Henning Sommerro - Biography


Sommerro was born in Surnadal in the west of Norway, and won his way into the hearts of many with his song Vårsøg (Longing for Spring) in 1977. Since then the melody has been included in NRK´s (Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation) daily program Nattønske (Night-Wish), which makes it one of the most used Norwegian tunes ever. This was the start of what has been, and remains, a long and varied career as a composer, performer and teacher. Henning Sommerro has become an institution in the musical life of the nation.


He studied piano, organ and composition in Norway, Holland and Switzerland. Throughout the 1980s he worked as an arranger for artists and performers and wrote a large amount of music for theaters. He was also associated with NRK (the Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation) and the theater companies ‘Teatret Vårt’ and ‘Trøndelag Theater’.


From 2000 he reduced these activities in order to focus on his composing career.

He has been professor in counterpoint, organ-improvisation and composition since 1990 at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology in Trondheim (NTNU).


Sommerro´s compositions transcend the borders of style and range from songs to chamber music, choral music and works for orchestra. He has composed more than 140 works for film and stage and four operas. He has appeared with such diverse performers as the percussionist Dame Evelyn Glennie, and Chœur Gregorienne de Paris.


Sommerro has constantly sought to develop his skills in both classical and popular music and some of his pieces are strongly infuenced by folk-music including Five Nordic Portraits, Follow the Moonstone and Solstice.

He has received commissions from the USA, France, Scotland, Russia, Slovakia, Sweden, Denmark as well as Norway.


Sommerro often explores historical themes and takes inspiration from areas connected to the North Sea, from countries further east such as Russia and Central-Asia, as well as from the middle-East.

Some high-lights examples include his opera Olav Engelbrektsson (libretto Edvard Hoem) which is the most frequently performed Norwegian opera ever with yearly performances for more than 20 years, and after the World-premiere in 2012 his opera‘Querini’ (libretto Ragnar Olsen), based on the true history of the the Venetian tradesman Pietro Querini who was stranded on Røst at the outermost end of the Lofoten islands in 1432 had a repeat performance in 2014 and 2018.


The popularity of his suite ‘Follow the Moonstone’, for fiddle and string orchestra, led in 2009 to a recording at Alloa Tower by the BBC - with fiddle player Aly Bain and the Scottish Ensemble. The program was broadcast around the world as well as being performed at many international festivals.


His work Aperire has been performed with musicians from St. Petersburg Philharmonic Orchestra with the cellist Alexey Stadler as a soloist. In 2015 the same piece was nominated for "Publishing of the year” by The Norwegian Music Publisher´s Society.


‘I´ve Seen’, a commission by the City of Jericho for its 10 000 year anniversary in 2010, had its premiere outdoors with The Trondheim Soloists in Jericho for an audience of over 5000 people.


In 1994 Henning Sommerro was chosen as Artistic Director for the opening ceremony of the Paralympic Winter Games at Lillehammer due to his central position in the musical life of Norway.


As a performer, Sommerro has toured many countries in Europe, Russia and the USA. His own songs and music for orchestras or choirs are usually included in their concerts, often in collaborations with performers that include The Trondheim Soloists, the saxophone player John Pål Inderberg, the violinist Arve Tellefsen and the fiddle player Aly Bain, the Norwegian legend Erik Bye, the harmonica player Sigmund Groven and choirs such as Chœur Gregorienne de Paris, SKRUK, Cantus and Nidaros Cathedral Boy´s Choir. When performing, and collaborating with other musicians Sommerro often focuses on improvisation.


In 2013 The Norwegian State showed their gratitude to his activities; he was then awarded the Royal Norwegian order ‘Commanders of the Order of St.Olaf’, in recognition of services to his country and people, which is one of the highest distinctions in Norway.


2019 was a busy year for Sommerro:


Chrysillis, Sommerro’s work for Celtic harp, fiddle and string orchestra (2017) commissioned by the East Neuk Festival (Scotland), Lichfield Festival (England) and Trondheim Chamber Music Festival, was given another performance during the “Sunndalsdagene” by the “TrondheimSolistene” chamber orchestra, with soloists Catriona McKay and Chris Stout.


Sommerro’s Partisan Requiem, a work with a long history, received several performances by different choirs and conductors. These included performances in Moscow, Bryansk, Mumansk, Kirkenes, Alta and Hammerfest as part of the events to mark the anniversary of the liberation of Finnmark – the northernmost county in Norway – towards the end of the Second World War.


The premier of Sommerro’s Te Deum was given in Germany in June by Nidarosdomens Guttekor (the Nidaros Cathedral Boys' Choir) during its summer tour. It was also performed in Denmark, Taiwan and Singapore. The composer himself has in fact yet to hear this work. On the occasion of its first performance in Norway in Trondheim’s Nidaros Cathedral, Sommerro was in Kristiansund where he was master of ceremonies at the premier his Cello Concerto To Teser (Two Theses) which had been commissioned by the Kristiansund Church, Art and Culture Festival, a festival for which he has been appointed Composer in Residence. The Overture, composed by Sommerro to honour the Festival Director, who was stepping down from his duties, was also one of the works premiered in 2019. Another work by Sommerro to receive its world premier was This River, a song for choir with text by the 13th century poet Rumi – the performance was given by The Turkish State Choir in CSO Concert Hall in Ankara, Turkey.


The CD Ujamaa features two of Sommerro’s larger-scale works: Ujamaa for soloists and orchestra, and The Iceberg for choir, soloists and orchestra. This CD, on the 2L label, was nominated for a Grammy award in 2019 for Best Immersive Audio Album.

At the time of writing, Sommerro has just completed a scenic work for choir, soloists and ensemble based on Jan Olve Ulstein’s poem “Eg spelte på fløyte” (I played on my flute), which will receive its premier in March 2020 in Ulsteinvik. He is also working on a composition based on the legend of Jostedalsrypa (the Jostedal Ptarmigan) which should be completed in autumn 2020, and on a composition for the Jewish Festival in Trondheim in September 2020.


Sommerro’s Violin Concerto Borders, commissioned by the Oslo Philharmonic Orchestra and violinist Aleksandre Khatiskatsi, has been nominated for a Norwegian Music Publishers Association award (2020) in the category “Work of the Year”.