Dozens of eager fans, both Norwegian and some from as far afield as Germany, Sweden, Ireland and the UK made their way to the Hard Rock Café in Oslo yesterday evening in order to experience what has almost become an annual tradition.
The past few years, Per Sundnes, popular figurehead of Melodi Grand Prix, has taken upon himself the task to arrange an informal get together, giving fans and artists competing in the Norwegian Melodi Grand Prix final the chance to get to meet. Sundnes usually creates strong bonds with all of the competitors, inviting them to a pre show dinner party at his home the evening before the show. An integral part of that special evening is when he brings the whole entourage with him to downtown Oslo, to make a guest appearance at the Hard Rock Café.
Yesterday evening, Per and his entourage entered the building at around 21:30, many of the guests knew what was happening, thanks to the OGAE Norway fan club, but the event also attracted many a curious onlooker who just happened to be at the Hard Rock Café at the same time. The whole place was "hijacked" from 19:00, and instead of rock music blaring out of the sound system, there were many Eurovision favourites to be heard, just to help create an atmosphere, admirably aided by the bar staff who seemed to be loving the change of musical direction!
As the artists gathered around the stage in the corner of the room, the most eager to take to the stage was last year’s representative, Didrik Solli-Tangen, who gave us a very special performance of his My Heart is Yours, with a whole new skiffle sound helped along by the rockabilly The Lucky Bullets. Didrik’s close collaborator Hanne Sørvaag was spotted n the audience, clearly thrilled at the reworking of her song. Following the opening performance, OGAE representative Per Michael Andresen called up all of the participants onto the stage for a much anticipated photo shoot.
All of this year’s entrants were present with the exception of the hotly tipped Stella Mwangi, who was apparently saving her voice – do we sense primadonna tendencies developing here or is it just a cawse of pre show jitters? Also absent was Åste Sem, one half of the duo Åste & Rikke, who has been completely knocked for six by a stomach virus these last few days and is doing everything she can to get well in time for Saturday’s final. Once the photo session was over with, fans were given yet another treat, this time in the form of a duet between Didrik Solli-Tangen and his brother Emil, with an impressive rendition of Nessun Dorma.
Per Sundnes has achieved what many before him have failed, namely to restore credibility to the Melodi Grand Prix concept and to transform the show into a media force to be reckoned with. Over the past few years he has had a great deal of the responsibility for the further development of the project, with amongst other things, the introduction of the semi finals along the lines of the Swedish Melodifestivalen. He must also be given much of the credit for using his media influence in attracting bigger and better know names to the contest, thus insuring the show’s popularity in Norway and helping it go from strength to strength, becoming one of the flagship programmes for broadcaster NRK. The great thing is that Per Sundnes seems to have grasped the importance of fans for the popularity of the show, so perhaps in this way he feels that the show is able to give something back to the fans.
To see images from yesterday’s event, please see our photo album.