Follow by Email

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Off to Sweden again!

I'll be back in Sweden again (leaving January 1), my trip this time split in two this year, the first from early January to mid-February (when I head to Edmonton to prepare my February concert, and then the Good Friday concert), then back again for my second stint from late March through mid-May.

I was invited by the Radio Choir to prepare works again for other conductors, but also to conduct their Spring Concert, which is a lighter program, shared with a well-known Swedish jazz duo (Chapter 2 - trombone and guitar). We're still working out repertoire for that, but the choir will sing about 35 minutes of music. The preps, however, are substantial, so I have a lot of work to do learning scores!

Peter Dijkstra, new Chief Conductor of Radiokören, will have a concert January 17, so I'll be able to watch all his rehearsals for this program, with a chamber orchestra and repertoire of Mozart Litanae Lauretanae and Haydn Harmoniemesse. It'll be great to be able to meet him and particularly to watch him work. If you don't know about him, check out his website--his career is going spectacularly well and the repertoire he's conducting is amazing! (http://www.peterdijkstra.nl/)

During the week of January 21st, I prepare RK for a program that they will doing jointly with the Latvian Radio Choir and their conductor, Kaspars Putnins (the concert doesn't take place until March 16). Pro Coro members know from the festival in Toronto just how good the Latvian group is--and Kaspars is terrific. For this I'll be preparing Pizzetti's Requiem (a great piece), Penderecki's Stabat Mater and Agnus Dei, and Arvo Pärt's The Beatitudes.

The following week begins with two rehearsals on Bach's Matthew Passion, which the choir will do March 20 and 21 with Daniel Harding (note that they're doing this just four days after the concert with the Latvians!). Harding is the principal conductor of the Radio Orchestra (you can read my description of his performance of the Schumann Paradies und die Peri elsewhere on the blog--he's amazing). RK has only 3 rehearsals before meeting with Harding, so my 2 will have to take them through the whole work.

The 3rd and 4th rehearsals that week will be Rachmaninov's The Bells and numbers 1 & 3 of his Three Russian Songs (op. 41), to be done the 16th of February with Jukka-Pekka Sarasate (who did the unbelievably good performance of Sibelius' Kullervo last time with Orphei Drängar and the Stockholm Philharmonic). This is just 2 days after they will have done the Rachmaninov Vigil with Risto Joost from Estonia. The score they sent for The Bells has only Cyrillic, so in all ways I have my work cut out for me! The performance with Jukka-Pekka will also have the Eric Ericson Chamber Choir, but I'll only be rehearsing RK in January.

Unfortunately I'll be gone before all of the performances. Too bad not to hear the fruits of my labors directly, but I have other work with Pro Coro that I'm looking forward to as well!

I should also be able to observe a few of Joost's rehearsals on Rachmaninov before leaving for Edmonton.

I'll get back to Stockholm and begin work during the first week in April on the Verdi Four Sacred Pieces, which they're doing with Peter Dijkstra along with the Netherlands Chamber Choir and Rezidentie Orchestra at The Hague in May. I'll also do more work on the Pizzetti Requiem, which Peter's doing with them (on their own), also at The Hague. In addition, I rehearse them on music for their domestic tour, which will include Lars Johan Werle's trees (which Choral Arts members will remember), Sven-David Sandström's April och Tystnad and Bo Holten's The Marriage of Heaven and Hell (30-minute set for 12-part choir--some Choral Arts members will remember Holten's Regn och Rusk och Rosenbusk). Somewhere in there I also introduce the music for the Spring concert!

I have a little break until the week of April 21 when rehearsals begin in earnest for the Spring concert (and Kathryn and I will visit her sister and family in Kristiansand, Norway during that time). Nothing the next week (the choir is doing Larsson's Förklädd Gud), then two more rehearsals the following week before the concert on May 9 (in between the last two rehearsals I do a rehearsal on Brahms Requiem for a later tour with Valeri Gergiev and the Rotterdam Philharmonic--expanded RK of about 48 voices). The week after the Spring concert I do one more rehearsal on Verdi Quattro Pezzi and the Pizzetti Requiem before they head to Holland with Peter.

All in all, an interesting January-mid May!

I'll be blogging about what I see and hear.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Presenting new styles or works to your choir

I talked briefly in the last blog about presenting unfamiliar works or styles to your choir. This can be a challenge, particularly with works in a completely new style, works that are difficult to sight-read, or works where the choir’s role is only a part of what makes the piece significant.

This can take many different forms. In 1985 at PLU I found out the University’s Artist Series had booked Robin and Rachelle McCabe for a duo-piano recital. Both had grown up near PLU, Robin had gone from the University of Washington to study at Juilliard and built a career as a concert pianist, her career helped by a New Yorker profile that became a book called Pianist’s Progress by Helen Drees Rosencutter (Robin’s now Director of the School of Music at the UW). Rachelle also went from the UW to Juilliard, then to the University of Michigan for doctoral work, then teaching at Oregon State University. I asked my Dean if I could propose doing Brahms’ Liebeslieder Walzer with the McCabes and the Choir of the West, did so, and the idea was accepted.

With the Brahms, it wasn’t a problem of an unfamiliar musical language (the German took some work), but the question was how to familiarize the choir with Viennese waltz style. Brahms certainly appreciated and knew the waltz culture in Vienna and, when he met Strauss’ daughter, gave her his card with the theme from “The Blue Danube” written on the back, along with the words, “Leider nicht von Brahms” (Unfortunately not by Brahms). Certainly he knew well the traditional performance style for Viennese waltzes. So I began by playing waltzes as the choir came in for each rehearsal—I always had Strauss Waltzes playing in performances by the Vienna Philharmonic under Willi Boskovsky and others. This was, much as my listening to Russian choirs for Rachmaninov, to start building their unconscious aural picture of how waltzes were done—the “lilt” and rubato particularly. We also talked about the waltz socially in Vienna, the kind of Hausmusik that was taking place, and the great popularity of the Liebeslieder once they were published. We also had a waltz party with the PLU dance instructor there to teach the choir members how to dance a waltz (too bad we didn’t have the great popularity of “Dancing with the Stars!”). At any rate, it was great fun and I think it all made a difference in their performance.

A couple years later I felt we had the right forces in place for a performance of the Britten War Requiem, a work I’d long loved and wanted to do. The problem here is that much of the choral music is not easy to sight-read, some is difficult, much isn’t “pretty,” and the choral parts by themselves don’t make much sense without a context. In this situation, I need to “sell” the work to the choir so that they buy into all the work that was ahead in learning the music. I knew they’d love it once all the elements were put together, but to get as far as we could in terms of quality of performance, they had to “own” it from the very beginning.

For those that don’t know the Britten, it was written for an arts festival celebrating the opening of the new Coventry Cathedral in England, which sits next to the ruins of the old cathedral, which was firebombed in WWII. In it, Britten combines the Latin text of the Requiem mass (sung by the choir with large orchestra and soprano soloist, along with boychoir and organ, who are to be placed in the distance) and the anti-war texts of poet Wilfrid Owen, who died in the trenches shortly before the end of WWI (sung by a chamber orchestra and tenor and baritone soloists). Britten very carefully interweaves the two sets of texts so that they comment on each other in moving ways. As in Britten's original performance, we did it with multiple conductors: I took the big orchestra and choir, Jerry Kracht (conductor of the orchestra) took the chamber orchestra with tenor and baritone soloists, and Joe Crnko coordinated the boys from the back gallery.

In introducing the work to the choirs (we combined my Choir of the West, the second mixed choir, and also the Choral Union—an adult community choir), I made sure I did this with them all together, even though some of their rehearsals would be done separately. Since I’d been to Coventry, I had photos of the new Cathedral and the old. The new one is very contemporary in style and has liturgical art from around the world. As you enter the Cathedral there is a high wall of windows with etchings in the glass—so from inside the church as you look back you see the skeleton ruins of the old Cathedral through the glass.

I also introduced the poetry of Owen, which is so moving. As an example of Britten’s careful choice of texts, I first read and then we listened to the “Quam olim Abrahae” section, which is followed by Owen’s re-telling of the story of Abraham and Isaac. After the Latin text proclaims (in quite a jaunty fugue) “As Abraham promised to his seed forever,” Owen's re-telling adds a bitter twist: after God allows Abraham to sacrifice a ram instead of his son—Owens then says, “But the old man would not so, and slew his son, and half the seed of Europe one by one.” Frankly, I get a chill even writing those words right now. After the tenor and baritone finish with Owen’s section, the quam olim comes back, but in a piano dynamic and with the fugue theme inverted. Even though the music for the choir isn’t easy and not that rewarding to sing by itself, the choir now fully understood its significance and were ready to work on it.

Of course, I also want them to sing and experience some of the work immediately. So I had to choose some sections where they could make music quickly. One of the sections I chose was the end of the Kyrie. Britten uses the tritone with regularity throughout the War Requiem and this last section begins with the bells chiming C and F#. The choir picks up those pitches for this short, homophonic section, but the last time melts into an almost magical F major, which in that context is extraordinarily beautiful. Almost always I want to find some sections of such a work where the choir can experience its beauty of expression from the very beginning.

For everyone, I think our two performances of the Britten were an unforgettable experience.

As a postscript, I took the Choir of the West on a tour to England a year later and we did one performance at Coventry Cathedral—for all those who’d sung the Britten, that was also an extraordinary experience.

What ways have you found to get your choir to "buy in" to challenging works, or works that may not have immediate appeal?

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Exploring the “New”

One of the things I’ve always enjoyed as a conductor is exploring and learning about a new style, period, composer, or individual work—and trying to communicate the essential elements of that to my ensemble (and ultimately to the audience).

One can think of this in terms of “performance practice,” but I think too many see that in a narrow way, simply as a series of prescriptions for the way one does ornaments or whatever in “older” music. However, most period instrument players and stylistically aware singers I know who are heavily into “HIPP” (“historically informed performance practice) know it’s much more than that, and are among the best at attempting to get inside the mind and culture of the periods and composers with which they work. The details (of instrument, pitch, ornamentation, language, etc.) are just the means with which to better explore the expression and emotions in the music.

