Katelyn Holub

blogging about music, art, and creativity

How Grieg Influenced Me & Enriched My Love of Music


Finals have ended, I have now graduated, and this week finds me well rested after many an afternoon’s nap in my backyard garden. It has been so nice to take a break from my busy life and just sit and listen to the birds chirping, watch two muskrats find a snack, and smell the flowers in bloom. In the midst of my unpacking and moving some of my stuff, I ran across an old recording of me playing piano from high school.

Intrigued by my new discovery, I promptly put the cd in my stereo and pressed play. Although the recording isn’t the greatest quality, the warm, folk-dance tune of Grieg’s “Wedding Day at Troldhaugen” immediately placed me back in time and reminded me of why I fell in love with music.

I fell in love with music because of its magical ability to conjure up feelings and stories in a way no other medium can.

Some people watch movies or television shows to escape reality, but I listen to music. Music transcends time and space and forces me into the present moment. It comforts, consoles, and energizes me. One of the most influential composers in my life is Edvard Grieg, who taught me about the beauty in simplicity, and the wealth of inspiration that can be found in nature and ancestral traditions.

Grieg’s folk-song inspired nationalist music is one of the key reasons I became interested in Appalachian folk music, which I studied more in depth in college. I love how music can bind generations together and create a sense of familial/regional pride.

Grieg at the Piano, circa 1900.

Grieg at the Piano, circa 1900.

I was originally drawn to Grieg’s music by his lyrical melodies and harmonic uses of open-fifths and fourths {which help create the folk music sound}. Much of Grieg’s folk-music inspiration comes from a volume of Norwegian folk songs that he found in 1868.[1] Although he has been criticized for his tendency to think in two- or four-measure phrases, I think his inspiration from the simple structure of folk songs create poetic, winsome melodies.

“I am sure my music has a taste of codfish in it.” –Edvard Grieg

*Photo Credit: Sean Hayford O'Leary, Creative Commons

Troldhaugen.  *Photo Credit: Sean Hayford O’Leary, Creative Commons

The Story Behind “Wedding Day at Troldhaugen”

One of several lyric piano pieces {Op. 65 No. 6}, it was written in 1896 in honor of Grieg’s 25th wedding anniversary to his wife Nina. A happy, festive tune celebrating a wedding dominates the piece and is interspersed with a softer, reflective melody that conjures up pleasant memories of a marriage. Troldhaugen {meaning Troll’s Hill} is the name of the house Grieg built and lived in with his wife Nina. Nestled in the Norwegian countryside, Troldhaugen provided Grieg and his wife a tranquil summer escape after traveling and performing in Europe. During frequent hikes in the surrounding mountains, Grieg would hear and collect folk tunes which inspired several of his compositions.


How did you come to love music? Who were some of the most influential composers in your life?



[1] Thompson, Wendy, and Max Wade-Matthews, The Encyclopedia of Music: Instruments of the Orchestra and The Great Composers, New York: Hermes House, 2002.


Author: katelynholub

I'm a law school graduate, singer-songwriter, believer, blogger, and general adventurer.

2 thoughts on “How Grieg Influenced Me & Enriched My Love of Music

  1. Heh Katelyn, Congrats on graduating, I ‘m glad you are having a well earned break and enjoying those simple pleasure’s we all easily take for granted.

    Life can get so hectic sometimes and we don’t even know it, or how it got that way. But those breaks in between one part of your life finishing and the one coming helps to put things into perspective.

    When I think back to when I was a kid, being the youngest of 5 kids I had a lot of music around me, due to my older siblings liking for “abba” [oldest brothers favorite group] and all things top 40. But for some strange reason this musician stuck in my head. He didn’t get the same air time around our place like the “bay city rollers” [sisters favorite group] did.

    I think I can recall hearing his music once at best as a 5 year old, or maybe twice, but when I heard his name about 12 months ago on TV doing a recording with some young musicians, my ears pricked up so quickly and I had to watch this person with all the intent I could muster.

    Still fascinated by him today as I was nearly 40 years ago as 5 year old. “James Last” is his name, He was a German composer and big band leader His music is not something I would normally listen to. I remember his music was trumpets and wind instruments. I didn’t grow up listening to him, but his music was always in our house with us, where ever we went.

    I would every now and then [as I was growing up] come across his albums in our music collection, if we were having a party. Often wondering, how did he get into our collection. It didn’t fit in with anything else we had.

    When I think about sometimes, I can see the influence of having someone always there in the background, can have on you. His music was always there ready to be listened to and with the internet, his story ready to be read. that gave me great comfort.

    I was always proud to know we had James last album’s in our music collection He has released nearly 200 albums and sold 70 million copies, and during the years 1967 to 1986, he had 52 hit albums, which made him second only to Elvis Presley in charting records” no mean feat.

    Sometimes a person’s presence can be just as influential as there art. Thank you “James Last” for always being there.

    • That’s really interesting, Darryl. Thanks for sharing. It’s definitely great to have a little break now after graduating.

      I honestly have never heard of James Last before, but I found some youtube videos of his music–very lively and fun sounding. It is great to enjoy listening to such a variety of music–letting it all influence you in different ways.

      You also bring up a good point about how we often discover new music through what either our family members or friends are listening to, and how the music of our childhood can really impact us as artists.

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