In Norway, the word "festival" was for many years synonymous with the Bergen International Festival. Established in 1953, it was inspired by the music festival that Edvard Grieg organised in Bergen in 1898. In 1961, Molde, "the city of roses", followed up the Bergen event by organising Norway’s first jazz festival. It has subsequently become one of the country’s largest music festivals. Norway’s oldest folk music festival, the Norwegian Traditional Music and Dance Competition, was established in 1923. It is really a competition for folk music performers, but audiences have long regarded it as the best showcase of Norwegian folk music.
The number of Norwegian festivals has increased substantially since the 1950s in both number and range of genres. The Bergen International Festival in May and June is an all-round event, covering a variety of artistic forms. From 2006, the festival will particularly focus on the Nordic regions. The Festival of North Norway combines the midnight sun and beautiful scenery with music by local, national and international performers. The Vestfold International Festival in June and July presents concerts throughout the county of Vestfold.
Since 1990, a number of contemporary music festivals have attracted attention. Ultima, the Oslo Contemporary Music Festival, held at the beginning of October, is the largest of these, while Borealis in Bergen, held at the end of March, focuses on younger composers in particular. The ILIOS Contemporary Music Festival in Harstad is held at the end of January to mark the sun’s return after the long polar night.
Norway can also offer an outstanding selection of chamber music festivals. Summer festivals in Risør, Stavanger and Oslo are arranged by some of Norway’s most prominent musicians, as is the Røros Winter Chamber Music Festival. In addition, the Trondheim Chamber Music Festival offers an international chamber music competition.
Norway is home to a number of jazz festivals. The Kongsberg Jazz Festival in early July, the Molde International Jazz Festival in late July, and the Oslo Jazz Festival in early August encompass most types of jazz. Vossa Jazz, during the Easter weekend, combines jazz and folk music, while the Sildajazz Festival, held in Haugesund in August, focuses on traditional jazz.
In addition to the Norwegian Traditional Music and Dance Competition, held at a different site in Norway each year, the most important folk music festivals are held in Førde in early July and in Bø, in the county of Telemark, in mid-August.
Two of the most popular rock festivals in Norway are the Quart Festival in Kristiansand in early July and the Öya Festival near Oslo at the beginning of August. There are also more specialised pop music festivals, such as the Notodden Blues Festival and the Inferno Metal Festival, which ironically enough takes place on Good Friday.