Music doesn’t have to be that “old” to need this understanding of context and style, and any time you explore a new (to you) musical “culture” (even a contemporary one) it requires a sense of what that culture truly is and how it expresses itself.

An example from my own work to illustrate:

In 1992 I decided to do Rachmaninov’s great All-Night Vigil (more often known as the Vespers) with the Seattle Symphony Chorale. We had an unusually long period in the Spring where the Symphony didn’t need us, so it was the perfect time to take on a big project of our own.

There are lots of questions when approaching such a work: language, style (phrasing, rubato, articulation, etc.), liturgical context, and many others. Of course I read biographies of Rachmaninov and began learning the music, but where else does one start?

I knew Vladimir Morosan’s dissertation, Choral Performance Practice in Pre-Revolutionary Russia, and this proved to be invaluable. It has lots of information about the liturgy, choirs (especially the Moscow Synodal Choir, which premiered the Vigil) and general performance practices (size of choirs, distribution of parts, how the choir was arranged, etc.), as well as information about the Vigil’s premiere and other performances with the Synodal Choir and its conductor at the time, Nikolai Danilin. This gave an extraordinary amount of information and context.

Vlad also owns Musica Russica and had published a new edition of the Vigil with his transliteration system (important when performing with a choir that won’t have the time to learn Cyrillic!). At that time, Vlad hadn’t yet published the Rachmaninov “monument” but was kind enough to send me copies of galleys to the notes on the Vigil, which had much more specific information about the liturgy, the chants (both ancient chants and Rachmaninov’s composed ones), etc. used throughout the Vigil.

Vlad also prepares pronunciation tapes/CDs for his works and this was very helpful for me to begin to get the sound of Church Slavonic into my ear and voice (he also allows copies to be made for your singers, which saves much coaching time in rehearsal). While getting ready to prepare a performance a few years later with my choir at PLU my wife said she heard me talking in my sleep and couldn’t figure out what I was saying—until she realized I was mumbling in Church Slavonic. A good sign that I was spending enough time with the language!

Another question has to do with the sound of Russian choirs, the general vocal sound, style and phrasing, and of getting closer to special issues of pronunciation and diction. For this, I listened to recordings of lots of Russian choirs, not just of the Vigil, but of other works, too. For example, one of the characteristics one hears in many Russian choirs is a “scooping” into the pitch at times, particularly when words begin with a “soft” or “palatalized” consonant. One of the advantages of listening to lots of Russian choirs is you can begin to sort out how wide a range there is—some choirs seem to scoop all the time and others not as much. It helps decide what is normal and expected for all native Russian choirs (and would sound “wrong” without it), and how much might be a matter of taste. Similarly, one can experience vowel colors and vocal styles and ideas of sound on different vocal parts (are sopranos typically more lyric or dramatic? What kind and how much vibrato is used?).

In Vlad’s dissertation he’d quoted a number of sources on the special “secco” style of performance of the rapidly “chanted” sections by the Synodal Choir, with very quick text delivery. Vlad mentioned a recording he had of the Synodal choir from the ‘20’s, I believe, and was kind enough to send me a copy. The quality of the recording was poor, but good enough to learn much more about the style of performance in these passages.

Finally, I was curious about Rachmaninov’s own “performance practice”—how did he shape phrases, what kind of rubato did he take, etc.? For this I listened to as many recordings of him playing his own piano works as I could. This is a case where we’re close enough in time to hear the way the composer himself shapes his music (not choral music, to be sure, but helpful nevertheless).

This kind of broad listening is important, since you absorb many things (without consciously realizing it) that can’t easily be talked about or articulated. As an example that was telling to me in another medium, in 1988 I was in Berlin and visited the Dahlem museum in West Berlin, but had only a couple hours. They had a nice Rembrandt collection so I decided to spend my time there, looking at about 10-12 Rembrandts during that time span. A month or so later I was in London and went to the National Gallery to see a special exhibit from the Hermitage. On the way to that exhibit, I saw a painting out of the corner of my eye and thought, “Rembrandt.” It was, in fact, a Rembrandt. I couldn’t have described to you the characteristics of Rembrandt’s painting or techniques. I’d never taken an art history class. It’s simply that my couple hours of staring at 10-12 Rembrandts gave me a sense (unconscious to me) of what a Rembrandt “is.” It was experiential rather than intellectual. In the same way, I’m sure listening to lots of Russian choirs and Rachamaninov’s recordings allowed me to absorb much about what a Russian choir does and what Rachmaninov’s style is—much more, in some ways than I could get through just analysis or reading about the style.

You can’t replicate the time you’ve spent in all of this research, listening and study with your choir, of course. I had to boil it down for them, so at the Chorale’s beginning of the year retreat I gave an introduction to the work, read some passages from Vlad’s dissertation about performance practice and responses to the Synodal Choir, and played recordings of several different Russian choirs doing selected movements of the Vigil. After this we worked on a few pieces and sections of the work. All of this was to get their minds and ears acclimated to some changes to the normal way they might sing and phrase. We also made copies of the pronunciation tapes for all of them and I encouraged them to buy and listen to some recordings of the Vigil by Russian choirs (I suggested several). Since we wouldn’t start rehearsing until later in the year, this meant that by the time we started working they would be a long ways ahead.

This kind of preparation for music in a different “world” than one normally works in is incredibly rewarding and fun.

Your thoughts?

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Learning How to Work with Instruments

Choral conductors have a poor reputation for working with orchestras. This is sometimes unfair but there are certainly plenty of examples to support the stereotype. I could also say something about many orchestral conductors’ ignorance of what’s necessary or inability to deal successfully with a chorus, but that’s another topic!

For me, two elements were motivation for learning how to better work with orchestras: a strong interest in baroque music early in my career (meaning I had to have an orchestra to do the repertoire) and the negative example of a fine choral conductor who nevertheless became nervous and ineffective in front of an orchestra.

So, how DO you learn to work with an orchestra if you’re not an instrumentalist yourself and don’t have that background?

The two motivating elements above meant I didn’t want to be one of “those” choral conductors. Even at the age of 20 with my first church choir (a small Lutheran church in Seattle), I conducted J.S. Bach’s Christ lag in Todesbanden with a group of string players from the university. Not having a background as an instrumentalist, I first hired a fellow student (a violinist) to teach me about bowings and string techniques. I paid her the fee she charged for private lessons, but focused not on playing myself, but seeing and hearing the difference between up-bows and down-bows, playing at the frog or at the tip of the bow, playing on or off the string, etc. At the same time I was reading Elizabeth Green’s Orchestral Bowings and Routines, which I’d found in the library (unfortunately out of print). One of the challenges when exploring any new medium is simply to learn the vocabulary or jargon, so all of this was a huge help. I also vividly remember the first time (perhaps a year later) when I was working on a Purcell verse anthem with my new church choir, was unhappy with the phrasing in the strings at one point, and solved the musical problem by a simple change of bowing. That was a rush!

I didn’t stop with that one experience of lessons with a fellow student, but later took an independent study with Vilem Sokol (a viola teacher at the University of Washington and long-time conductor of the Seattle Youth Symphony), working on many of the same kinds of things but in more depth. For example, I remember him giving me the assignment to bow the first movement of the Haydn Clock Symphony and then bringing it in the next week for a critique of what worked, what didn’t, and why. This was really valuable. I also did an independent study for two quarters with horn player Christopher Leuba, who taught at the UW and was former principal horn with Chicago under Reiner--Leuba particularly had interesting ideas about intonation.

At the same time I formed a chamber choir in 1973, with which I did a fair amount of works with instruments, and a year later a group called The Bach Ensemble, which did Bach cantatas once a month. I then combined those forces to do Bach’s Mass in B Minor in June 1975 and Seattle Pro Musica was born (still going strong more than 30 years later under the leadership of Karen Thomas). I conducted those ensembles from 1973-1980 (plus a chamber orchestra the last three years), which really was my laboratory—and, frankly, my real post-graduate education (I conducted 71 different programs over 7 years with 3 different ensembles). Stanley Ritchie also came to the University of Washington during that time (as first violinist for the quartet in residence, but was also an accomplished baroque violinist who for a long time now has led the baroque orchestral program at Indiana University) and I took similar private lessons with him. My focus was to see and hear the differences between the modern and period instrument and bow and learn about baroque techniques, but also to find ways with modern players and instruments to get as close as possible to the right sound and articulations. The final two years I was in Seattle, the Bach Ensemble made the shift to period instruments (as much as possible—our string players got baroque bows and most had a second instrument strung with gut and tuned to A=415). We did a project with Stanley during that time and I also worked with him again a few years later, as well as other concertmasters, when I was conductor for a Bach Festival in Spokane, WA (also with period instruments—I conducted at that festival for seven years, from 1979-85).

Also essential is to observe orchestral rehearsals under a good conductor—think again about learning the vocabulary of a new medium, not to speak of rehearsal and conducting techniques. Luckily for me, a new orchestral conductor, Samuel Krachmalnick, came to the University of Washington in 1971, staying until 1976. I was dating and then married to a bassoonist at the time, so began to observe almost all of Sam’s rehearsals. Sam was an extraordinary musician and conductor. He first studied at Eastman, both French horn and piano (he was a good enough horn player to play in the National Symphony Orchestra and pianist to audition for and play in the American Symphony Orchestra under Stokowski). He then studied conducting with Jean Morel at Juilliard and was his assistant for two years. He won the Koussevitzky Prize at Tanglewood in 1954, studying with Leonard Bernstein, later doing work on Broadway, including as conductor and music director for Bernstein’s Candide in 1957 (for which he was nominated for a Tony award). He was one of Szell’s many assistants at the Cleveland Orchestra, was chief conductor at the Zurich Opera for 3 years, and did lots of other conducting, from the Met’s national touring company to being on the staff of the New York City Opera. In short, he was a thoroughly schooled musician and conductor (and also a superb teacher).

