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Oslo International Church Music Festival is held for 10 days each March. The festival's concerts are held in the churches of Norway's capital city, with Oslo Cathedral as the main venue. The festival program is announced on 1 December each year. Oslo International Church Music Festival was founded in 2000 by Bente Johnsrud, who took the initiative and developed the concept for the festival. Today she is artistic and festival director.

Future festival dates:
22–31 March 2019
13–22 March 2020 

What the media say about the festival

«Oslo Church Music Festival 2017 passes into history as the festival of major events. In Europe, it is natural to think of the Bach Festival in Leipzig, followed closely by Oslo. Like Leipzig (which admittedly has close to 150 events), Oslo's festival director Bente Johnsrud and her staff offer world premieres, top Norwegian performers and international sensations. The audiences are growing from year to year. That speaks for itself.»

Olav Egil Aune, Vårt Land, 28.03.17

«Oslo Church Music Festival is now becoming one of Europe's leading venues. As a result, major performers are lining up to come here.»

Olav Egil Aune, Vårt Land, 19.11.16

«Nuances of the highest quality – audiences flocked to Oslo International Church Music Festival, which this year as always delivered breadth and quality.»

Emil Bernhardt, Morgenbladet, 31.03.17

«Oslo Church Music Festival hits the mark best when it raises moral issues relevant to our times. On certain pages of the festival's programme there is something at stake. We sense a tension between different religious beliefs – and the secular. For example, the Prison Poems concert addresses the burning issue of freedom of expression and religious belief, even though the audience likely agrees with the basic tenets of the work.»

Ida Habbestad, Aftenposten, 16.03.17

«In this way, Oslo International Church Music Festival created again this year – with far more concerts than those reviewed here – an impressively rich and nuanced celebration of church music's formidable tradition.»

Emil Bernhardt, Morgenbladet, 31.03.17

«The success is the work of artistic and festival director Bente Johnsrud and her enthusiastic staff. It's hard to imagine how much time that has been spent searching the international "market" to find the world's best musicians and directors. In addition, or not least, the festival comissions new works, and upholds the tradition. This has to continue.»

Olav Egil Aune, Vårt Land, 07.03.16  

«The large turnout in Uranienborg Church confirms that the festival is on target when it not only preserves the European cultural heritage, but also showcases the Norwegian. When Uranienborg Vocal Ensemble presents the multiple dimensions of this tradition, the bridge between the practical and artistic aspects of the hymnal form becomes an exciting musical place to be».
Ida Habbestad, Aftenposten, 12.03.16   

«It is hard to imagine the history of classical music without the church. The other way, it is hard to imagine a church without music. Oslo International Church Music Festival has through the last 15 years showed us what church music can be, beside adding new elements to the repertoire by presenting comissioned works, and initiating cooperation projects between musicians and between genres.» 
Magnus Andersson, Klassekampen, 09.03.2015  

«When German RIAS Kammerchor conducted by Hans-Christoph Rademann sang at Oslo International Church Music Festival’s closing concert last Sunday I caught myself thinking about what a choir in a church actually can be at its best. A powerful sound – balanced but also with a peculiar, almost personal, yes, human character – filled Oslo Cathedral. The nuances were there in the faint sounds, the fullness and the riches lit up in the intense parts. And then the direct communication.»

Emil Bernhardt, Ballade, 04.04.2014

«A festival’s opening concert is like a child’s thought about the weather on their birthday – good weather leads to a good year. If Friday’s concert says something about what’s possible at Oslo International Church Music Festival we are in for some very interesting days. The night as a whole contained so many bull’s-eyes that the concert was more than special, promising for the rest of the festival.»
Magnus Anderssson, Klassekampen 24.03.2014

«One is sometimes overwhelmed at how wonderfully beautiful early music can sound to us today. Such a moment was given to us at Oslo International Church Music Festival yesterday, in fact a golden moment. It takes good musicians and singers to master this as effortlessly as last night. He wouldn’t have been ashamed, Rosenmüller, if he’d had the opportunity to hear his own music played at this level.»
Ståle Wikshåland, Dagbladet, 27.03.2014

«Nederlands Kamerkoor was at the centre of attention together with a first class orchestra, Le Concert Lorrain. An unusually skilled group of soloists topped the team with names such as Andreas Scholl, Ruth Ziesak, Yorck-Felix Speer and last but not least James Gilchrist as the evangelist in a class by himself. However, the performance was more than just the sum of single achievements. Christoph Prégardien tied it all together from the conductor's podium with a deep understanding of Bach's masterpiece. It was exquisite, nothing less, and a grand finale of this year's Church Music Festival.»
Ståle Wikshåland, Dagbladet, 19.03.12, St. John's Passion - Festival's Closing Concert

