The Icelandic Music scene is thriving
Icelanders have always been very interested in music. Many children start music lessons in their early age and some of them continue higher level music studies along with their A-levels. A few study at acclaimed music academies abroad and eventually become good enough to perform on the international stage. Other use their skills for their own pleasure and entertaining family and friends.
Choirs in Iceland are almost as many as the villages, everyone who can stay on the pitch can participate. The effort of most of he choirs’ can be seen and heard in every other church and venue around Iceland, usually at Christmas time, Easter and in the spring.
Occationally, talented Icelandic individuals reach the international stage. To name just two in this blog, both very active on the music scene are; Kristinn Sigmundsson, bass/baritone and Víkingur Heiðar Ólafsson, pianist. Sigmundsson has performed for more than 30 years in many of the world's main opera houses. Vikingur travels all over, playing solo concerts, chamber music and with symphony orchestras. He is a pioneer when it comes to new music and has recently recorded Philips Glass's music for Deutche Grammophone. Víkingur is the founder of the Reykjavík Mid-Summer Music Music Festival.
On the pop music scene, Björk is definitely the winner. She is internationally known and her musical work is very inspiring. Björk’s first cd - Debute (1993) made the Billboard 200 list.. Her recordings have reached top sell lists allover the world. To name a few bands who have made it out of Iceland; Of Monsters and Men, SigurRós and the forever popular Mezzoforte whose members have been playing off and on for more than three decades – they are now middle age but still going strong. Numerous musicians, both classical music players and singers and pop musicians are well know out of Iceland.
With the opening of Harpa, Reykjavik Music Hall and Hof cultural center in Akureyri, the conditions for perfoming all kinds of music changed dramatically.
The Icelandic Symphony Orchestra has benefited greatly and their performance is reflecting the present excellent facilities for rehearsing which was non-existent before. The orchestra’s reputation has spread and many international conductors are now visiting Iceland as guest conductors.
Apart from a wide variety of concerts at Harpan and Hof - we have various music festivals, held every year or bi-annually at places in the country side.
Starting with the classical scene in chronological order;
Sónar Reykjavík music festival where the focus is on music, creativity and technology. The festival is also experimental, a dialog between the performer and the listener. 2018 Sónar Reykjavik dates are March 16-17.
Dark Music Days – an annual festival of contemporary and new music. The festival takes place in January when the days are short and sometimes very dark, thus the name. The organizer is the Icelandic Composers’ Society and is a platform new icelandic compositions.
Reykjavik Mid-Summer Music - Founded in 2012 by Víkingur Heiðar Ólafsson, pianist, bi-annual event, taking place during summer solstice. Next festival will be around the 21st of June 2018. The organizers have managed to bring in many great musicians from all over the world. The program explores various themes, connects various music and musicians from all times, aimed at the innovative listener wether it was composed in the 17th or the 21st century.
Skálholt festival - The Summer concert program is an annual event in Skálholt Church, South-Iceland. There are concerts every weekend, during July/August. The focus is on baroque music, performed on period instruments and also new contemporary music.
Reykholtshátíð - In Borgarfjörður W-Iceland. A Chamber Music Festival. It’s one of the important events in music. Taking place in last weekend of July.
Þjóðlagahátíð - Iceland Folk Music Festival. A five days music festival in Siglufjörður N-Iceland. It’s an annual event starting on first Wednesday of July. The main focus as the name indicates is Icelandic and Scandinacian folk music and folk dances. Usually there are 15-20 concerts..
Icelandairwaves – Reykjavík and in Akureyri for the first time – see here.
Out in the country, there are a few annual musical events, pop, rock, r&b and even metal music. These festivals attract many domestic and foreign visitors and are a very good input to tourism. The performers are both Icelandic and from all over the world.
Aldrei fór ég Suður - This is an out of town music festival taking place in Ísafjörður, W-Iceland. The first festival held in 2004. The initiative came from Mugison, an icelandic musician who was attending a concert in London with his father, when they got the idea of putting together a music festival in their home town. After a few calls to friends in the music sector selling the idea, they were on. Everybody loved it and were willing to try. The festival in 2018 will be the 20th.
Eistnaflug - A metal music festival - has been run annually since 2005. The venue is Neskaupsstaður East-Iceland, a beautiful little town situated in Nordfjördur. At the beginning the festival was just one day and few attendants. Since then it has grown to a four day event with metal, punk, rock and indie bands performing. The festival is always held on the second weekend in July. There are 1.400 inhabitants in Neskaupstaður and the town turns into a vibrating place when the visitors flock in, with the numbers of people doubled.
Lunga - an annual music festival, workshop, concerts and events in Seyðisfjörður E-Iceland. The event which was launched in 2000 is powerful mix of creativity, study, concerts and enjoying the beautiful nature. The dates for the event is mid- July and it runs for one week.
The are many more opportunities to enjoy music in Iceland than this list covers and it can be worth it to check at the next visitors center while you are in Iceland.