International sister blues festivals exchange cheer during crisis

CLARKSDALE, Miss.- In the spirit of Wednesday night’s televised PBS News Hour finale encouraging “Songs of Comfort” during the corona crisis opening with a performance by famed celloist YoYo Ma, I am forwarding a photo of cheer emailed Monday from the International Notodden Blues Festival in Norway to its official U.S. sister city and sister festival: the Sunflower River Blues Festival of Clarksdale, Mississippi.

Pictured singing are Solveig Forsberg, an educator and wife of Jostein Forsberg, leader of the Norwegian Blues Festival and the Spoonful of Blues Band and their young granddaughter, Amara.

Jostein reports there are no concerts in Notodden; musicians have no bookings; and except for their daughter, a nurse, they are confined to their home to avoid spreading the virus.

Both festivals will be celebrating their 33rd annual festivals in August; the Norwegian celebration is scheduled on the first weekend of August each year and the Clarksdale festival takes place on the second weekend.
Through the years there have been many visits and exchanges between city officials and musicians.

Longtime Clarksdale city commissioner Grady Palmer who attended many Norwegian festivals enjoyed being known as “The Prime Minister” of Mississippi.”
Norwegian Grammy winner Rita Engedalen has recorded gospel music in Clarksdale at Gary Vincent’s Studio with Myra Turner, cousin of Ike Turner and soloist with Chapel Hill M. B. Church, and with members of Coahoma Community College’s award-winning concert choir.

Years ago the Sunflower Festival inaugurated its annual “Grits, Greens and Barbecue” supper to acquaint Norwegians with Southern Soul food. Its menu includes Louise Turner’s turnip greens, cornbread, Charlie Musselwhite’s favorite cheese grits, Abe’s barbecue, and watermelon.

From May through September 2017 Mississippi and Norwegian artists were honored with a joint “Blues in Art” exhibit at the Telemark Gallery.

Notodden has been honored with Mississippi Blues Trail marker.

Cutline: Norwegian Solveig Forsberg and her granddaughter Amara email a song of good cheer to sister city Clarksdale, Miss. and the Sunflower River Blues Festival.