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Something you might not know

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In an old blog post, I wrote about podcasting and the podcasts I subscribed to. Since then, the list has changed a fair bit; some podcasts have ended, or my interest in them has waned, and others have been added to the list. One of those latter ones is “Tell me something I don’t know“, by Freakonomics author Stephen Dubner. Described as “live journalism wrapped in a game-show package”, I’ve found it highly enjoyable, and would’ve loved being on the show. As the show is taped in the US, the likelihood of that happening is very low indeed. Luckily for me, I’ve got my very own soapbox here, and can share my IDK with you all, and so I will.

In the early hours of April 9th, 1940, the German cruiser Blücher sailed up the Oslo fjord, until its progress was stopped by grenades and torpedoes from coastal forts around the Drøbak area. In Oslo, Vidkun Quisling was eagerly awaiting its arrival, which was to mark the beginning of his coup d’etat. Learning that the king and government had fled Oslo to avoid capture by the Germans, he took the opportunity to address the people via radio from the offices of NRK, the Norwegian broadcasting service, in Oslo. All of this is well known. What you may not know, however, is the portentious nature of the music played immediately before Quisling spoke.

As I’ve alluded to previously, I am jewish. At the end of last week, we observed the holiday yom kipur, the services for which open with a prayer known as “Kol Nidrei”. You’re probably wondering why I’m bringing this up now; that’s because these facts tie in nicely with the story about Quisling. Now, there are, I am sure, many melodies to which cantors sing kol nidrei, but the one closest to my heart, and the one I believe to be the most common, is incorporated into a work by british composer Max Bruch, titled TK Kol Nidrei, Op. 47, and it was this piece that was played before Quisling addressed the people.

Sadly, because his speech was not planned, neither it, nor the playing of Kol Nidrei was noted in the broadcast plan for the day (which for some reason was not amended to reflect the fact of neither speech nor music). Even so, its having been played has been confirmed by several people, and I have no reason to doubt it as fact. I would speculate that the fact that this was a further departure from the broadcast plan in addition to the speech indicates that the person responsible for the broadcast knew what he was doing, and that playing that piece was intended as a subtle act of resistance to Quisling.

I’d add that I think it’s an absolutely beautiful piece of music, which pays homage to the work it adapts and ensures that this traditional melody has gained widespread recognition outside of jewish circles. In case you’re not familiar with the piece (or simply want to listen to it again), here it is:

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