Still an undergraduate at the UW, I auditioned for Krachmalnick’s graduate orchestral conducting class—I remember auditioning with the slow movement of Mozart’s Jupiter Symphony—and was in the class for two years (no doubt I made it in due to his seeing me at so many of his rehearsals). We had an orchestra consisting of string quintet and single winds and brass (piano filling in other parts as needed). One of the first things I asked to work on was recitative conducting technique, so was assigned a big chunk of Carmen—a terrific way to learn. Sam’s conducting technique was superb and very clear, so he was a great model for me.

Certainly one of the first things to establish your competence with an orchestra that you’ve never worked with before is a clear, readable beat. I don’t know how many times I’ve gotten the (back-handed) compliment, “But you don’t conduct like a choral conductor.” Clarity of gesture will absolutely make an impact.

For any choral conductor wanting to learn how to work with an orchestra I’d say, watch and observe as many rehearsals with a good conductor that you possibly can. Do some study of string technique, since that’s going to be the technical area where you will benefit the most. Learn a clear technique. And find a way to work with instrumentalists—create whatever opportunities you can. Doing is still the best way to learn.

Additional advice, especially for the young conductor?

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Stockholm 2007 - Week 7

The last week! Hard to imagine, as this seven-week period has gone very quickly. However, if my sense of deep tiredness is any indication, it's been an unusually busy and intense time for Kathryn and me--much more so than our usual lives, although this year for me has been (and remains, for a while longer) crazy, even by my normal standards.

The week began on Monday with my first rehearsal with the Radio Choir. Today was actually two RK, since the rehearsal began with the choir singing for Parsifal (not all regular members of RK are doing that program, so there are a number of subs). Even it began with just the men, since Act III of Parsifal has almost no singing for the sopranos and altos.

Arne worked with the women on some other repertoire at the beginnning of the rehearsal. After working a little less than an hour on the scene with the Knights, the women joined us again to rehearse the last section, which is truly glorious music. There was no point to do detailed work, since the choir will work in combination with the Opera Chorus and I had no instructions from Gergiev about markings. So we took a slightly longer break than usual since the other members of RK were joining us at 11 AM.

We then rehearsed the Gloria and Sanctus from the Beethoven Mass in C, followed by the Choral Fantasy, and then I had time for a run-through of the movements from the Mass before the end of rehearsal. The voices are amazing, of course, so it's great fun to stand in front of the choir and hear the sound pouring over you (and, of course, they can sing very softly, too). They're also excellent musicians, so things rarely need to be said more than once and, even with a few of them never having sung the Beethoven before, one slow run-through of the fugues is usually enough to put notes right. Again, with no guidance from the ultimate conductor, I simply made my own decisions about breaths and note values at the end of phrases, articulations, added dynamics, etc., and gave options where there could easily be two choices.



I'll say more about what it's like to conduct a choir such as RK later. Certainly, I can say it's great fun.

The rest of the day was relatively relaxed, going to the nearby hotel with our laptop so I could access the internet and send last week's report to you, taking a walk in the beautiful weather (the sun came out by afternoon), and calling both sets of parents and Kathryn's sister in Norway.

Tuesday was a day off, so we took full advantage of it. We both are tired, as I said earlier, Kath still with her nagging cough and both of us from intense social and rehearsal and concert-going schedules. The weather was gorgeous today and much warmer (spring-like), so I even took the liner out of my coat. We enjoyed several walks and down time in the apartment, with a bit of rehearsal prep for me. It'll be fun to work on the Brahms Requiem tomorrow with 48 or so singers of RK and extras--it's a work that's close to my heart: the first time I conducted it was for the Anchorage Music Festival in 1993 at summer solstice time (no real darkness in Anchorage--amazing to come out of rehearsal at 10 PM and have it still completely light), subbing for Robert Shaw, who'd had a mild stroke and had to pare back his schedule.

Tuesday evening we took Eric and Monica out to dinner as partial thanks for all their help and friendship. Had a wonderful time talking about what we're both doing, the different people I've been seeing, etc. I feel lucky to have had so much contact with Eric.



I first saw him (although didn't meet him personally) in Nashville in '83 when the Radio Choir sang at ACDA. I'd just auditioned for grad school at Cincinnati and went down to Nashville afterwards with a group of those students. John Leman was organizing a choir for a masterclass with Eric, so I ended up singing in it.The next summer, after I started teaching at PLU, Eric was taking his MH Chamber Choir to an ISME conference in Eugene, OR and was looking for some other venues. Bruce Browne, who knew Eric, put me in touch with him, so I arranged for the PLU summer choral workshop to be built around that: the choir was in San Francisco before coming to Tacoma, so Eric flew up a day earlier for workshops and the choir came up by bus a day later and spent at least two days there, being the group for some conductors to work with and giving their own concert.

There were many contacts after that, including IFCM in Vienna in '87, another MH Chamber Choir visit to PLU in 1988 (they did an around the world tour that summer), April of '89 (my first visit to Sweden) when I was looking for a dissertation topic, and the entire summer of 1990 when I did the initial research.

During '89 I sublet the apartment of one of Monica's sons and in '90 the apartment of another one of her sons. Eric was also guest conductor at the birth of Choral Arts in 1993. I'd been thinking of such a choir and heard from him that he would be working with Pro Coro in Edmonton and he wanted some other work, since he didn't like to travel so far for just one concert. So I put together a choir for him in January of that year which then became Choral Arts.

When I came back to Sweden in '96 to update research (just after Kathryn and I got married) I sublet the apartment across from Eric and Monica's. And of course, Eric's name and introductions have opened all doors to me in Sweden, and the research I've done and the many visits since have made for many close friends. While I would never dare to say I was a student of Eric's (and never studied with him formally), I've learned and gained so much from him, watching him, and talking with him and all our other Swedish friends. It's been a great privilege.

Wednesday brought a bit of serendipity to our trip: I've kept in touch with a former student from PLU, Mark Hjelmervik, but for some reason didn't have his email address, so he hadn't been getting these reports. He sent an update about his life (he just finished seminary in Chicago) and so I sent back my reports. His quick reply was, "Are you still in Sweden?!" It turned out that Mark was in Stockholm for a few days since his chosen church is the Covenant Church, which had its roots in the Swedish Mission Church, and his graduating class was in Sweden for classes to see about the roots of the American church. So we managed to get together for lunch--and this after I hadn't been able to see him the last time he was in Tacoma because I was too busy. Amazing the way things work out sometimes.

That afternoon was the rehearsal of the Brahms with RK and the extra singers, about 5 or 6 of whom were singing with RK for the first time (some others were former RK members and a few members of Eric's Chamber Choir). Quite simply, it was a joy. Almost all the singers have sung the Requiem before, some many times, so it was possible to communicate much via gesture from the very first run-through of each movement. Other than that, it was simply a matter of rehearsing what we all do: better ensemble, sound, blend, intonation, pronunciation of text, musicality, etc.--except beginning at a much higher level. Pure pleasure. I'm only sorry I don't get to conduct the performance.

Following rehearsal we went with Eva Wedin and the choir's regular accompanist, Michael Engström (who is fantastic) to the apartment of Arne Lundmark and his wife Birgit for dinner. Arne, as I mentioned earlier, is the choir's producer (he also teaches voice at MH and was for many years a member of Eric's Chamber Choir) and Birgit also works in the administration of the Radio. Dinner was a Lebanese feast and accompanied by lots of talk about choral music, experiences with Eric (it turns out Michael was also with the MH Chamber Choir on their '88 visit to PLU--and earlier I found out it was the same for one of the RK basses for the '84 tour), and more about Swedish choral life. Another wonderful evening.

Thursday's rehearsal was hard work--after beginning with two of Otto Olsson's Psalm settings to warm up--quite beautiful, by the way--I began work on Thomas Jennefelt's O Domine. This is a very good piece with two radically contrasting sections: the first dramatic, with rapid changes of tempi and lots of dissonance; the last section minimalistic, calm, with mostly gentle dissonances. Both sections needed work and there are possibly a couple sections that we'll repeat tomorrow. After break, the rest of the rehearsal was spent on Sven-David's Singet dem Herrn, which as I noted last time, is extremely virtuosic. The first section is quick, syncopated, has extreme ranges and dynamics. Much of the time was spent in drill: first choir, second choir; men, women; slower tempi, then back towards marked tempi. The next section didn't need as much time, but perhaps a little work on sound and intonation--the middle movement is truly gorgeous and calls for a beautiful legato, phrasing and sound. The last section is, if anything, trickier than the first (you really have to look at the score to see what I mean). Again, the choir worked hard through many repetitions of different sections. Another thing noticeable is the endurance and ability of these singers to sing repetitions at top dynamic and tessitura again and again--and all full out. That's extraordinary, too. Again, these are very fine singers, well-trained, and they do this with real regularity. While not as much fun as the Brahms rehearsal, I earned my pay in doing this necessary work to bring this music up to the level it deserves.

Tomorrow will bring more of the same with some of the other repertoire as well as more practice on Singet.



Eric also came to the first half of the rehearsal--very sweet of him to do that and we had a nice goodbye chat during the break.

Friday: my last day with RK and seeing so many friends. A morning rehearsal this time, so I began with the final two Olsson Psalms as warmup (RK certainly doesn't do "warm-ups," but just jump to work) and a few spots in the 2nd one that needed good transitions between the baritone solo (chant--no flats or sharps) and choir (E Major). Then the Jan Sandström Gloria, not a difficult piece, but one which calls for clean tuning and ensemble. Then Sven-David's take on Purcell's Hear my Prayer, O Lord, which quotes it exactly, at the end melding into S-D's own anguished plea, but ending with a calm C Major. Finally before break: Hillborg's mouyuoum, which is a fascinating minimalistic exercise. Like many such pieces, it's not easy to rehearse, partly since at 13 minutes long, it's tiring to sing, and you can't do too much repetition. So we didn't work on too many sections--they also know it well.

After break it was time for Singet dem Herrn again. Hard work (for me, too), but necessary work to give the best chance of success in Saarbrücken. Again, much repetition, drill with one choir or the other, at slower speeds, etc., all taken in good spirit by RK's members.

