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Thursday, February 22, 2024

Norway mourns singer-poet Ole Paus

Funeral services for singer-songwriter Ole Paus were held at Oslo’s Kulturkirken Jakob on Thursday, attended by scores of his artist colleagues and friends. Paus, often called a “National poet,” was hailed for his songs of comfort, love and support for the poor, the lonely, and the downtrodden. He also was much feared among the rich and powerful for his merciless, sometimes cruel satire.

On the record: A selection of Ole Paus’ production during more than five decades of songwriting that earned him an informal title as Norway’s national poet. PHOTO: NewsinEnglish.no

Paus died on December 12 , following a stroke last September from which he never recovered. He was 76. Paus was the father of four children with three partners, and adopted two more when marrying a fourth. He had lost his own mother to polio when he was four, and was known to have had a strained relationship with his father, a career military officer. The senior Paus’ military career brought young Ole to places he didn’t want to be, including provincial Elverum, of which he later wrote a scornful song.

“But a store in Elverum had a record bar,” the funeral guests heard from Pastor Sturla Stålsett, who led the ceremony. “That’s where Ole got to hear music from abroad, stuff that shaped him as a songwriter and musician.”

Ole Paus became a prolific recording artist, leaving a legacy of hundreds of songs on dozens of albums released between 1970 and 2013. Of the many funeral guests asked by a VGTV reporter about their favourite Paus song, most hesitated to pick just one.

But musician Ingrid Olava and others stressed the importance of a song called Mitt lille land (“My little country”), which became a soundtrack of sorts to the tearful aftermath of the July 22, 2011 terrorist attacks that killed 77 mostly young people.

“With that song, Ole provided us with real and deeply felt comfort. It was like a spa for the soul,” Ingrid Olava told VGTV. The song, made famous by Maria Mena, another young female singer, had originally been written decades earlier at the request of a group wanting Norway to join the EU.

Funeral services for artist Ole Paus were held in Oslo’s Kulturkirken Jakob on Thursday , led by Sturla Stålsett PHOTO: Jølstad Begravelsesbyrå via NRK (screengrab)

Many of Paus’ friends and collaborators contributed to the funeral service. They included lifetime friend and pianist Ketil Bjørnstad who played a variation of the title song of Paus’ debut album, Der ute, der inne (“Out there, in there”). Singer Sissel Kyrkjebø contributed a special version of her hit song Innerst i sjelen (“Innermost in the soul”), also written by Paus.

They sang and played next to Paus’ white coffin, his trademark guitar standing idly by his side, under candles with the colors used on the cover of Paus’ final solo release, the 2013 triple album Avslutningen (“The Final”).

Also on stage was Jonas Fjeld, a singer-songwriter himself and a partner with Paus in a series of cabarets known as “Two Rusty Gentlemen.” Struggling to hold back his tears, Fjeld sang Nedover elva (“Down the river”), which he wrote to Paus and sang for him in Drammen hospital during Paus’ final days.

Stein Torleif Bjella, a younger and somewhat less rusty singer, delivered Ole Paus’ powerful Født på et fjell (“Born on a mountain”) in his native nynorsk dialect from Ål in Hallingdal. A Paus song in nynorsk is not everyday stuff; in his elaborate poetry and masterful rhymes, Paus always used riksmål, the majority language in Norway that’s rooted in Danish. He was a member of the Pro-Riksmål movement in his youth.

The ceremony was led by Sturla Stålsett, a theology professor who also plays guitar and has recorded two solo albums plus work with a band. In his remarks, Stålsett highlighted Ole Paus’ position as a voice of comfort, often addressing the darkest corners of human life and holding up a candle of hope for whoever needs one.

Ole Paus won many awards throughout his career, including  Spellemann (Performer) of the Year, and was also honoured with a high-ranking royal decoration by King Harald V. PHOTO: Wikipedia

“Many of us have seen ourselves in what Ole related about well-lived lives, sometimes also lives lived to pieces. He always had a keen eye and a warm heart for the outsider, and for those who are struggling,” Stålsett said.

“He did move from the role of a controversial challenger, a critic and a troublemaker, to become a national poet loved by the people. But he never ceased to surprise us, or present a stubborn freedom when faced with the expectations of others.”

Culture Minister Lubna Jaffery, while representing Norway’s government, also hailed Paus as a satirist and critic of the society around him.

“He was a wonderfully playful wordsmith who poked his finger at us. He poked his nose at the powerful elites. He could kick in every direction, just not downward,” she said.

NewsinEnglish.no/Morten Møst

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