frustrated guitar student.

- A new teacher came in who was a bit more playful and flexible. He was half Brazilian. So he said: "You can play bossa and Jan Eggum". It made sense, and became the way in for me.

Lerche's old mentor and producer HP Gundersen is credited with introducing him to Milton Nascimento and the "Clube Da Esquina" album and the entire tropicalista movement, with bands and artists such as Os Mutantes, Gilberto Gil and Caetano Veloso. When the Nascimento duets were first to take place at Kongsberg, another need for a mentor arose. Then it was the guitar teacher's brother, Eduardo "Doddo" Andersen from the Bergen band Unge Frustrerte Menn, who had to step in as a Portuguese teacher.

- After the concert, I heard that Milton's crew were talking and laughing. I understood nothing, but recognized the word "Sting" in there. So I had to ask what was being talked about. Then I heard: "We were just saying that your Portuguese is better than Sting's!"

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Kongsberg church
Saturday 8 July / Time: 2359


Follow-up among the fans

It is always a pleasure to talk music with Sondre Lerche. He gets excited and glowing when he gets the opportunity to post at length, whether it's about his own or other people's music, old stuff or completely new stuff. The anecdotes from the time he spent touring with Elvis Costello in the mid-2000s are precious and deserved a podcast of their own ("I was a very good audience for Elvis Costello's ego at the time").

And although Sondre Lerche appears in many ways to be eternally young and promising, at the age of 40 he is at a place in his career where he has been an artist for more than half his life, and where he experiences a new level of respect and recognition. Among other things represented by a sprinkling of Spellemann awards for the "Avatars of Love" album earlier this year.

Avatars of Love, 2022

- Last year I experienced that the festival audience city hear the new songs. I feel that they have grown with me, and that new ones are constantly arriving, who weren't even born when "Faces Down" came out. Then you don't feel like a slave to old hits. At the same time, I try to have consideration and love for my own growing pains, and recognize the will and vanity that lies in the old songs. Maybe that's why playing "Two-Way Monologue" has never been more fun than now!

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Preferably jazz to order

Although there have not been that many church concerts, Sondre Lerche is well used to playing at jazz festivals. He has also recently been on the road with a cream of Norwegian jazz musicians and singers who have paid tribute to Joni Mitchell.

- Of Norwegian pop artists, I often feel like the most jazzy. I can take the opportunity to say that I wouldn't have minded getting a commissioned work for a jazz festival!

Sondre Lerche has already flirted with the commissioned work format during the Bergen Festival recently, where he reinterpreted his own songs on Den Nationale Scene together with Mary Lattimore on harp and Tim Fain on violin, among others, while producer Jørgen Træen played modular synth and the live mix.

- It went even better than hoped, although not without chaos and doubt ahead!

- The project format is a way of making things more exciting. You can use your own repertoire differently, cover yourself in a way. 

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Exploring the edge zone

It is perhaps a career phase, this with being busy doing projects. It was, for example, typical Elvis Costello in the 2000s, with classical records on Deutsche Grammophon in between the "regular" releases.

- I am quite alone in loving "North" and thinking that it was a strong period for Costello. When I toured with him I wanted him to play more from there. After all, it's mostly about exploring the fringes of your own talent and ideas, and daring more as an artist.

As soon as the festival summer is over, Sondre Lerche will hone his talents on a completely different project: The production of the musical "Molin Rouge" will premiere at Chateau Neuf in Oslo on 30 August.

- I got the offer two years ago. Then I was a bit exhausted and tired after working for a long time on "Avatars of Love", it was an intense process. I have always wanted to do something on film or stage. This Christian character is a romantic, happy and naive poet, so it's not such a long stretch for me, really!

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Text: Sven Ove Bakke

MOISTFUL: The midnight concerts in Kongsberg church during the jazz festival can be a powerful and beautiful experience. Here from Eva Weel Skram's concert in 2018. Photo: Odd Eirik Skjolde / Kongsberg Jazzfestival

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Kongsberg church
Saturday 8 July / Time: 2359