Lins Honeyman spoke to Norway-born, USA-based singer SOLVEIG about her 20 years in music ministry.
Solveig is much more than a singer with a new worship album out through Authentic Music. She is, in her native Norway, a musical institution who has enjoyed a stream of successful recordings and who was even married on national television while in her adopted homeland of the USA Solveig has won a Dove Award, recorded duets with such artists as Larry Norman and Wayne Watson, toured with the Imperials, written a commentary for Thomas Nelson's Women Of Destiny Bible, been the National Executive Coordinator for the American Strategic Prayer Network's 40 Days of Worship and Intercession, and even sung with Bill Gaither as one of Southern gospel's Homecoming Friends. Like another Norwegian-born singer who broke through in American Christian music, Evie, Solveig Leithaug (pronounced Sol-vey Light-houg) has found a large US audience for her sweet toned voice. An original member of the Oslo Gospel Choir, she became a staple on the Scandinavian gospel scene. By 1984, at the tender age of 18, she was awarded the title Artist Of The Year by Norwegian music magazine Treff and the following year appeared at the Christian Artists Seminars in Estes Park, Colorado. Signed to Word Records, her English language debut 'In The World' was an effervescent slice of pop and even included a duet with Jesus music legend Larry Norman. 1986 also saw her awarded a Dove Award as International Artist Of The Year. In 1988 Word subsidiary Day Spring released another album, produced in Nashville by Wayne Watson and Paul Mills with Watson and Solveig duetting on a Chris Eaton song "Land Of Promise".
In 1989 Solveig married Ken Henderson, founder member of the US-based Soldiers of Jesus organisation, and together they have since embarked on a worldwide venture of outreach, music and ministry that has touched many people's lives. I questioned Solveig about the secret of her career's longevity. "God has brought a lot of people into my life to encourage me and this has really helped me," she responded. "I guess the songs kept coming and people kept asking for my albums - even when I was independent."
I asked her if there was anything that she would have done differently in hindsight: "The one thing I would like to have done more of was to listen to the Lord more - especially when the pace got really fast. I don't think about my regrets though and I live life to the full. I am truly and sincerely thankful to the Lord for what he's done in my life. I try to listen to the Lord every day."
Solveig spoke about her new album. "'Worship You' came about after I experienced a ten year drought of not being able to write lyrics in my native tongue of Norwegian. After I was able to do this again, we had already decided to make an English version of the album." The album itself is very laid back and I wondered if this was reflected in the recording process. "The overall feeling while we recorded was one of peace," recalled the singer. "There was a really great and positive environment. We opened every day in prayer and we asked God to use the songs. There were people coming in the studio also to pray."
Perhaps the most poignant track on 'Worship You' is the beautiful "Everything Has Its Season", dedicated on the album to her late manager Joy Thomason who lost a brave battle with cancer in 2004. Originally written in 1989, this song has surprisingly never made it onto an album despite her former manager's persistent pleas for Solveig to record it. During Solveig's last visit to see Joy before her death, she sang it unaccompanied whilst holding her hand and vowed to record the song. The day before the new album went into production, Joy passed away. "I got to meet Joy again shortly before she died and she urged me to record the song," Solveig explained. "Throughout the years, the song never made it onto an album but this time it seemed like the right time. It always bugged Joy that we never recorded it and I decided to dedicate it to her on the album - she was a tireless source of encouragement to me.
"It's hard to know why this song was left off so many albums," she added. "It was due to be featured on the Oslo Gospel Choir's very first live album in 1989 and the choir did a very sweet arrangement of it and it sounded lovely. It was all going well until the last verse and I managed to play the wrong notes on the piano part so it never got on the final version of the album!"
Prior to 'Worship You' Solveig recorded 'Fagert Et Landet' (translated as 'Beautiful Is The Land'), a collection of her favourite hymns and songs sung and arranged bluegrass style, and included on this album are guest appearances by her parents Peder and Helga Leithaug. "They appeared on the album with me and it was the first time in 25 years that they had been in the studio. My dad's 81 now and had had a stroke shortly before. Thankfully he recovered so the thought of getting my dad in the recording studio just struck me so strong. I got some of my favourite songs and hymns, and added a couple of my own. Dad and I recorded 'Great Is Thy Faithfulness' together. He managed to hit a high C - impressive at any age!"
Solveig has also worked with some of the world's most renowned Christian leaders - David Wilkerson, Nicky Cruz, Cindy Jacobs and Benny Hinn to name but a few - and has evidently benefited greatly from their input. "There is much to learn from these people. Nicky Cruz actually lives near us in Colorado Springs and he's a great inspiration," she enthused. "We've worked in outreaches together, with giveaways to the homeless and low income families. The way he sees people as individuals and genuinely prays for them is very humbling. He is willing to go after that one lost sheep. I enjoy learning from him."
The power of God has been present in Solveig's ministry and, on some occasions, it has manifested itself in a number of healings that have taken place through her music. She is typically humble about this: "None of us can take any credit for it but it's fascinating," she explained. "There is so much power in God and when his presence is here anything can happen. The most remarkable instance was when I sang a song called 'Abandoned To You Jesus' on the Trinity Broadcasting Network. There was a bishop in Canada who had gotten really ill and was in a coma. His wife decided to keep the TV on in his room. Whilst I sang, he woke up and within a week he was running - completely healed."
Last year, Solveig made several guest appearances with the legendary Bill Gaither's Homecoming tour. I asked her how this came about: "I never thought it was something I would get to do - I never considered myself as a country singer!" she laughed. "I was with Russ Taff and Lynda Randle, having done some concerts with them, and Russ called Bill up. Normally the Gaithers will only commit to give you one song on one night if they don't know a new artist but Russ must have talked me up quite a bit and I got to join them singing for five concerts over 10 days to about nine-16,000 people at each venue! Shortly after that we moved to Norway for a short season, but are back in Colorado Springs now."
The rollercoaster continues apace and, looking to the future, Solveig has been chosen as the appointed worship leader for the Just Give Me Jesus revival conference in Oslo led by Billy Graham's daughter Anne Graham Lotz in May 2007.
With 20 years of ministry under her belt, things don't appear to be slowing down for Solveig. However, no matter who she has worked with or how many albums she has sold or how many thousands of people she has performed to, she is typically down to earth about what is important to her. "Ken and I don't have normal jobs as such but we do find ourselves spending a lot more time together than perhaps more normal families. We travel together as much as possible. I have a very supportive husband and our three children have a beautiful attitude to what I do."The opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those held by Cross Rhythms. Any expressed views were accurate at the time of publishing but may or may not reflect the views of the individuals concerned at a later date.