If I know something as a rehearsal technician, it's how to keep a fairly quick pace of rehearsal, which is especially necessary with such work. Three singers are substitutes who did not sing the September concerts and therefore were sightreading Singet--for them a huge challenge, but at least now they have a good idea of how the piece works and can practice before Saarbrücken.

At the end of the rehearsal thanks from both sides (me to them and them to me) and I think we all hope I get a chance to work with RK again in the not-too-distant future. We'll keep in touch . . .

RK is really a wonderful choir to work with. They have such a good understanding of what it takes to be an ensemble singer that you begin work at an already high level. As I've mentioned, the choir is also made up of very good voices, many of solo quality.

These are not small voices either, which is why they can successfully do major works with orchestra with 48 or so singers. They also (at least for me in the two different times I've worked with them) have a good attitude. One can worry that professionals (choirs or orchestras) can begin to think of their work as just a job, but I don't sense that here (and haven't with most of the professional orchestras I've worked with, from members of the Seattle Symphony earlier to my recent work with Edmonton Symphony members): most of all they want to make good music. Consequently, if they sense you know what you want and have musical ideas, they're very willing to work hard for you. As with most professionals, however, they don't want their time wasted, so a good and efficient rehearsal technique is a must. And, of course, you have to know the scores well and what to do with the music. Beyond that, the work is the same as with any choir, just at a higher level: work on ensemble, intonation, sound, expression, phrasing, etc. You have, also, to have your ears "calibrated" at a finer level--with a choir this good, it has to be very fine tolerances of intonation, ensemble, etc. I hope, too, this is good for me in my work with my other choirs. I can learn to be more demanding of what is possible musically. Certainly as I said before, it's great fun to work with them and I wouldn't miss the opportunity to work with RK again.


Afterwards we had a short chat with Eva, our good friend, whom we'll miss. She's delightful and has been amazingly helpful before and during our stay. Then off to lunch with Bo Johansson and his wife Ingrid. Yesterday one of the new basses (to me) introduced himself as Lasse. Today he said, "I hear you're going to lunch with my father after rehearsal." I hadn't realized Lasse is Bo and Ingrid's son! He is a regular with RK from this year, but has been on paternity leave, so came to these two rehearsals since he will go off leave in April and be with the choir for this program. After rehearsal, he was to return home and take over for his mother, who'd been baby-sitting. Bo is another good friend from my summer of research in 1990 and conductor of the world-famous Adolf Fredrik Girlchoir (we also worked together at a "Singing Week" in Veszprém, Hungary in 1996). Adolf Fredrik is a special music school (up until HS years) and students get musical instruction in addition to their regular classes. It's amazing how many of the singers in Sweden's fine choirs have attended Adolf Fredrik. Bo is known to all as "Bosse" (I won't attempt to phonetically write the pronunciation, but the Bo is pronounced "oo") and is one of the happiest people I know, a fantastic teacher and musician. He'll be involved with some masterclasses at IFCM in Copenhagen next summer (2008), so you could get a chance to watch him work there. Again, a delightful time and then back home, where frankly, I'm exhausted! We were supposed to go to the Radio Orchestra concert tonight (Edo de Waart and Mahler 5), but I'm writing this as the concert would be about to begin--I was just too tired to go out again tonight. The trip's not over yet, though. More to come Saturday and Sunday.

Our next-to-last day had a concert at Jacobs again. This one with the "WÅG" trio (Mattias Wager, organ & piano; Anders Åstrand, percussion; and Gary Graden, singer). An improvisational concert, this continues experiments at St. Jacob for new ways to attract people to the church. The improvisations ranged from fairly traditional to reminders of '60s/70s "happenings," using all combinations of singer, percussion (marimba and all manner of drums), piano, the small organ at the front of the church and the big one in the gallery in the back. Gary sang gregorian chant with different backgrounds by Mattias and Anders, Mattias played a fantastic Bach-style improv on the piano to accompany a hymn (yes, the audience was asked to sing again, too), and they finished with Tomorrow Shall Be My Dancing Day, beginning with Gary and the small organ at the front, then Gary and percussion (while Mattias went back to the big organ), then Gary worked his way back for a big ending with all three in the gallery at full volume. Really a terrific and interesting time. Gary is one of the most creative and interesting musicians I know. It was another good and enthusiastic audience.

I sat next to a woman who clearly had some mental problems and was possibly homeless, incredibly thin, in worn, dirty clothes, talking to herself softly. But she was clearly moved by the music, moving to it, giggling with joy sometimes, and near the end when Gary sang a spiritual talking about the flowing river, she moved her hands along with Gary, smiling all the while. It was a terrific example of the power of music to speak directly to someone--someone who, if we saw them on the street, we might shy away from, or at least look the other way. It also reminded me of the possibility (and hope) of the church providing a place that can be joy and solace to anyone who may walk through the doors. At least it's something I'd hope that the church could truly be.

Kathryn didn't go to the concert, since she was home preparing a feast (and it was a feast, since Kathryn is an excellent cook)
for a dinner with Gary and Maria and Birgit Hemberg. I walked with Birgit back from the church (the weather's turned colder again and apparently a storm is on the way--certainly the wind was blowing hard against us), and we spent an hour and a half or so visiting.

Gary and Maria, after going home and sorting out things with their boys, joined us around six and we had a delightful dinner. Again,terrific conversation and reminders about what wonderful friends we have here. Hard to believe we have only one more day.

Sunday dawned gray and rainy, although the sun came out in the afternoon and we had some beautiful views of Stockholm for our last day. Apparently the storm comes in tonight, so we hope no problems getting out of Arlanda Airport. A fair amount of time was spent cleaning, organizing and packing for the journey home, but we got to end our trip with a performance of the Mass in B Minor with Mikaeli Kammerkör, led by its founder and leader for many years, Anders Eby. The concert took place at Adolf Fredriks, where Anders Öhrwall did so many performances years ago (Anders was there and I got to say a brief hello) and where we heard Eric's Chamber Choir near the beginning of the trip

We also saw (surprise, surprise) Mark Lawlor, whom we met when I interviewed at ASU a number of years ago.Mark was here for a week's study tour. We also saw Bosse and Ingrid again, plus well-known Swedish baritone Håkan Hagegård.

The performance of the Bach was certainly a good one, so a perfect end to our trip. The choir and soloists were very good (especially countertenor Mikael Bellini), and the orchestra, too. Having worked on and off with period instrument ensembles, it makes certain kinds of balances much easier and more natural to achieve. They were working with Stockholms Barockorkester, which is a free-lance ensemble that plays with many choirs in town. The orchestra (with the exception of cellos and basses, of course) stood for the performance--fun to watch the concertmistress (who was great) and principal bassoon, both of whom moved with great freedom and joy. The trumpets were particularly good and the first trumpet amazing. They all played cleanly and accurately and with a fantastic tone quality that was extremely well-matched. Anders's tempos were quick, which occasionally led to a little muddiness in the church acoustic, but generally worked very well. The Bach is one of my favorite pieces--I sang it with Rilling in 1972 at the Oregon Bach Festival when it was only in its 3rd year (concerts in First Lutheran Church--no Hult Center), conducted it for the first time in 1975, which really cemented Seattle Pro Musica's existence, and just did it last season with Pro Coro for Good Friday. Again, I can't think of a nicer way to have ended our trip.

I can't say how fortunate we feel to have been able to spend this much time in Sweden, visit family in Norway, see so many good friends here in Stockholm and Uppsala, and hear so many rehearsals and performances, not to speak of working again with the Radio Choir

We particularly have to thank our most beautiful friend, Gunilla Luboff, who made it possible by lending us her lovely apartment in Stockholm. Many thanks, Gunilla!

Hope you've enjoyed the vicarious visit to the Swedish choral world as seen through our eyes and ears.

Stockholm 2007 - Weeks 5 & 6

March 12, 2007

Hi all,

Well it's been a good two weeks since I last wrote, but impossible for us to imagine that we have just one week left.

Our week in Kristiansand, Norway with Kathryn's sister and her family was a wonderful break. Amazingly, there was over a meter and a half of snow (over four and a half feet), a meter that fell before we left Stockholm and the rest over the next few days. Incredible! Heidi has lived in Kristiansand for 20 years now and had never seen such snow.

Kathryn's cold got worse, but at least we weren't doing a lot--visiting, eating, and walking into and around town once each day.

One evening was a dinner with Rolf Gupta, the conductor of the orchestra in Kristiansand (Heidi works in the administration), his son Petter (who is Christoffer's age--they both play guitar, so they were busy upstairs playing blues or working on Jimi Hendrix riffs), his assistant Line and her son Gabriel, who's five or six. Rolf is extremely bright, a terrific musician (child prodigy pianist and a conducting student of Jorma Panula, see below) who conducted the Radio Orchestra in Oslo for three years and is just about to head out to Holland and Switzerland to guest conduct, so it was a fun evening.

Another evening we got a preview of Trygve's duo piano recital (which was this past week) with his new duo-partner Karina Lervik, who's a master's student of his from Russia and a very fine pianist. The program included Grieg, Piazzola, Poulenc and a virtuosic sonata by Rachmaninoff. Great to hear Trygve enjoy working with his new partner so much in a beautiful program.



By the last few days the temperatures were above freezing, a little bit of rain, and the snow beginning to melt.

We came back Friday--a long trip, leaving at 9 AM, a 2-hour layover in Oslo (when we saw our nephew Kaare Øystein--Trygve's oldest son from his first marriage--and separately, his wife Ane, both of whom were nice enough to take a little time off work to visit us at the train station), then got back to the station in Stockholm shortly after 10 PM. The weather was much milder and almost all the snow is gone.

Saturday was a "catch-up" day of shopping and laundry, then Sunday welcomed us back to our usual Stockholm schedule with a bang. First, we had a delicious brunch at the apartment of a good friend of Gunilla's (whom we've met before in both Stockholm and Tacoma), Christina Björk, and her partner Erling Sandström. Christina is the head of the educational division between Swedish Television and Radio, and Erling is a television producer for the Save the Children foundation, just back from Yemen. Extraordinarily bright people and a great time.

