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Fact of the Month:
Sigmund and Erik

Did you know that Sigmund credits one person and one specific event for becoming a composer? Back in 1971, Sigmund was asked by Erik Bye to compose the melody to Så spiller vi harmonica / Song of the harmonica, a poem Bye had written. Until then, Sigmund had not been confident as a composer, but with Bye’s commission and subsequent approval, the 25 year old Sigmund took his own musical work to a new level.

Erik Bye (1926 – 2004) was a writer, singer, radio journalist and TV personality and one of the biggest celebrities in Norway. He would later collaborate numerous times with Sigmund, and they became personal friends. In 1975 Sigmund composed the music for the 150th anniversary of the Norwegian emigration to America, based on Bye’s text Blow, silwer wind. The song was arranged for the 105 performers of the Utah Youth Symphony Orchestra and the 300 voices of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir in Salt Lake City – quite a leap from the tiny harmonica it was composed for!

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Annbjørg Lien, Erik Bye and Sigmund in 1996. (Photo: Tore Halden.)

Erik Bye was also a musician. He played the guitar and the harmonica, but one day he met a young man in a music studio who claimed he could also play the harmonica. Erik asked to hear what the stranger could play. The stranger, whose name Sigmund is now a household name in Norway and in harmonica circles all around the world, played his harmonica. From that moment on, Erik would give up his own playing, realizing he had met his match, and then some. According to Erik in 1996, when he wrote an introduction to Sigmund’s 2CD compilation I godt lag, Sigmund is one of two people to have tought the world to not laugh at the “simple” instrument called harmonika, or “harmenikk” in Norwegian slang. The other person is of course Sigmund’s mentor, Tommy Reilly.

Click this picture to see Sigmund perform 18th century rock in Erik’s TV programme Lørdagskveld med Erik Bye from 1971.

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A performance on NRK TV in 1971. (Photo: NRK.)

The last few years, Sigmund has been touring Norway with Back to the songs, a series of concerts in tribute to Erik Bye’s poetry and music. These concerts also include the musicians Annbjørg Lien (in the pic above), Ragnhild Bye Lütken (Erik’s granddaughter), Lars Klevstrand, Henning Sommerro (composer of Sigmund’s hit Vårsøg), Hans Fredrik Jacobsen, Johannes Joner, and Carl Morten Iversen. Actually, Sigmund and Erik recorded a song called Back to the songs in 1996, with words by Erik and music by Sigmund.

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The Back to the songs team.

Så spiller vi harmonika
Lyrics by Erik Bye

Så spiller vi harmonika
Så spiller vi en sull
Og nynner på våre vandringer
Gjennom mørke imot muld
En gammel stubb om kjærlighet
Og den er god som gull
God som gull

Så spiller vi harmonika
Så spiller vi en trall
Den ene dagen høyt til hest
Den neste – knall og fall
Men visa er den samme
Du kommer dit du skal
Dit du skal

Så spiller vi harmonika
Så spiller vi en låt
For livet er en latter
Og livet er en gråt
Og det er godt å vite
Vi er i samme båt
Samme båt…

Erik Bye’s own summary of Sigmund and his work says it all; “a true ray of sunshine and an artistic innovator”.