On 6 September 2012 a Royal proclamation by His Majesty King Harald of Norway announced that Magne Furuholmen, Morten Harket and Paul Waaktaar Savoy were appointed Knight, First Class of the Royal Norwegian Order of St. Olav for their dedication to the Norwegian music scene.
On the same day, Music Express Norway issued a press release with additional information:
“The three members of pop group a-ha are awarded The Royal Order of St. Olav.
The Norwegian Royal Order of St. Olav is awarded for distinguished services for Norway and mankind. Each of the three members of a-ha, Morten Harket, Magne Furuholmen and Pål Waaktaar Savoy will, after a proposition by Music Export Norway, receive this Royal Order for their outstanding musical contribution.
The award will be presented at an official ceremony which will take place on November 6th.”
The ceremony was attended by Morten, Magne and Paul’s families, friends and representatives from the record business. It took place at Gamle Logen in Oslo from 12:00 – 2:00 pm. Although attendance at the ceremony was by invitation only, there were a few seats available, and a-ha.com was fortunate to be able to offer these seats to some of our members so they could be present to witness this historic occasion. Fans were also invited to post their messages of congratulations to the band here.
At Gamle Logen, shortly before 1pm on November 6, the doors to the Store Sal open and all the guests spill into the hall. Left and right, neat rows of plush red chairs lead to a small semi-circular stage. On the stage itself, four striped seats silently announce the yet invisible string quartet. A quiet sigh from somewhere around: so a-ha won’t perform.
The band members’ parents and siblings take their seats on the front row. Ten minutes later, Morten and his partner Inez walk down the aisle, closely followed by Magne and his wife Heidi. Paul and his wife Lauren are a few steps behind; sons Filip Furuholmen and August Waaktaar-Savoy make up the rear. Everyone inside veers upright and starts clapping. As they walk by, Morten looks a little apprehensive, Magne sports an enigmatic grin, while Paul lifts his hand and greets the assembly. Then they all join their respective families.
The audience hushes, the door in the back wall opens. Three violinists and a cello player emerge, sit down and play a song which refers to a-ha’s repertoire. While they take their bow, the back door opens anew and Inger Dirdal, managing director of Music Export Norway, enters the stage.
She announces, “It is with great pleasure that I can welcome Magne Furuholmen, Morten Harket and Paul Waaktaar-Savoy to this place. Also, a warm welcome to their families, minister Trond Giske, chief chancellor Anders Flågen, industry colleagues and, none the least, a-ha’s fans.”
After Ms. Dirdal’s introduction, taking her place on the stage is Viggo Bondi, childhood friend of Paul and Magne’s and bass player in their former band Bridges.
Mr. Bondi’s speech (read full translation here) takes us all wandering down memory lane, as he recalls anecdotes and conversations from his dealings with Magne, Paul and Morten. He proves to be a captivating speaker, who has the audience laugh out many times, when he tells us of the band members’ antics, that portray their characters so well.
Towards the end of his remarks, Bondi switches to English to express his thanks to Terry Slater, as “the Godfather” of a-ha. Mr. Slater discovered the band when they were in London, recording demos, and became their first manager.
“It was a stroke of luck that you picked them up. A band is like a marriage: good days and bad days. You knew that success is the worst enemy to a band. It is no doubt that it was your skills and your experience that kept the band together throughout those first years.”
To Morten’s, Paul’s and Magne’s surprise, the stage door opens again and a joyful Terry Slater appears.
In his speech, he focuses on the enormous work that it takes to make music and to become successful with it.
“It’s very important to remember that it’s not easy to write songs that will endure for thirty years, like a-ha’s have. Everyone can write a song. “I love you baby”, that’s the first line, easy. Try writing the next one. And the next one. Try to write a chorus, try to create a song that people all around the world are going to remember and love.”
“I am very proud for their parents, for their families and their children. And I am very proud for the people of Norway. Because when the day comes when we are all gone, this beacon of music that these three lads have created, will live on, for future generations, and will be a beacon for Norway. Alt for Norge!” (*)
After a second musical piece performed by the string quartet, Trond Giske, Norwegian Minister for Trade and Industry, takes the stage. He explains how a-ha’s ambitions and success have helped change the Norwegian mentality.
“There is a time before and a time after a-ha in the Norwegian music business, but also in the way that we, Norwegians, are looking at ourselves. […] They broke through the barriers of what was thought possible for Norwegians.”
“This level of professionalism can serve as a touchstone for many who come after them. It is an inspiration for everyone in the business here.”
“As the former Minister of Culture, I am aware that there are many awards in the Norwegian cultural scene. One can go to an award ceremonies almost every day. But this is not like any of those days. This is Norway’s highest distinction. This is a great mark of recognition for Norwegians. This has meaning for the entire art and cultural sector, but above all, it is a big, big honor.”
Chief Chancellor Anders Flågen is announced as the person who will award the medals.
Mr. Flågen explains the history of the Royal Order of St. Olav, and who can receive a nomination for it. In 1997, King Harald decided that from then on, acceptance to the Order would be a reward for exceptional services to the country and to humanity.
He concludes with: “As a representative of the Crown, it is a great honor to decorate Morten Harket, Magne Furuholmen and Paul Waaktaar-Savoy as Knights First Class in the Royal Order of St. Olav.”
After the medals are pinned to each of them, Morten then comes forward and speaks on behalf of the band.
“When Paul, Magne and myself set course to England, we had great plans. But we could not imagine that thirty years onward, we would be here at [Gamle] Logen, to be appointed knights.”
“We had to leave Norway to become a-ha. Norway is a leader on natural resources, but not on refining them. That is the case for most fields, including our own. Talents have to be refined and managed. No one can succeed on their own. You need the right people around you. If you do not find them here, you have to leave.”
“And now we are coming to the point. We have great resources in Norway, none the least of the human kind. But, if we want to take part in discovering the future, we have to focus more on the unknown. If we don’t, [the furure] will just be presented to us.”
“In Norway, we have an immature view on failure. It brings a sense of shame. We do not like to take risks. Taking risks is deemed irresponsible. We need a more realistic approach to what it takes to succeed. If there is one reason to honor us here today, it has to be this one: we have remained true to what we believed in. Together, and on our own. Congratulations, guys!”
Surrounded by loud applause, they hug each other and then together bow to the audience. The press photographers are invited to the stage and some confusion errupts: where shall they take their pictures? In the end, all the photographers climb on the stage and then history repeats itself threefold…
Excerpted from a lengthy report from the official ceremony by Sabine Clement.
AUDIENCE WITH THE KING
As is customary, Morten, Magne and Paul were granted an audience with His Majesty King Harald of Norway, which took place on 10 June 2013 at 12:30. Norwegian photographer Stian Andersen was on hand to photograph the band’s arrival at the Palace before their audience with the King. There is also a short video (in Norwegian) of Morten, Magne and Paul speaking with the press before entering the Palace here.