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Last on

Tue 8 Feb 2011 13:30 BBC Radio 4

30 minutes
First broadcast:
Tuesday 08 February 2011

Every year on a frozen fjord in Norway, musicians gather under the full moon, and a canopy of Northern Lights, to perform ice music. Over a weekend, instruments are carved from blocks of ice, and music played in an arena of carved ice blocks to a well wrapped audience, who arrive on cross country skis. Sometimes standing in flurries of snow, sometimes in the light of flame torches, under the northern lights, they listen spellbound (and a bit chilly) to the magical sounds produced by instruments with a short life span - each one as unique and short-lived as a sandcastle.

Richard Coles, ex band member of the 90's pop group The Communards, meets the people who play these instruments, which last only as long as the temperature stays below zero, and has a go himself.

Bill Covitz is the expert ice sculptor who makes a different range of instruments each festival. This year he is creating, for the first time, an Isleik, an ice version of a langeleik, the traditional harp of Norway.
Musicians come from across the globe to try their hands at instruments which require, more often than not, fingerless gloves and good circulation; the ice-sculpted instruments giving off surprising sounds that vary according to the quality of the ice and the temperature.

Richard Coles joins the preparations, to see the creation and the destruction of the music that melted.

Producer: Sara Jane Hall.

  • Musicians on stage

    Musicians on stage

    The guitarist, Bram Stadhouders from Holland, the singer Fatma Zidan from Egypt, and the percussionist Terje Isungset on stage at the Geilo Ice Music Festival.

    Photographer Emile Holba


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