From there, we had twenty minutes to walk quickly across the bridge and Gamla Stan (Old Town) back to St. Jacobs for a Mass at 3 PM. Gary's choir was doing an interesting mass--Missa Lorca--by Corrado Margutti, a young (b. 1974) Italian composer, commissioned by the St. Jacob's Chamber Choir. It sets texts by Lorca in place of the usual Latin ordinary and uses themes from Monteverdi's Missa in illo tempore. The premiere was last November, along with the Monteverdi Mass on which it's based, which Gary did by dividing the choir into one-on-a-part ensembles, each doing a different movement. The mass Sunday, with all psalms, hymns, liturgy, sermon and communion, was about an hour and three quarters long, but really enjoyable.

The day was capped off by a dinner party at Birgit Hemberg's with 11 people, including Gary Graden and his wife Maria. Birgit was for many years the editor in chief of Allt om mat (All about food), the leading cooking magazine in Scandinavia and, although retired, just finished co-editing the latest edition of Bonnier's cookbook, which would be the Nordic equivalent of the revised Joy of Cooking, so you can imagine the dinner was spectacular. What a way to be welcomed back to Stockholm!

Monday was my first day at the Musikhögskolan (MH or Royal College of Music). The Finnish conducting pedagogue, Jorma Panula, is now Professor of orchestral conducting in Stockholm, and I wanted to see him work. For those who don't know him, Panula was a legend at the Sibelius Academy in Helsinki, where from 1973-94 he trained the most successful generation of conductors that any one teacher has probably had: Esa-Pekka Salonen (LA Philharmonic), Sakari Oramo (who succeeded Simon Rattle in Birmingham), Jukka-Pekka Sarastre (who conducts the Stockholm Philharmonic this week and recently became leader of the Oslo Philharmonic), and Osmo Vänskä (who's in Minnesota), among others.

Cecilia Rydinger-Alin met me at the school and introduced me to Panula--Celilia teaches orchestral conducting part-time at MH and also administers the program (more about her later in the week). They are lucky to have a great relationship with the Radio Orchestra and also the orchestra in Norrköping, so the conductors in the masters and diploma program get to conduct professionals fairly regularly. I don't know of another place where this happens in quite the same way. Because of Panula, the school draws an international group of outstanding and experienced conducting students. This week, two of the conductors are doing the Nielsen Flute and Clarinet concertos with a chamber orchestra from the Radio Orchestra (strings 4-4-3-3-2 + necessary winds, brass, and percussion), plus other conductors doing a few other works.

The class at MH in the morning was with the solo flutist, a pianist playing reduction, Jorma playing whatever he felt was necessary from a minature score at another piano, and two of the conducting students (both Finnish) playing violin. Unfortunately, the clarinetist had a flight delay, so they only worked on the flute concerto today, plus another piece by Sibelius, with two different students. The conductor of the Flute concerto is a Korean woman, who'd previously studied in Berlin for four years and just began this year with Panula. However, it's not at all sure she'll be able to continue, as she just won the Solti competition and was also appointed assistant conductor (for two years) to James Levine with the Boston Symphony!

Panula doesn't make many comments, but stops if he feels she's missed something or has a tempo wrong. After a shortened class, I chatted with Cecilia a bit about the program and then made my way to the Radio, where the rehearsal was held in the late afternoon. The conductor did an excellent job and the flutist (a young professional) was excellent. Here, Panula makes even fewer comments, occasionally saying a word or two, allowing the student for the most part to run the rehearsal. The rest of the time was spent with other conductors, including one of the Finnish conductors who was working on a new piece (rather difficult) by a student composer at MH.

Tuesday was my 2nd day at MH, this time to visit Anders Eby's class (the masters students). Once a week they work with a paid vocal ensemble of 16, which includes 6 members of the Radio Choir, some of Eric's Chamber Choir, and others. It makes for an excellent and very quick ensemble with which to learn, to say the least. There are only 4 in the class, this year all non-Swedes (Norway, Germany, Slovenia, and Russia)--that's not unusual for Anders' class, which often has foreigners outnumbering Swedes. Anders also does lots of masterclasses throughout Europe (and shortly, in Beijing), so that's part of the reason so many come to Stockholm. Currently, they're working towards a concert on Thursday, so this is the last rehearsal other than an hour's dress rehearsal before the concert.

The level of the class is good, although not spectacular, and they're working this time on all fairly recent music, most by Swedish composers, including Anders Hultqvist, Kjell Perder (who was there to listen to his pieces) and two student composers (who were also there). Certainly this ensemble can do this kind of music in a very short period of time, so these conductors get experience with a repertoire that few American or Canadian conducting students could get in the same amount of time.

After the class Anders and I had lunch together and a good chance to talk more. He's been Professor at MH since 1994 and has an excellent perspective on the situation in Sweden--and says he is more optimistic than he was 5 years ago. I'll say a bit more about that later when I say something about current conditions of choral music in Sweden. It was a great discussion, however, including questions about (and greetings to) Pro Coro, since Anders is a past Artistic Director and guest conducted PC a year and a half ago.

Kathryn took the day to go to Haga Park, where she visited a really lovely butterfly house and Japanese garden, King's pavilion, etc.

Together we went Tuesday evening to a rehearsal at Konserthuset with OD and the Stockholm Philharmonic of Sibelius's Kullervo. As he's done for about 20 years, Anders Andersson did vocal warmups for the choir. Anders does very interesting vocalises with an intensely musical approach. Someone should bring him to North America for sessions at an ACDA or ACCC conference, regional convention, or perhaps an individual workshop. When rehearsals are in Uppsala, he also gives some voice lessons to members of OD (paid for by the choir).

Folke Alin then began the rehearsal, working on several spots (particularly on the Finnish, since it's difficult and calls for quite a different choral sound than Swedish) before Jukka-Pekka Sarastre came in for a brief piano rehearsal. At one point Folke asked for "ett Finnskt forte" (I think you can translate yourself). Then they went into the hall to rehearse with orchestra and soloists. Jukka-Pekka is an extraordinary conductor and knows this work cold ( he recorded the complete works of Sibelius twice with the Radio Symphony in Helsinki), and of course as a Finn, the text is also natural for him. He was in the same conducting class of Jorma Panula as Esa-Pekka Solonen and Sakari Oramo--it would have been daunting to be (one of) the "other" student(s) in that class! The orchestra and soloists were great and OD sounded very good, although Folke was a bit upset, saying they were missing almost 20 members tonight and he was afraid Jukka-Pekka would be disappointed. We'll hear the concert on Thursday, so will say more then.

Wednesday I spent some time at the Radio working on music for next week's rehearsals with the Radio Choir, while Kathryn went to the Asian Art Museum, a small but very high quality museum.

That evening we went back to Uppsala again, this time to attend a rehearsal of Cecilia Rydinger-Alin with her long-time choir (since 1988), Allmänna Sången. This is one of the oldest choirs in Uppsala, originally one of the student male choirs (as was OD), eventually becoming a mixed choir. Robert Sund preceeded Cecilia as conductor. The choir is close to 50 members and quite young, from 18-35 with an average age of about 25 or so, and changing a quarter or so of its membership each year (much like a college/university choir in North America). It's a very good amateur choir and have won several big European competitions. Tonight one of Eric's Chamber Choir's baritones, Ove Petterson, was working with the choir on vocal technique, so he did a long warm-up (about 35 minutes) and then Cecilia had him occasionally make comments during the rehearsal. They were working on one of the Stenhammar's 3 Choral Ballads, Rautavaara's Die Erste Elegie (which is challenging for almost any choir), a fun folk song setting by the Japanese composer Matsushita, and Bach Singet dem Herrn. As Cecilia said, they're about half way through the rehearsal period, so have some things well in hand and on others are still struggling--all of us know exactly what that's like! After rehearsal, we went back on the train with Cecilia and Ove and had a great conversation. Ove was in the Conservatory Chamber Choir with Eric when they were at PLU's summer workshop in 1988 and I've seen him in Eric's chamber choir on most of my other visits, although we'd never really sat down and talked. Cecilia I first met when Eric's choir was at PLU in 1984 (at the end of my first year there), but I really noticed her in 1987 when the Conservatory Chamber Choir was at IFCM in Vienna and she did a warm-up and rehearsal with the choir. Her conducting and music-making was SO musical and intense, it was great fun to watch. After finishing her diploma (master's degree level--there is no doctorate, but performance-wise it meets or exceeds US/Canadian doctorates) in choral conducting with Eric, she was (I believe) the first woman accepted into the orchestral conducting program. Following that she began a good free-lance career conducting both orchestra and opera. Since taking the position at MH (considered a 60% position), however, she does less free-lance work. She and Folke also have 3 children, 16, 14, and 6, so their lives (besides his work with OD Folke is one of the conductors and repetiteurs for the Royal Opera house) are full, to say the least. At any rate, it was simply great fun to connect again and watch her work.



Thursday was errands and score study during the day, but that evening we went to the Philharmonic concert. All I can say is WOW! What a terrific program and great concert. The first half was Stenhammar's Excelsior! (an overture about 15 minutes long) and Sculpture by Magnus Lindberg (about 25 minutes long). Lindberg is one of several interesting and successful Finnish composers (b. 1958) and this piece was written for the opening of Disney Hall for the LA Phil and Esa-Pekka Solonen, and dedicated to Frank Gehry, the architect of the hall (and also the Experience Music Project, for Seattleites reading this). It's a fascinating piece, written for a smaller string section (often playing divisi), quadruple winds, 4 trpts, 4 trmb, two tubas, lots of percussion, two pianos and two harps. Lindberg has a great orchestral imagination and the piece really "works." The orchestra (and Jukka-Pekka) gave a great performance of both pieces. After intermission was Sibelius' Kullervo, about 80 minutes long. Well, the orchestra just plain played the hell out of it (it's not easy) and OD sounded magnificent (and quite Finnish--very different than their usual sound--I can only imagine that Jukka-Pekka was very happy with them). The soloists were both Finnish and sang from memory: Jorma Hynninen was the baritone and Lili Paasikivi the mezzo. Both were excellent, but Lili was amazing--I'd go to hear her sing anything, anytime. Jukka-Pekka's conducting is dramatic, big, but always clear and always towards musical ends. Great fun to watch him. At any rate, a great evening.

