Photo by Anne Valeur
"Smaa Graa explore and challenge most of the traditional boundaries between concert and performance - between sheer vocal skills and essential questioning of the role of the singer - between solo and trio - between security and control and total risk-taking - between meaning and absurdity - between humility and stubbornness - between empathy and egocentricity - between active listening and a wish for independence - between embracing an audience and disregarding it - between entertainment and art for art's sake - between past, present and their own particular references - between being completely switched on and being completely lost and vulnerable - between process and product. And braving it all.
Smaa Graa´s world is absurd and natural all at the same time. The surreal seems familiar, and the mundane becomes art.
Carefully choreographed sequences, with tightly rehearsed singing and movements, merge with sections of open form where free improvisation is the only rule of action´.
Smaa Graa has during the course of ten years developed a unique form of artistic expression, with a focus on song and improvisation, but also including dance and theatre. The ensemble uses ordinary ways of human communication and turns them into a variety of musical expressions, along with vocal playfulness and body movements. Smaa Graa's performances are beautiful and grand, but also naive and full of humor. They tend to explore and challenge the borderline between the traditional concert and performance art, and between the performer and the audience.
"The performance tends to be clever and conceptual in a subtle way, combining improvisation with quite strictly rehearsed sequences. It is the way in which Smaa Graa do this that make them so unique and so fascinating."
Smaa Graa was established in 2008 while singers Ingebjørg Loe Bjørnstad, Benedikte Kruse, Nina Mortvedt and Mai Elise Solberg were studying music at the Norwegian Academy of Music. Today the ensemble consists of Kruse, Mortvedt and Solberg. Since their initial performance, «Kaninkostymet og andre historier fra artens oppstandelse» (translated: The bunny outfit and other stories from the resurrection of the species), at Litteraturhuset in Oslo 2009, the group has collaborated with composers and choreographers such as Ørjan Matre, Sidsel Endresen, Jon Balke, Bjørn Kruse, Håkon Thelin, Lisa Dillan, and Kim Hiorthøy. Smaa Graa has performed at festivals and venues such as the Ultima Oslo Contemporary Music Festival, LiteraturHaus in Copenhagen, Moldejazz, Barens Dance Festival, Soddjazz, Stavanger Art Museum, Landemark in Bergen and DogA in Oslo, to mention a few. They have made two short films in collaboration with Kim Hiorthøy and they were among the first ten artists to be portrayed in NRK television´s "NRK-scenen" in the fall of 2022. That same fall the trio also released their debut studio album "Der!".
Prior to this, in June of 2021, the ensemble finished their master´s degree in vocal improvisation as a group at the Norwegian Academy of Music performing their "Vemodig Disco" in which they have been, and still are, touring with in Norway ever since.
"Smaa Graa tend to seize the room in a way in which I have never before seen an ensemble do. There are so many dimensions and layers in their performances. They challenge the role of the audience, transforming us into almost becoming part of the performance, and then back again, making us all feel quite safe in the process. I don´t know how they manage to do this, it is not about being physically close to the audience, but more about being quite direct and earnest in their communication. Smaa Graa has an impressive way of creating a flow in the performance. With absurdity and humor we are given moments of rest in between the more "serious" stretches. I have always felt enriched, optimistic and purified after a performance with Smaa Graa."
-Hedvig Mollestad Thomassen
Benedikte Kruse is a singer in the highly acclaimed vocal group Pitsj. She conducts and arranges music for choirs, she is a voice actress and is also an actor and singer in Plutselig barneteater (podcast and performances in improvised theatre).
Nina Mortvedt is a singer, musician and composer in Band Of Gold, who has won the Phonofile Nordic Music Prize and a Norwegian Grammy Award for their two albums. She is also a voice actor, and she conducts and arranges music for Pikekoret.
Mai Elise Solberg is a singer, musician and composer for the pop duo Ontz. She also plays with some of Norway's most successful artists including Hanne Hukkelberg and Sissel Kyrkjebø. In addition, she conducts and arranges music for Pikekoret alongside Nina Mortvedt.
Photos by Anne Valeur