Jennifer Kingsley
June 15, 2015

(Post 6 of 6)

The choir’s full story came out in the pub after the show.

Between spontaneous bouts of singing, we talked to the head of the trade union, an architect, leaders of three political parties, a teacher, the priest, several staff from the mining company and others.

Coal mining is controversial, so why do they base their choir around it?

From Arvid, the architect: “We are industrial romantics. We like the company and mining; we don’t like so much the coal mining, but we like the company. They built this city and we like this city.” From Sveinung, the concert MC: “Your political belief and what you culturally relate to are two different things. I perfectly understand a person can be skeptical toward mining but still be proud of the heritage we have here in Longyearbyen.” Longyearbyen was a company town until the 1990s, and 2016 will be the company’s 100th anniversary. The choir is part of that tradition and everyone is welcome.

There is a wide range of views on mining, but I asked Espen, the choir conductor who opposes coal mining and heads the Green Party here, about what happens with the choir and politics. “Nothing,” he said, “We sing and we drink beer.”

Inside a Svalbard bar.