Friday showed your correspondent isn't always too bright. I had the Vokalensemble from MH's concert listed on Friday on my calendar and, oddly, couldn't find them at MH! Of course, the concert was on Thursday and somehow I wrote it down wrong. Oh well. Kath (being more intelligent) spent the afternoon at the Modern Art Museum, which she said was really good, both their permanent collection and the current show of Robert Rauschenberg's works.

Friday evening we went to hear the Radio Orchestra, primarily because Truls Mørk was playing, as he's certainly one of the world's great cellists. Conductor for the evening was Eivind Aadland, who conducts the orchestra in Trondheim, Norway (and another student of Panula--is there a Scandianvian orchestral conductor who DIDN'T study with him?! I suppose it's like trying to find a Swedish conductor from several earlier generations who didn't study with Eric!). The program opened with Grieg's Ballad, a piano piece orchestrated by Geir Tveitt. Can't say either of us were too impressed with the orchestration--not really inspired. Mørk then played the Kurt Atterberg Cello Concerto. Atterberg (1887-1974) is a name I know--I mention him very briefly in the intro to my book--but I didn't really know any of his music. The work was written between 1918 and 1922, primarily in the predominant national romantic style. Mørk can certainly play--gorgeous tone and spot-on intonation. The piece, however, didn't ultimately excite me. Too much the same. The second half of the program, however, was another matter, with Nielsen's Symphony #3 (Sinfonia espansiva). The orchestra played beautifully. A nice end to the week.

A non-music-related note: There must be a population explosion in Stockholm! There are incredible numbers of baby carriages/prams and toddlers everywhere. It's interesting to see how many babies and children there are everywhere.

Saturday was a relaxing day--the weather turned beautiful and sunny, so we took a long walk, including City Hall where the Nobel prizes are awarded, and ate at a favorite restaurant on Gamla Stan)--and prep time for the rehearsals with the Radio. I should say something about my upcoming work with the Radio Choir. RK normally has four rehearsals per week: Monday 9:30-12:30, Wednesday 3:30-6:30, Thursday same, then Friday 9:30-12:30 again. As they build their season, they plan for "full" productions, which are public concerts, either part of the Radio's series, or sometimes outside productions which they perform for a festival or other outside sponsor. They also have to build in prep time for concerts with the orchestra (such as the Schumann Paradies und die Peri from the beginning of our visit). They also build in tours (they were in Japan earlier this year and did several concerts with Peter Dijkstra in September outside of Sweden). When all of this is done, they have some weeks "left over," and these often become short productions, which don't have enough rehearsal time or repertoire for a full public concert, so are rehearsed and then recorded for later broadcast. I was hired to do one of these short productions, conducting Reger's Acht Geistliche Gesänge and Vater unser (the Vater unser is a 20-minute setting for three choirs). However, this fall the orchestra appointed über-conductor Valery Gergiev (who has to have the most intensive schedule of any conductor alive--Google him and look at what he does) as Conductor Laureate, and as part of that, he's coming to Stockholm to do Act III of Parsifal with the Radio Orchestra and choir (plus the chorus from the Royal Opera) on Good Friday. Unfortunately, this pushed RK's schedule back into the period when I was to do my short production and it couldn't happen. Consequently, they asked if I'd be willing to do some prep rehearsals for them during that week. Of course, I said yes, since to stand in front of this choir is always worthwhile. So my four rehearsals are with an extreme mix of repertoire for various conductors and performances as follows:

Monday: Parsifal (for Gergiev's production--the Opera Chorus no doubt already knows it, so the two choirs will rehearse together closer to the production, or perhaps just a piano rehearsal with Gergiev, if that) and Beethoven (Choral Fantasy & the Gloria and Sanctus from the Mass in C), which is for the Mostly Mozart Festival in NY in August. Why they're doing only the Gloria and Sanctus, I have no idea! It seems odd to pay for RK and have them do only that much on a program, but . . .

Wednesday: Brahms Requiem, for a performance with a Spanish conductor and the orchestra in Norrköping. The choir is expanded to about 48 for this. Quite a few of the extras are new singers from recent auditions who haven't sung with RK before, so we'll see how that goes.

I should say that I have no markings from any of the conductors, so am preparing the choir blind (I'm afraid to say, I've done this too often before--would that orchestral conductors thought about markings for the choir as much as they think about having bowings for the strings in advance!). So, I'll make my best guesses, make decisions as I would for my own performances, and try to vary some tempi and rubati so the choir is flexible.

Thursday's and Friday's rehearsals are both for a performance in Saarbrücken in April or May with Peter Dijkstra, repeating repertoire they did in September with him. They have no rehearsal time with him before this concert (they'll meet him there), so these two rehearsals are to bring the repertoire back up to performance level. For this I DO have a recording from September, so I know what Peter did in terms of tempi, etc. The repertoire is: movements 1, 2, 5 & 6 of Otto Olsson's 6 Latin Hymns; Sven-David Sandström's Hear my prayer (it quotes Purcell's setting in its entirety first) & Singet dem Herrn (one of his newer motets, part of a series that sets exactly the same texts as Bach's motets, also using Bach's divisions of text into movements--this one is particularly virtuosic); Thomas Jennefelt's O Domine; Hillborg's mouyuoum; and Jan Sandström's Gloria. That's a lot to cover in two rehearsals (not that the Brahms Requiem in one rehearsal is luxurious!), even if they know the repertoire. I suspect they will need most time on Sven-David's Singet and the Hillborg, but we'll see. I'll have to play it by ear. Sven-David will be at the rehearsals, so that should be interesting, too.

Ought to be fun!

Sunday dawned another beautiful sunny day (and stayed that way until mid-afternoon when it clouded over), so we had another nice walk in the city between rehearsal prep times, then headed to the Maria Church for a concert at 6 with the Bach Choir. The Bach Choir was founded in 1964 by Anders Öhrwall to specialize in baroque music. They developed a great reputation for their performances of Bach and the Nicholas Harnoncourt recording of the Bach motets with them lists him as the conductor, but he actually played cello and Öhrwall conducted--Öhrwall later told me that Harnoncourt only wanted one thing changed from the way they did the motets--with the exception of that one spot he kept the same tempi, same phrasing, everything! When I visited Sweden for the first time in 1989 the Bach Choir was my favorite choir to listen to in rehearsal--amazing energy in their phrasing and a fresh, vital sound. Maria Södersten, Gary Graden's wife, sang with the Bach Choir at that time and still doe s. Öhrwall developed an unique way of notating his phrasing and this was communicated to choir and instrumentalists alike. Öhrwall also followed Eric as Chief conductor of the Radio Choir (1983-85) and this was NOT a big success--he had a non-traditional conducting technique (although he communicated just fine with his repertoire) and the romantic and contemporary repertoire that were RK's specialties were not his, so it wasn't a good fit. The second time I watched Öhrwall work, he'd had a stroke, which affected both his playing (he led rehearsals from the keyboard) and his speech. The choir's energy and enthusiasm was still the same, however. The choir was also "resident" at Adolf Fredriks Church up until 1999, when their connection with that church was broken (they were always known inside Sweden as Adolf Fredriks Bachkör). One must remember that the choir got considerable financial support from the church and a home to rehearse and perform, so this loss was considerable. They had brief relationships with other churches, but are now a "free-standing" ensemble. Fredrik Malmberg led them briefly, and then Mats Nilsson took charge in 2003, when he returned to Sweden from Australia. Mats sang with the choir for several years in the 1990s and had also guest-conducted them on a number of occasions, so was well-known by the choir. The choir is, in a sense, in rebuilding mode, replacing some older members as they retire with younger ones, and exploring new modes of support.

The concert began with Poulenc's Lenten motets. The church has a very reverberant acoustic, so these were probably the most successful pieces on the program. They were followed by Arvo Pärt's Sieben Magnificat-Antiphonen, then the Mendelssohn Organ Sonata in B-flat Major. Then the major work of the evening, Domenico Scarlatti's Stabat Mater for 12 voices, cello, bass, and organ. Mats used soloists part of the time and full chorus the rest of the time. The choir did a nice job with all the repertoire. Audience was small (ca. 100-125) but enthusiastic.

So ended our next-to-last week in Stockholm. Still hard to believe that our trip is almost over--it's gone incredibly quickly.

Stockholm 2007 - Week 4

February 23, 2007

Hi all,

This report will be a bit shorter: only 4 days this week, since we leave on Friday for Kristiansand, Norway to visit Kathryn's youngest sister and her family, but also because we both managed to catch colds and need a little down time.

Monday we went to a rehearsal with Eric's Chamber Choir for the Brahms Requiem, which they will do with the Stockholm Philharmonic. For several years the Chamber Choir has been associated with the Philharmonic, giving some concerts of their own on Konserthusets (Concert House's) series, but also providing the chorus for major works. In this case, the choir (usually 32) was expanded to 60. Some of you may know that for a number of years the Radio Choir and Chamber Choir combined quite regularly, particularly for performances in Berlin with the Berlin Philharmonic, but also for performances with Muti in Italy, and various tours to Japan, as well as with the Radio Orchestra when they needed an expanded choir. When the Chamber Choir began their relationship with Konserthuset, this became more difficult, with separate schedules. So, for example, RK for the Schumann added members from the Royal Opera Chorus, some former RK members, and some freelancers. For the Chamber Choir, it is much the same, but drawing perhaps more on young singers from Stockholm, some who sing with one of the other chamber choirs in the city.

