What a difference three years can make.
It is roughly that long since I first made a trumpet sextet version of this little arrangement, which later became the version that Manger Musikklag performed so beautifully last Sunday evening:
Rehearsing this piece with the band transported me back to a difficult period. When it was written, I was tired of the life I was living in London, and stuck in the 12 month notice period I had to serve after giving notice to leave the military. A fine and prestigious job, but I’d had my fill and had decided to take my future into my own hands. However, there was a long wait before I could get started with it. My immediate future at that time was bleak and uncertain. I’d looked to Norway as the place to make my escape plans, but securing any kind of employment to make it a reality wasn’t going be possible until just before the move. So I was committed to leaving a very secure job without any firm assurances for the future and it was all just a matter of waiting and hoping that everything would line up once I made the leap.
Not long after I’d written the arrangement of Eg Veit…, the increasing stress and uncertainty of the situation had taken its toll. I was signed off from work and send immediately to the Army doctor for an urgent appointment. My mental state was obviously of some concern to them. Thankfully, the doctor I saw spared me from any diagnosis or ‘label’. He saw that the situation I was in was the cause of the problem. He also saw my plan for moving to Norway as the only necessary action to take alongside a course of councelling until my release, at that point an agonising 4 months away. I thank him now for that forsight and wisdom, knowing that traditional alternatives would have only worsened things.
I’d discovered the melody of ‘Eg veit i himmerik’ whilst over on a networking trip in Stavanger. Directly translated, it means ‘I know in heaven, a castle’. Something in the text resonated with me. I guess my own metaphorical castle at this time wasn’t in heaven, but Norway.
“At this point I recognise the me that was facing up to my demons and getting on with the plan”
It was never meant to be autobiographical. It’s only now we’ve performed the arrangement I recognise where it all came from: I remember using the arranging process as a form of therapy. I hear now the tension I was under and the hope I was pinning on a new start. It begins coldly and confused, relieved by a warm reassuring ‘hug’ of a first verse. The second continues with two sorrowful voices, whilst the third arrives with a weighty landing and a shift in momentum. At this point I recognise the me that was facing up to my demons and getting on with the plan. However, we seem to end up where we started; lost and confused. This time it’s with a sense of reassurance and belief. The penultamite bar finds us in peace, that heaven we were searching for. However, the chord that follows is unresolved and uneasy, like life itself.
Those last few bars are where I find myself three years later. Here up on Radøy (north of Bergen) I am finding my place in the world; settled, content and never happier. There are always potential problems on the horizon, and that I know is unavoidable. This is that last chord: Resolved, yet cautious. I did not know then that this ending would come to represent exactly the outcome that has come to pass. In other words; I am now where I hoped to be, only then the place I am now was a distant fantasy.
That is what prompted me to write this. Everyone everywhere struggles through life at some point. We all suffer grievance, loss, or struggle with a burden at some point. Sometimes, it can be too much. But I am thankful to the me (and those who helped) of three years ago that I was strong and determined at this point, channeling suffering into creative energy. It helped that there was light at the end of the tunnel, but I had set my own course towards it. The journey towards it was a struggle and in some ways it goes on, but I made it.