By Tori Cook
Iceland is a relatively young island, only 15-18 million years old(!), making its geological activity one-of-a-kind. But more than geology, it is also young in hosting performance tours for U.S. visitors! Sure, it’s becoming more popular, but relatively speaking it hasn’t really branched out as a top-of-the mind performance tour destination — yet. Though, you might be surprised to find that it actually has one of the best concert halls in the world and offers many other excellent venues for traveling choirs! Here’s the inside scoop:
Only less than five years old, the Harpa concert hall and conference center is slowly becoming one of the most recognized performance venues in Europe. It features four concert halls, all of which you can take a virtual tour of on the Harpa’s website: harpa.is
Eldborg – Main Hall
This world-class venue has an incredible and completely adaptable acoustic design for a variety of concerts and events. The stage is large enough for professional orchestras and the audience can hold up to 1,800! If you are bringing multiple ensembles or have a very large choir, this would be the best choice for a venue in Iceland.
Recital Hall: Norðurljós means “Northern Lights” in Icelandic. The acoustics, seating arrangement, stage area, and lighting of this concert hall are entirely customizable making this venue one of the most flexible that is offered. The audience can hold up to 520 seated guests.
Conference Hall: While this room is generally used for conferences, the large space can bring in a stage of any size and has plenty of seating options. The space is perfect for very large performances with multiple ensembles or for participating in music festivals.
While the 195 seats are stationary, the acoustical design of this room is completely customizable. The hall features state-of-the -art sound system, lighting, and recording facilities. The stage is great for small to mid-sized choirs
Salurinn Concert Hall
Opened in 1999, the Salurinn Concert Hall was the first concert hall in Reykjavík to be built based on a specific acoustical design and has been praised by many performers for its excellent acoustics! The hall has two grand pianos available for rent and can seat up to 300 in the audience. This venue is perfect for choirs or solo recitals and is located just outside of downtown Reykjavík.
This Lutheran church is located at the top of Reykjavík with a beautiful view overlooking the city. Here, ensembles may participate in the regular services of the church with the house organist. Application is required to perform in this prestigious venue and is open to both vocal and instrumental ensembles.
Located on Lake Tjörnin – “The Pond,” Fríkirkjan is the Free Lutheran Church of Reykjavík. A pipe organ can be made available for performances and the audience seats up to 450 both upstairs and downstairs. The live acoustics make for a perfect venue particularly for choral or handbell ensembles though instrumental groups are also welcome.
Skálholt Bishopric Church
A trip to Iceland isn’t complete without visiting the historical site of Skálholt, an important political and cultural center for hundreds of years. The first Cathedral was built in the 12th century but most were burnt down or destroyed. The church in its current form was built in the mid-1900s and is easily recognizable by its stained glass windows and a colorful mural of Jesus. An organ is available for hire and the acoustics of the church are exceptional, particularly for choirs.
Gamlo Bíó is the recently renovated former opera house in Reykjavík! The venue is one of the most flexible in the area allowing a variety of seating styles and stage layouts for performing groups. Open to both vocal and instrumental ensembles alike.
Hofið (the Temple)
The Hof Cultural and Conference Center is located in the city of Akureyri in Northern Iceland. The center has a wonderful concert hall used for many professional performances in the area. With a well-equipped stage, seating for up to 510 in the audience and excellent sound systems, this venue is perfect for any ensemble type.
Akureyrarkirkja is a Lutheran Church in Northern Iceland directly in the center of Akureyri. The long walk up the church steps is well worth it! Inside, you are able to see the simplistic Nordic beauty, complete with a large pipe organ and a hanging ship, which is said to protect loved ones at sea.
Tori Cook is a travel professional working in the Business Development department at Encore Tours. Her passion for travel is matched only by her love of music. She holds bachelors degrees in Vocal Performance and Music Theory and currently performs with Chorus pro Musica in the Boston area. She also directs the Harborlight Show Chorus, a small barbershop chorus in the North Shore. encoretours.com