Arne Almroth, a former singer with the Chamber Choir who now free- lances as a conductor (often in Norway with the Oslo Philharmonic Choir and Trondheim Symphonic Choir), was preparing the choir, although we sat with Eric, who attended this rehearsal. Arne was also leading the rehearsal I mentioned last week. As I noted before, the Chamber Choir is having various guest conductors in addition to Eric, and others do all the prep for this kind of work. Tonight he had a short rehearsal with the choir to touch up a few spots before their piano rehearsal with the conductor of the performance, Marc Soustrot, a French conductor who's worked in Bonn (Generalmusikdirektor) and now in Holland. The piano rehearsal with Soustrot was fairly short, as he seemed very pleased with what the choir did, and didn't rehearse all sections of the piece, just setting the character he wanted in particular places. During the break we had a lovely conversation with Erika Tordéus, a young Swedish singer with the Chamber Choir who worked with Simon Carrington at NEC--Simon had alerted us to her presence (and her to ours).



Tuesday was the dress rehearsal (the only rehearsal) with the orchestra (Soustrot had one rehearsal with the orchestra the previous day), a long one, with an hour from 4:15-5:15 PM to rehearse sections of the piece, establish balances, etc., then a 45 minute break, then two more hours. Kath stayed home and Eric and I stayed through about half of the second rehearsal. The choir sounded excellent, although not yet as uniform as one might want--remembering that there were 28 extra singers absorbed into the Chamber Choir--yet still terrific. The orchestra was very fine, particularly the strings, with aterrific concertmaster. Interesting to watch Soustrot work after so recently having watched Harding--Harding was so much more demanding of detail, color, and phrase shape. Hard to know with Soustrot whether it was lack of time or if he was satisfied with what he heard. Henriette Bonde-Hansen, a Danish soprano, was fine, although not outstanding, but Peter Mattei, the Swedish baritone, was simply amazing. I've heard him before on recordings, but this was the first time live, and his resonance, beauty of tone, projection, diction, and artistry are top notch. At times his voice reminded me of Fischer-
Dieskau, but he certainly stands on his own as an artist.

Tuesday was also the coldest day since we'd been here, -13 C for our Canadian friends, down into the high single digits for all Fahrenheit folks. It had warmed up over the weekend and most of the snow had melted, but it began to get cold again and to snow again on Monday.

Wednesday I attended a bit of Fredrik Malmberg's dress rehearsal with RK, only about an hour and a half, since it began at 4 PM and we had to get to Konserthuset for the Brahms performance that evening. The rehearsal was a bit disorganized, since they were for the first time sorting out set up for the Berio, so about 20 minutes were spent getting the 32 singers into a single row, getting mics (not one for each singer) set (since it was being amplified), etc. The rest of that rehearsal had Fredrik rehearsing sections with the various smaller groups of the choir working and a few sections with the full choir. Much of the piece was sounding incomparably better. It's a fascinating work, but I remain convinced it's probably best with 8 solo voices on mic, as originally intended. However, tomorrow's concert may change my mind when I hear the whole thing. I didn't get to hear much more, as an early break was taken while setting up for the gamba and chittarone for Gesualdo and Monteverdi.

That evening was then the Brahms (the only work on the progam), which went very well, especially from the choir and from Mattei. Soustrot has a very busy, fussy conducting technique, which to my mind got in the way more than it helped. However, the choir sounded magnificent and unified, and got the best ovation of the night . . . except when the conductor had Eric rise from the audience. Just terrific.

Thursday was a down day for Kath, as she felt fairly miserable with the cold, however we both went to RK's concert at 6 PM that evening. The concert went quite well, opening with the Rossini, followed by the Petrassi. After this a trio of men, along with organ (Fredrik playing), theorbo and gamba, accompanied one of the altos of the choir in Monteverdi's Lamento della ninfa, sung truly gorgeously. After this, two madrigals of Gesualdo, then a piece by Diego Ortiz for solo gamba, baroque guitar, and organ. Spectacular gamba playing. Early music is really Fredrik's specialty, and these were all beautifully done. Then the Berio Cries of London, which also went very well. It worked quite well having some sections for solo voices or small ensembles and a few sections with the full choir, although I'll have to go back and listen to the Swingle version (which I haven't heard since the late 70's, I'm sure) to compare. I also seem to remember the Swingle singers doing with much stronger cockney accents and more variety of tone color (which Berio asks for in the score)--it could certainly have had more character, I think. They closed with Fuoco di gioia from Verdi's Otello. Afterwards there was a brief little party with wine and beer, since it is Fredrik's birthday, then I went upstairs with the altos, who had a session for the "Friends of the Radio," a group of about 50 people. The altos sang Italian solos and duets, answered questions (what is your background? how much do you rehearse? how do you get that sound?), and closed with a lovely version of 'Volare!' Great fun.

After a walk home and brief stop to check email, we discovered a phone message from Kathryn's sister: "Wear warm clothes!" Apparently it snowed over 3 feet in Kristiansand yesterday and will snow at least another foot tonight. So we should have quite a scenic trip.



It's now Saturday and we're sitting in Heidi and Trygve's living room, Christoffer playing a video game and looking at the snow continuing to fall. The train trip yesterday was long (left at 8:30 AM from Stockholm, arrived Oslo shortly after 3, changed trains and got into Kristiansand shortly before 8 PM, but a very pretty trip. Kind of a milk run with lots of stops! It'll be longer before the next report, since we're here for the week, so about 2 weeks from now.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Stockholm 2007 - Week 3

February 19, 2007
Stockholm, Sweden

Week 3

Monday was another rehearsal with Fredrik Malmberg and RK. This rehearsal was more focused, the first hour and a half being spent on the Petrassi Nonsense songs. For those who don't know this set, these are challenging and the entire time was spent rehearsing slowly and softly to lock in tuning. Certainly those of you who know the Swedish choirs have heard their fantastic intonation--this isn't the only reason it's so good (superb matching of vowels and control of vibrato are a huge part), but a willingness to patiently work at slow tempi and softly (so one can hear!) to lock tuning is another important part. After the break, the rest of the time was spent on Luciano Berio's 'Cries of London.' This is an immensely challenging piece, with many sections being done by either solo singers or part of the choir (first written for the King's Singers, it was revised in an 8-voice version and performed by the London version of the Swingle Singers, who did quite a bit of Berio's music), so it's the most complicated to rehearse. More on that for Wednesday's rehearsal. Kathryn isn't attending many of these rehearsals, but writing, drawing and doing her own exploring of Stockholm during this time.

Tuesday morning I had a lovely meeting with composer Thomas Jennefelt. Thomas has written some wonderful choral music (many will remember his dramatic 'O Domine') and it was good to catch up with him on his latest activities. Thomas has also long been associated with Eric's Chamber Choir, first as a singer (he is a fine baritone) and then as the choir's President. It's a challenge to maintain such a professional choir as a free-lance ensemble and the board is dealing with the eventual transition, post-Eric. They already have fairly regular guest conductors with the choir--Fredrik will do a production of French baroque music with them later this year, and the Dutch conductor Daniel Reuss (who was conductor for several years of Berlin's RIAS Chamber Choir) will do a performance of Stravinsky's Les Noces. They also are the resident choir at the Stockholm Philharmonic's concert hall, not only giving some of their own performances there, but providing the choir for major works--we'll he ar a Brahms Requiem with an expanded version of them there next week. But the survival of the Chamber Choir once Eric is gone is not a given, and something for real concern.

That evening we went to Uppsala to hear a rehearsal of Orphei Drängar, the truly wonderful male choir. OD, as it's called, constituted the "bookends" for my first visit to Sweden for the month of April in 1989: when I first arrived, Eric was doing a short tour with them, so I was invited along--they put me up in the same hotels, I ate meals with the choir, attended their rehearsals and concerts, etc. And at the end of the month of April were the 1st of May celebrations, which in a northern country are a major event heralding spring and the end of short and cold days. Uppsala, about 45 minutes north of Stockholm, is really a university town, and the university is one of the oldest in Europe. So at the end of that month I was the guest of Eric and Monica at a number of events: sherry at the university's magnificent library, after which the President of the University goes out on the balcony to announce to thousands of congregated students that spring has officially begun (after which there is massive partying); OD's spring concert, or Serenade, which is a relatively light program, followed by a dinner (constantly interrupted by traditional Swedish songs which they all know by heart, each accompanied by a toast and tossing down a 'snaps' with a beer chaser--famous Swedish baritone Håkan Hagegård and his girlfrind at the time, American soprano Barbara Bonney were also guests); and dinner at the castle with the governor and about 15 other people. Kathryn also visited an OD rehearsal with me on our first visit to Sweden together after we got married in 1996 and attended (and sang along at!) the 'old boys' luncheon-reunion in 2002, so for both of us OD has much resonance and good memories!

It also began to snow heavily when we arrived in Uppsala for the Tuesday OD rehearsal (we got there around 4), so we ended up eating dinner at a pub ("An English Pub with an Indian Kitchen") and enjoyed chicken tikka masala while watching the snow fall. We then walked through the snow (which was about 6 inches deep) past the Cathedral, which looked fantastic in the light with the snow falling, and over to the Hugo Alfvén Hall, which is a really wonderful rehearsal room belonging to OD. We were greeted by several different people, given copies of the music, and also chatted with Fredrik Wetterqvist, who was the cultural attaché to the ambassador in Canada and came out from Ottawa to a Pro Coro concert one year. He's now Director of the Department of Press Info and Cultural Affairs for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

At any rate, the rehearsal was the third one (out of about 8) for Mats Nilsson, who is one of three candidates to succeed Robert Sund when he retires in 2008. The other two are Folke Alin, who is the long-time accompanist and assistant conductor for OD, and Folke's wife, Cecilia Rydinger-Alin--I don't know how they're dealing with that one between them! It was also interesting that Folke (who, with Cecilia, are part of the same "generation" as Mats--really the last generation from Eric's time teaching at the conservatory--and are mid- to late-40s) was accompanying the rehearsal. I was a bit surprised that they wouldn't have another accompanist for both Mats and Cecilia's concerts, but not so. Mats' program is one of the more serious ones of the year for OD, and a challenging program, with music by Ligeti, Lidholm, Jan Sandström, Javier Busto, etc., plus traditional Swedish music such as that of Hugo Alfvén, the conductor of OD before Eric took over in 1951. It's always interesting to hear work in progress, so the famous OD sound was not always in evidence as they worked on difficult and unfamiliar music--one has to remember that this is an amateur choir, although an extraordinarily good one--but will certainly be there once they really know the music. It's truly a gorgeous sound. If you get a chance to hear them on their North American tour in October/November 2008 (Robert's swan song), don't miss it. They're hoping to have a concert in Edmonton, already have one set in Vancouver, B.C., would like one in the Seattle/Tacoma area, and should be in San Francisco and Los Angeles as well.

