VIDEO FEATURE: This was one of many busy brass bands in Norway on the 17th of May. Svalbard’s Longyearbyen Storband, all dressed in hardhats and working clothes from the state-owned coal company Store Norske, were out early for a wreath-laying at the town’s monument to miners, then marched in the parade and played at another tribute to fallen heroes of World War II. Listen to their rendition of Norway’s national anthem here:
Longyearbyen’s brass band faces special challenges while playing outdoors in the Arctic, because some of the instruments like flutes can simply freeze up. Coal mining itself, which has been Svalbard’s main industry for the past 100 years, is also facing huge challenges because of low coal prices and climate concerns. All of Store Norske’s mines have now ceased production except one, and the company’s future is in jeopardy.
Standing by on the sidelines and ready to shout hurra nonetheless were the governor of Svalbard, Kjerstin Askholt, members of the local 17th of May Committee that organizes events on Norway’s Constitution Day and other dignitaries. Spectators were sparse at the early-morning event, but residents and visitors alike turned out in force for the local parade that started at 11am.