MUSIC: OSCAR BORG (1851 – 1930)
TRANSLATION and COMMENTARY: DR. ALF LUNDER KNUDSEN and DR. JEFFREY R. HIGHLAND
Alfred Oscar Johannessen Borga highly decorated Norwegian composer, conductor and ‘all around musician’ best known for his compositions of marches for Concert/ Marching/ Military Bands, often referred to as “Norway’s John Phillip Sousa” or “March King.” A church organist, vocal teacher, director of several local orchestras and choral groups, he penned “Norway’s unofficial National Anthem” Gud signe Norigs land.
Born in Halden and the son of a musician, sergeant Ole Peter Johannesen (1816–1890) in the 1st Brigade Band of Fredriksten Fortress Akershus infanteribrigades musikkorps, he hailed from the Borg farm in the district of Solør of Hedmark County. Oscar Borg attended the Royal College of Music (Musikaliska Akademien) in Stockholm, under the sponsorship of the Crown Prince of Sweden, later King Oscar II of Sweden. He entered the Academy in 1869 and passed the music director exam with top marks in the spring of 1872. He had a contractual obligation to return to his old band and performed the first concert in his hometown as flautist and violinist during October 1872. In 1881, when Friedrich August Reissiger resigned as director of the 1st Brigades Band, Akershus infanteribrigades musikkorps, Oscar Borg was appointed his replacement and remained its director until his resignation in 1918.
Oscar Borg composed 60 marches for military bands, 275 songs and about 170 arrangements. Among the marches most played are Norsk Turnermarsj, Den Norske Løve, Kong Haakon VIIs Honnørmarsj and Kronprins Olavs Honnørmarsj. His compositions are characterized by good melodies, euphonious harmonies and skillful instrumentation.
Oscar Borg received the King’s Medal of Merit in gold and was made a Knight 1st Class of the Order of Vasa. He was awarded the King Oscar II Medal in gold, and Kaiser Wilhelm’s Krieg Verdienstmedaille.
Idar Antonius Handagard (1874-1959), a doctor and an author was born in Kristiansund (and considered himself a Nordmøring) even though he was only 12 years old when he moved to Bergen. From 1893 he studied medicine in Oslo/Kristiania, graduating with honors in 1905. Along with his medical studies he also studied other areas and in 1907 he received the King’s Gold Medal for his dissertation on Norwegian plant names. An ardent supporter of nynorsk (New Norwegian) and one of the founders of Studentmållaget (‘Students for Nynorsk’) in Oslo, he received a prize for the first nynorsk textbook in hygiene (Mannalikamen og helsa) (The Human Body and Health) the same year.
During his college days he was actively engaged in the temperance movement, however, he abandoned the personal religious rationalizations behind the movement brought from home instead emphasizing the natural scientific and ethical side. He took part in Oslo Avholdslag (The Temperance Society) and started an amateur theater activity group there.
He wrote poetry and book reviews in Menneskevennen (Friend of Humanity), the publication of Det norske Totalavholdsselskap (The Norwegian Temperance Association – DNT).
Ultimately it was as a writer and poet he primarily became known and much of the emphasis/substance became tied to the language movement, primarily the Nynorsk New Norwegian.
In 1905 he was on the “extreme left” in the political battles of the day: Norwegian Independence, the Monarchy Question, and supported Oscar Nissen, the DNT leader [1879-87], who later became chairman of the Labor Party (1906-1911).
Idar Handagard never did practice as a physician [medical doctor], but made a living as a proponent of the nynorsk language in medicine and botany publishing over 50 books: textbooks in hygenie and public health and professional books like Doktorboki (The Doctor Book, 1913), Vanlege sjukdomar (Common Diseases, 1925), Saftboki (The Juice Book, 1915), as well as literary history books En samfundside og dens digtere I – II (A Societal Idea and Its Authors I – II) 1915 – together with an Anthology and books on other historical topics.