Imogen Hancock: Oslo – my trip so far…

My last four months of 2016 were spent planning and looking forward to a solo study trip to Norway in the New Year. It was an exciting prospect but also started to feel like a slightly crazy idea – moving to Scandinavia during the coldest, darkest months of the year! Still, kitted out with snow boots and woolly jumpers, I flew to Oslo on 4th January 2017. And now here I am, over half way through my trip, so I decided it was about time to write a post on what I’ve been up to so far…



In 2015, I was one of the recipients of the Julius Isserlis Scholarship, an award from the Royal Philharmonic Society given to graduating students who want to continue their studies abroad. My original plan had been to put this money towards a Masters degree in Germany. However after a change of plans, a fantastic year with Southbank Sinfonia and an inspiring week at the Voksenåsen Summer Academy, I finally chose Oslo as my destination.

Lessons and practice

The main purpose of my trip was to have lessons with a unique team of trumpeters: Norwegian soloist Tine Thing Helseth, Brynjar Kolbergsrud (Co-Principal of the Oslo Philharmonic) and Roeland Henkens (Principal of Den Norske Opera & Ballet). Since being here, I have actually also had a lesson with American trumpeter and composer Anthony Plog (I’d recommend anyone to read his blog!) and next week I’ll be playing to Jonas Haltia (2nd Trumpet of the Oslo Philharmonic).

So far I’ve had 10 lessons, and have felt more and more inspired after each one. It’s been fascinating to chat with these musicians about their careers and to really ‘talk trumpet’ – something which I don’t think I do often enough. I wrote down a number of goals when I arrived in Oslo (related to practice, learning new repertoire and making some career decisions) and I’ve found that reading these every morning has helped me to stay focused so far.

concert oslo.jpgSince I arrived, I’ve attended several rehearsals and concerts of the Oslo Philharmonic – with repertoire including Sibelius 2, Bruckner 4, Rachmaninov 2 and Pictures at an Exhibition, and Mahler 4, Bach BWV 51, Mendelssohn 4 and Ravel La Valse coming up in the next few weeks! Last week I was lucky enough to get a free ticket to the Oslo Opera House (Rossini Cinderella), I went to a concert at the Norwegian Music Academy (Bartok Concerto for Orchestra) and today I watched a performance by Oslo’s Military Band.

I’ve also been incredibly lucky to have made a contact (through Brynjar) at the English Church in Oslo. They have given me the freedom to practise in the church every day that I’m here, something which has totally transformed my trip. It is also a huge help that it’s only 10 minutes away from my apartment and the heating is always on..!!

Scandi Living

It is a well-known fact that Oslo is one of the most expensive cities in the world. I was therefore pretty anxious to find out how far my money would actually go! To organise my budget, I spent time booking my flights, renting an apartment through Airbnb and finding out how much each of my trumpet lessons would cost. The rest of the money could then be put towards food, travel and other living costs and – thankfully – it’s lasting ok…

brush lettering.jpgLiving alone was something completely new to me, and I have to say I’m enjoying the novelty of it! Having the freedom to do whatever I want, whenever I want, has been great and I’ve had a lot of time to think and just ‘be’. I’ve also taken the time every day to read, do yoga and practise my new hobby – brush lettering.

I suppose one downside is that there’s been no one here to police the vast quantity of First Dates episodes I’ve watched or judge my cinnamon bun/chocolate intake (75%-off-Christmas-chocolate in the Lindt shop didn’t help…..!) But I do actually feel surrounded by friends here, from both the Voksenåsen course and the Royal Academy of Music. Other than London, I can’t think of another city in the world where I would actually know this many people, so I’m feeling very grateful indeed.


The more time I spend in Norway, the more I am falling in love with this wonderful country. The air and water feel clean and fresh; I’ve enjoyed stunning sunrises over breakfast, beautiful sunsets during afternoon walks and some magical snowfalls; I have truly found every Norwegian person I’ve met to be welcoming and friendly, and practically everyone speaks fluent English (I have been doing an online Norwegian course, though, to at least make an effort!). And, as nerdy as it may sound, one of the things I’m appreciating most is Oslo’s unbelievably efficient transport system. They’ve spent a lot of money on it but it’s definitely been worth it! London, take note…

Well there it is, a summary of my time here so far. I’m really excited to see what the next three weeks bring (other than visits from my lovely boyfriend, my best friend, seeing more of the city’s sights and doing some cross-country skiing) – and, of course, lots of trumpet playing!! I’ll be sure to post another update at the end of my trip but, until then, thanks for reading this far and here’s to a fabulous February.

by Imogen Hancok – RPS Julius Isserlis Scholar

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