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Giant Steam Locomotive Gets Jazzy

March 14, 2000

OSLO, Norway (AP) _ The star of an arctic jazz concert premiere this week is really big. Enormous, in fact.

At 130 tons and 72 feet long, the steam locomotive Svarta Bjoern, which means Black Bear, has to be the biggest performer ever to hit the annual winter festival in Narvik, a township of 18,000 people about 145 miles north of the Arctic Circle.

The 81-year-old locomotive’s steam hisses, rattling and other noises are the basis for Thursday’s premiere of ``Steam (loco2trip),″ a jazz work composed for orchestra and steam engine.

``Anyone who has ever been aboard a steam train knows all of the strange and wonderful sounds that really lend themselves to music,″ Steingrim Sneve of Narvik’s Winter Festival Week said.

The work was composed by three Norwegian jazz musicians, Joern Oien, Boerge Peterson-Oeverleir and Svein Schultz, for events leading up to Narvik’s 100th anniversary in 2002.

A rail theme was fitting since Narvik claims to have the world’s northernmost railroad.

About 400 people are expected to crowd around Svarta Bjoern and its human accompanists in Old Locomotive Hall No. 1, which was built in 1902.

But organizers don’t trust Svarta Bjoern as a live performer.

``We couldn’t really stoke up a steam engine in a hall full of people. We cheated a little,″ said Sneve by telephone. ``We taped it, but Svarta Bjorn will be the center of performance.″

The locomotive will be accompanied by guitar, drums, trumpet and keyboard.

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