Jon Lord, the true gentleman was shining with dignity and interacting socially with people around him. It's a fascinating experience to see him work with musicians, whether if it’s amateur rockers or classical musicians of top standards.

The mutual respect is ever present together with his usual wit and humor. Above all you can see their admiration of the classical composer and rock pioneer, impressing with high musical skills in all areas, with fingerspitzgefühl and taste. Even the kids in the choir are receiving his caring attention, making everybody around him feel comfortable with the proceedings.

The enthusiasm of conductor Torodd Wigum, maestro and creator of ‘Lord Chamber Orchestra’, was contagious and inspiring for everybody – and for Jon especially, who is always on the lookout for musical chemistry to happen on stage.

Even through rehearsals just with the band, an inspired Jon Lord drifts into jazzy blues improvisations on the piano during the Gigue masterpiece, clearly enjoying it. Moving over to another tour de force, Child In Time, our drummer Martin asks Jon for advice regarding the pace during the solo part. - It’s supposed to be 180 beats per minute - like this, Jon replies, visualizing with rapid handclapping. (From the footage we have curiously checked the pace of the handclaps with a metronome. It’s exactly 180 bpm. Of course.)           

Saturday dinner with family and friends was an event for the memory-books with touching performances from many of the guests. A wonderful Soldier of Fortune by Steve and Nathalie, Smoke on the Water with hilarious lyrics in ‘nynorsk’ by co-promoter Terje Craig, and a kamikaze scatting and viola performance by Bergmund Skaslien, to brutally mention just a few.

The night was rounded off with a Glenn Hughes extravaganza in the neighboring hall of our Prinsen Hotel.

Photo: Roald Jungård

Photo: Roald Jungård

Foreword by Knut Morten Johansen
”A celebration of good friends and music”

These words embraced our nice dinner at Theatercafèen like garnish to the reindeer in red wine and cherry sauce, accompanied with a rich Rioja Jon Lord chose from the expanded wine list that put a smile on the face of a true connoisseur.

It was a cold January evening in Oslo, and I was turning 50 in a couple of days. I knew that Jon didn't like counting birthdays, neither celebrating them. But we had both grown old enough to understand the importance of fun in life.

Over the years when having fun, friends have often been a part of it. I noticed that Jon had an increasing fascination of the idea of celebrating the friends, and the music, that had played such an important role in the movie of our lives.

We had the cloudberry cream for dessert, and were laughing at Tony Ashton’s classic line where he preferred Chuck Berrys instead of cloudberries. Our fellow friend so sadly missed, but pictured within. Tony was yet another beloved friend that Jon had paid homage to through his music.

Jon used to notice fascinating things about people. His upcoming work “To Notice Such Things” had dedications to - and was done in memory of - his friends. Even ‘local guy’, Edward Grieg, had a piece made for him with quotes from Wedding Day at Troldhaugen.

Jon was very proud of the CD that was to be released later that spring, and the obvious theme fitted in nicely to the overall concept ”A Celebration of Good Friends and Music”.

Before an exceptionally creative dinner was over, we had decided upon a weekend of celebrations in Trondheim, with another concert at Nidarosdomen to top it all. This would be the third time in the very cathedral that he admired so much, and often referred to as the venue of the gig that changed his life in 2003.

Photo: Roald Jungård


Going home that night, I had a draft of a thrilling set list on my napkin, and a list of musicians we wanted to have on board. Strings, choir, band, singers. All friends of ours of course, and Steve Balsamo was one of them.

He sang the role of Jesus in Jesus Christ Superstar, and did a flabbergasting performance at the local Værnes church at Hell Blues Festival in 1997, two days after his last 400th-performance stint at Palace Theater in London.

Complementing him would be Nathalie Lorichs, a Scandinavian natural, with a silver throat, bottle fed on Jon Lord's music. This paved the way to her life companion Martin Axenrot and his collegue Martin Mendez, the fabulous rhythm section of Opeth.

Even my son Magnus was generously invited in by Jon.  ”It would be a nice handshake to have Magnus on keyboards”, he said.

Four months later, we had four days of fun, starting with a late night BBQ with Lordy and the Opeth’s in my home garden, followed by rehearsals next day.

When the bells of Nidarosdomen rang the following Sunday morning, it was like a solemn notification of what was to come later that day. For the first time during the weekend, all of the approx 50 musicians are together for a run-through before the main concert. Inside the majestic cathedral, visiting tourists get a complimentary musical experience. Several express how stunning they find the beautiful music, and buy the remaining tickets for the evening concert.

And what a night it was! Jon Lord, again a master in creating a well-being between the audience and the musicians on the stage.  You can see him being touched by the performances, and he delivers the goosebumps effect whenever he feels like it.  Either it is from soft touches on the grand piano, the cello and flute passages he has so cleverly written, or his own growling signature treatment of the Hammond organ.

The proud grandiose pillars of the cathedral embrace his music. Jon Lord is at home.

Jon Lord’s charismatic presence is shining from the stage, even though he is repeatedly focusing on his musicians and giving them the honour. Showing them that he is one of them, and reassuring them that they individually are playing an important part in the overall experience. 

The grand finale, The Sun Will Shine Again, is dedicated to the late Ronnie James Dio who passed away the week before. He was another friend, so sadly missed, but pictured within. Jon remembers his loving memory from the stage. After the music ceases, the long lasting standing ovation takes over and ends with people hugging each other in the audience.

 – ‘Class’ is actually spelled J-o-n  L-o-r-d, a euphoric woman states in my ear before leaving the holy chambers.

The aftermath that night is the third event for the friends that are the centre of the celebrations this enchanted weekend. “To rom og kjøkken” is the location, and a big applause is nearly lifting the roof when Jon Lord enters the quite intimate chambre separee.

Fuelled with post-concert adrenaline, released from the nervousness and putting-it-all-together-tension - knowing that this was an utter success - he chuckles his characteristic laughter. His rock ‘n roll jokes and stories are involving the whole cabinet of Madame Tussaud’s and R n’ R Hall of Fame, to the amusement of the entire crammed party.

To this audience he even had an impressing run-through of variations of my birth names and nick names (many founded by him over the years) perfectly pronounced in Norwegian of course.

Extremely exhausted I left the party ahead of Jon early that morning. Jon and I had a big long lasting hug, and the words ‘thank you’ were expressed in unison between us over and over again before I left. I didn't know at the time that this would be our last meeting.

Despite of watching from a distance the blistering performance at the Royal Albert Hall with Rick Wakeman the following summer, I didn’t see Jon Lord in person again. But we talked on the phone, and the last text message from him was: 

“Thanks Kay-Nut. I miss you. Can we talk soon? I’d love to bring you “up to date” with everything. Love Jay-Ell. Xxx”  

16th July 2012 was one of the darkest days in my life, but the music and the memories of Jon Lord are like diamonds in the sand. And diamonds are forever.

July 2013 / Knut Morten Johansen