«This year's focus is the Passion. Bach's great works form the framework, and many new works complete the program. The presentation has a solid core and a broad artistic span. This kind of programmatic statement is, in my opinion, one of the finest a festival can create.»
Ida Habbestad, Aftenposten, 13.03.12

«Oslo International Church Music Festival's program has been solid and impressive for many years, and reminds us that there are few publicly funded cultural events that give so large a return as the festivals.»
Ingrid Røynesdal, Aftenposten, 28.03.11

«That such a broad festival deliberately exposes contemporary music as an important part of its programme is remarkable and will hopefully contribute to opening new ears and doors to the newest music.»
Ingrid Røynesdal, Aftenposten, 28.03.11

«From our cultural ancestry we do not find one source but an intertwined network… We were reminded of this yesterday evening during Música Antigua’s concert in Gamle Aker church, brought to us by Oslo International Church Music Festival… The musician’s performance was outstanding… it was a meeting with a foreign mother tongue enriched by the fact that this is a central yet different part of European tradition. It is good to be reminded of this in such a delightful way.»
Ståle Wikshåland, Dagbladet, 29.03.11  

«When the soul feels dead and the world is like a jungle, when words are many, the heart hard and the brain empty after a long and dirty winter, Oslo International Church Music Festival arrives as sure as the swallows.»
Olav Egil Aune, Vårt Land, 10.03.08

2017 marks the seventeenth Oslo International Church Music Festival. We are an inclusive forum for church musicians, choirs, orchestras and ensembles, and for people regardless of their affiliation or belief. The festival is a central institution in the development of church music in Norway, and makes a major contribution to Oslo's recognition as an international music capital in Europe. «The festival is Norway's largest exhibition of early music and associated international specialist performers» (Astrid Kvalbein, Aftenposten), while we garner considerable international attention in our efforts to make contemporary music more visible and accessible through development efforts and educational initiatives. Oslo International Church Music Festival proves that contemporary music is very much alive in Norway. It is not only accepted, but listened to, and not only by experts. The festival presents classics such as Charpentier's "Te Deum" and Händel's "Messiah," but what makes this festival so interesting are the works of contemporary composers. 
The church music festival consistently works to develop projects that move the church music genre forward. We focus on the diversity of church music as a historical genre and we both preserve the tradition and develop it further. The festival's roots in Oslo, combined with the depth of our international performers, make us the leading presenter of church music in Norway and ensures a high level of professional excellence. The person responsible for taking the initiative for the festival and developing the concept is artistic and festival director Bente Johnsrud . The festival is organized as a private foundation with Oslo's bishop as the chairman of the board. The foundation's board also includes representatives from Norway's church, music, cultural and business communities. In addition, the festival has an artistic council consisting of prominent members of the Norwegian music scene.

• to present the diversity of church music - from medieval to modern times - at a high quality level and to the widest possible audience
• to stimulate innovation, renewal and recruitment in the field of church music
• to use and explore the church as a venue for the presentation of music and art
• to build bridges by facilitating collaborations across institutions, art forms and cultural and religious boundaries
• to be an inspiring meeting place for the national and international church music community
• to present projects where the cultural heritage of the church is passed on to children and young people
• to commission and premiere new works of church music


The King's Consort, Det Norske Solistkor, Latvia Radiokor, Trio Mediæval, Gabrieli Consort, Nederland Kamerkoor, Monteverdi Choir, Svenska Radiokören, Theatre of Voices, Oslo Kammerkor, RIAS Kammerchor, Collegium Vocale Gent, Ensemble 96, Oslo Domkor, Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir, Gesualdo Consort Amsterdam, København Drengekor, Nidarosdomens Guttekor, The Tallis Scholars, Collegium Vocale zu Franziskanern Luzern, Svenska Kammarkören, London Handel Orchestra, Sølvguttene, Ars Nova Copenhagen, Dresdner Kammerchor

Orchestras and ensembles: 
English Baroque Soloists, Akademie für Alte Musik Berlin, Accademia Bizzantina, Le Concert Lorrain, Concerto Copenhagen, Concerto Köln, London Baroque, Kringkastningsorkesteret, Ensemble Pygmalion, Musica Antigua, L’Armonia Sonora, Oslo-Filharmonien, Leipzig String Quartett, Trondheim Solistene og Det Norske Blåseensemble

