Wednesday, 16 May 2012

Røde Mølle, Oslo

The Røde Mølle (The Red Mill) was established in 1920 (Wikipedia or 1927 from other sources) in Oslo as a dance restaurant by Sigurd Paulsen in the Tivoli Theatre . The name came from the house's decorative red mill (above entrance), inspired by the French Moulin Rouge. The building was added where the former "Apollo Lounge" (later "Flora lounge") was located.

Lowry and Nordahl Grieg had a meal at the Røde Mølle on Lowry's visit to Norway in 1931.Lowry refers to the meal in his letter to Grieg dated 8the September 1931; "I was actually thinking out a letter to you when I met you in the Red Mill". Whether Lowry did have this meal is thrown into some doubt as he says "and now can't be altogether sure about the meeting; it might have been imagination." (Collected Letters Vol. 1 Pg 102). Later, Lowry tranposes this meal in his novel Ultramarine to one between the novel's protagonist Dana Hilliot and his girlfriend Janet Travena;(Where shall we have mittag, Janet? And when? In the Røde Mølle? Half-past two? Admirable. The geraniums are out." and  "What about finishing up once more at the Røde Mølle?" (Pg. 68). Lowry also wrote a letter to his wife Jan Gabrial in the Summer of 1933; "if you do go the Røde Mølle & drink sherry under the geraniums." (Collected Letters Vol 1 Pg. 130).

The restaurant was renowned for jazz music which would have appealed to Lowry. The Røde Mølle first featured American Don Parker's orchestra, with Norwegian sousaphone player Erwin Dahlgren. Dahlgren soon switched to double bass, becoming probably Norway's first rhythm bass player.

Another band featured at was Sixpence: Gustav Upp, Egil Langbrecke and Einar Hoff saxes, Johan "Jottit" Johnsen violin, Ulf Arnesen piano, Ragnar Grøn drums. Sixpence became the most popular jazzband of the Norwegian capital, playing at royal balls, in the embassies and other parts of high society, and also got the honour of being the first jazzband ever to play in the University Aula in Oslo.

At the Røde Mølle, Norwegian orchestras had steady gigs from 1928 on - with new professional musicians coming up, among these trumpeter Willie Vieth and saxophonist Yngvar Wang. At the Bristol, Kristian Hauger became musical director in 1928, with an excellent jazz group.

At the annual meeting of the Norwegian Musicians' Union, an unanimous decision was made, declaring that "The saxophone is acknowledged as an orchestral instrument". The question of whether jazz musicians could become members of the union, led to heated arguments. From 1930 on, that door was opened - at least in the Oslo local.

Towards the end of "the jazz age", the amateur music scene was in a flowering never to have been seen before. Coming Norwegian stars like Svein Øvergaard and Finn Westbye were already active on the scene. Trumpeter Thorleif Østereng and saxophonist Leif Bolin were part of "Columbia Brothers".

The Røde Mølle was open until 1935. The building along with the Tivoli was demolished in 1937.

Images courtesy of Oslobilder

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