Robert King, Marcus Creed, Laurence Cummings, Lorenzo Ghielmi, Grete Pedersen, Sir John Eliot Gardiner, Eric Ericson, Marcus Creed, Raphaël Pichon, Peter Szilvay, Simon Phipps, Paul Hillier, Simon Gaudenz, Harry van der KampDaniel Reuss, Paul McCreesh, Peter Neumann, Ottavio Dantone, Reinbert de Leeuw, Hans Christoph Rademann og Christoph Prégardien

Sonia Prina, Carlos Mena, Olivier Latry, Maria Keohane, Terje Rydal, Dame Gillian Weir, Laurence Cummings, Marianne Beate Kielland, James Bowman, Emma Kirkby, Håkon Austbø, Andreas Scholl, Robin Blaze, Hana Blazikova, James Gilchrist, Peter Kooij, Leo van Doeselaar, Bugge Wesseltoft, Sinikka Langeland, Henning Kraggerud, Arianna Savall, James Gilchrist, Arve Henriksen, Anders Jormin


15 000 visitors annually
1 000 performers annually
30 productions annually
35 partners
There have been 17 festivals held


Oslo International Church Music Festival is a private, non-profit foundation with Oslo's bishop as the chairman of the board. The foundation's board also includes representatives from Norway's church, music, cultural and business communities. In addition, the festival has an artistic council consisting of prominent members of the Norwegian music community.

Artistic and festival director: Bente Johnsrud


Administration and marketing coordinator: Fredrik Akselberg
Administration and text coordinator: Petter S. Stordahl
Text producer: Sigurd J. Bræin
Logistics & economy coordinator: Johanne Lundebrekke Myskja

Technical staff during festival period:

Sander Bergh (Technical manager) and Klaus Axel Johnsrud Odden

Producers during festival period:

Maren Serine Andersen, Per Mejlænder Brynning, Dagfinn Hovland, Katinka Høeg, Martin Kvam, Thomas Møller, Klaus Axel J. Odden, Hege Knarvik Sande and Carl Einar Traaen 

Volunteers during festival period:

Silvia Alfreider, Kristin Bolgård, Ingeborg Marie Brekke, Ivar Bruun, Ellen Margrethe Haugsten, Svetlana Jensen, Heidi Marie Lindekleiv, Mari Lorange, Violina Medonyte, Åsa Ruud, Bjørn Storsanden, Inger Sjønnesen, Berit Elisabeth Tangvik, Åge Ullevold, Ulla Uberg and Silje Willumsen

English translation: Glen Farley

Would you like to volunteer at the Church Music Festival?

Please contact us at info(at)

Board of directors:
Bishop Ole Christian Kvarme (Chair), dean emeritus Olav Dag Hauge (Vice-chair), investor Ola Mæle, cathedral organist Kåre Nordstoga, lawyer and HR manager Sikke Næsheim, Martha Bronder M.A. and director Torger Ødegaard.

Artistic council: cathedral cantor Kåre Nordstoga, oboist Johan Nicolai Mohn and cathedral cantor Vivianne Sydnes.

Artistic and festival director: Bente Johnsrud



Programme 2018
fredag 02. mars
Opening concert: Les routes de l'esclavage

lørdag 03. mars
The Tale of Telemann

The Tale of Telemann

Open rehearsal

Pilgrim in organ shoes

Lecture: Turkey: From democracy to dictatorship

G.F. Händel: Israel in Egypt

søndag 04. mars
Festival high mass in Oslo Cathedral

Festival high mass in Mortensrud Church

Festival high mass in Vestre Aker Church

Festival high mass in Sofienberg Church

Church coffee and lecture

The Boysen bus: with a french accent

J.S. Bach: Das Wohltemperierte Klavier

The Freedom of the Soul

mandag 05. mars
World premiere: A Mass for Life's Contrasts

tirsdag 06. mars
Organ concert: Espen Melbø

Hymn concert with world premieres

onsdag 07. mars
Et ecce terrae motus

torsdag 08. mars
Human trafficking in Norway today

The Land of your Love


fredag 09. mars
Morning prayer

Boys' Choir seminar and master class

Organ concert

Late evening concert: Night Hymns

lørdag 10. mars
Morning prayer

Staats- und Domchor Berlin - Was ist ein Mensch?



søndag 11. mars
Festival high mass in Oslo Cathedral

Festival high mass in Østre Aker Church

Festival high mass in Frogner Church

Festival high mass in Swedish Church of St Margareta

Festival high mass in Bragernes Church

Slavery in our time

World premiere: work by Bent Sørensen

Closing Concert: Les Talens Lyriques