Wednesday was another RK rehearsal, much of the time with small groups of the choir rotating between several rooms and conductors working on different music from the program, Fredrik working on the Berio, of course. Fredrik asked me to be one of the conductors tomorrow, so I'm not sure exactly what piece or pieces I'll be working on, but will find out and do my best to help out. Afterwards we met with Gunnar Andersson for dinner. It was (as always with Gunnar) a wide-ranging discussion about music and choirs. Gunnar was for many years the Producer for the Radio Choir, not only doing organizational work, but producing and editing recordings (he has a fantastic ear and knowledge of repertoire) and being intensely involved with the artistic planning of the choir. He's also a fine singer, who sang with both the Chamber and Radio Choirs and a small male ensemble called the Lamentabile Consort (Gary Graden was also a member). Since leaving the Radio, Gunnar is working some with Eric Westberg in Piteå in the north of Sweden, as a free-lance producer for Eric's Chamber Choir and others in Sweden, Denmark and elsewhere, and singing with various choirs on a free-lance basis as well. We spent a lot of time discussing the very real challenges facing Swedish choral life right now and Gunnar is a bit pessimistic. I can't argue, as I've seen some of the evidence myself during this visit, but more about that when I've had more time to hear and process more. There is certainly a risk that the "Swedish Choral Miracle" I wrote of is in danger, at least in part.

Thursday was work with RK; for the first hour and a half I worked a half hour each with 3 different octets from the choir, primarily on two movements of the Petrassi Nonsense for better pitch accuracy, but also on the Rossini Toast pour le nouvel an just to drill a bit and make the French flow better (Fredrik has asked them to sing this one from memory as well, so they need the repetition). The RK singers are great to work with and it was nice to help out in whatever way I could. The rest of the rehearsal was about one half hour on one movement of the Berio, which is starting to come together very nicely. Fredrik has also brought in a stage director friend who will do some work on staging the pieces in a more dramatic way. Should be fun! The last half hour was spent on some smaller repertoire, so I went next door to listen to the rehearsal for the Brahms Requiem with Eric's Chamber Choir (expanded to 60 voices). The rehearsal was led by one of the basses in the choir and not a lot of rehearsal was needed, since most of the choir has sung it many times, and they should sound magnificent.

Friday we went to Uppsala for a day-long workshop with the title, "Swedish Choirs will Sing -- But What?" Organized by Stefan Parkman (former conductor of the Danish Radio Choir, Swedish Radio Choir, and a guest conductor with professional choirs all across Europe) and Gunnel Fagius (a musicologist) of the Choral Centre at the University, in a way it was to explore where Swedish choirs have been and where they might be going. Kath was going to spend most of the day wandering through town and took off for her own adventures. The workshop opened with Stefan doing an interview with Eric about his role in Swedish choral life. I should also say that the workshop was all done in Swedish (of course), which meant that I had to really concentrate to follow the discussions. With someone like Eric, I could understand about 75-80% of what he was saying, since I knew most of it already (context is everything). With a few others later, I would say more like 50% or less, particularly as the day w ent on and I got tired! Following a brief break, Gunnel followed the same procedure with Gunnar Eriksson. Gunnar is now 70, although one wouldn't know it: I hadn't seen him since the summer of 1990, when I did the bulk of my research for the dissertation and he looked little changed. Gunnar lives near Gothenburg, on the Swedish West Coast, and I spent 3 days with him at that time, exploring the music of Swedish West Coast composers during the day and going to a local jazz festival at night. While Gunnar studied with Eric, he has never really cared about the "Swedish sound," but developed a unique way of programming, with improvisations connecting different works, and has many arrangements of both old music new, plus a method of improvising in a contemporary style. He's also been influenced by jazz (which many Swedes love), the music of Macedonia and Cuba, the music of the Danish composer, Per Nørgård, and expressed those over the years with his old Gothenburg Chamber Choir and his still-current 12-voice Rilke Ensemble. He gives very popular workshops, not only in Sweden, but all over Europe and also in Cuba and South America on his way of teaching a choir to improvise. It was also great to talk to him at the break and catch up with what he's doing. Just before the break, one of the highlights of the day was Gunnar and Eric sitting down at the piano, Gunnar playing secondo and Eric playing primo (as Eric said, "my left hand doesn't work so well anymore"), improvising a jazz version of "The Sunny Side of the Street." If you've ever seen Eric in his heyday, you know that watching him sit down at the piano during a rehearsal break, improvising jazz, is a very special thing to hear!



During lunch I got a chance to greet other old friends who were there: Bo Johansson (conductor of the Adolf Fredriks Girl Choir--we'd heard Bo had a mild stroke about a month ago and were happy to see that he seemed almost unaffected), Anders Colldén (who had a much more serious stroke about a year ago--Anders taught conducting at the Conservatory and was a church musician at the Oskar Church), Anders Eby (who is Professor for choral conducting at the Conservatory and long-time conductor of the Mikaeli Chamber Choir), Gunnar Andersson, and others. Afterwards, there was a panel discussion, with Anders, Bo, and six others (conductors, a journalist, composer, etc.) each offering their perspective on where Swedish choral music might be going, with discussion afterwards by the audience as well. This was where (especially after Anders and Bo spoke), my comprehension went down to 50% or less, as discussions went further afield and I got tired. Stefan also asked me to come up and say a few words from my own perspective, which I did very briefly (and in English). The day ended with Eric conducting everyone in a Swedish standard, David Wikander's "Kung Liljekonvälje." We ended up on the train home with the "Bo Club," Bo Johansson, Bo Nilsson (a composer) and Bo Ejeby (a publisher who has in his catalogue, among other things, all of Gunnar's music). We sat with Bo Johansson and had a very short trip back to Stockholm, as Bo is great fun to talk with, and caught up on what we've been doing.



Saturday was a wonderful concert at St. Jacob's with Gary Graden (as singer/MC), Steve Dobrogosz (jazz pianist and composer), Anders Paulsson (soprano sax and composer), and Sebastian Rilton (vocal percussion/bass/arranger and leader of "Rilton's Vänner" or Rilton's Friends, an excellent 5-voice vocal jazz ensemble a la the Real Group). This was Gary stepping out of his usual role as conductor and putting together a program (called "Sing Along") with his friends, which included spirituals (for example, Gary and Sebastian did a great riff off of Moses Hogan's "I'm gonna sing 'til the spriit moves in my heart"), some of Steve's original compositions (including 3 great gospel songs), other original pieces, and lots of audience participation, including teaching the audience to sing (and move to) a South African song. If you heard Gary's choir in Minneapolis at IFCM, the spiritual at the end where Gary did the solo gives you an idea of his style (or for my Pro Coro friends, who got to experience Gary as a guest conductor last year). It was a fun, involving concert--definitely not usual St. Jacob's fare--and the audience of something over 300 loved it. An experiment that was a big success. As Gary said, he may do a piece or two at the end of a Jacobs concert where we can "let down our hair," but has never done a whole program like this one. Great fun and I'm sure different versions of it will happen again in the future.

Later that evening was a great party at Gary and Maria's house (a little outside Stockholm), with a lot of their friends, including all the performers, and people of all ages from a girl about 5 years old who charmed everyone, to Gary and Maria's own kids, children of friends and neighbors, and all the rest of us. A party at Gary's and Maria's always has music, so it began with Bo Hansson (a composer and classical guitar teacher who's written several pieces for Gary's choir) doing three guitar duos with Eric (never got his last name), a guitarist originally from Holland who settled in Sweden some time ago. They're preparing for a Swedish Radio production and played some Sweelinck transcriptions (by Eric), an original piece by Bo, and a Fauré transcription.

After that it was dinner, a marvelous Boeuf Bourguignon prepared by Maria, Gary, and mutual friend Joy Hill from England. Joy being there was serendipitous for us, as we met her for the first time at a party at Gary's during our visit in 2002, when Joy came to Sweden for the first time because of an interest in Swedish choral music and the symposium given by Gary, Eric and me in Uppsala. We became good friends and visited Joy and her family when we traveled to London in 2004 and I did a master class at Roehampton Univeristy (where Joy taught at the time). Joy also conducts the Chamber Choir of the prep department at the Royal College of Music and had been doing some workshops in Lithuania (she's done a lot in the Baltics since 2004) and was coming home--Gary convinced her to stop over in Stockholm on her way home. It was the first time we'd seen her in person since 2004, so a great thing for all of us.



After dinner, Gary instigated more music, including the two of us singing some Stephen Foster songs (wow, the original lyrics are incredibly racist!), Steve Dobrogosz accompanying Gary doing Randy Newman (and Gary does a pretty fine Randy Newman impression), and also Steve accompanying one of the boys, around 15 or so, in "Bridge over Troubled Water" (how many 15 year-old boys do you know who'd stand up in front of a group of adults and kids his own age and do that?). Anyway, simply a marvelous evening and we were the last to leave at 2 in the morning, taking a cab back to our apartment.



Sunday was a lazy day early (partly because of getting to bed around 3), followed by an absolutely amazing dinner prepared by Eva Wedin at her apartment in Bromma (a suburb where I lived during the summer of 1990, when I did most my research) along with Arne Lundmark (manager of the Radio Choir) and his wife, Birgit. Another great evening with lots of conversation about a wide variety of topics.

Anyway, we're blessed to have amazing friends here in Sweden. The coming week (and report) will be shorter, as we leave Friday for a week in Kristiansand, Norway for a visit with Kathryn's youngest sister, Heidi, and her family. Heidi did a study abroad program in her next-to-last year as a Norwegian studies major and ended up meeting her future husband, Trygve Trædal, there; he teaches piano at the Conservatory in Kristiansand. So Heidi's lived in Norway nearly 20 years and they have two really wonderful teenagers, Elisabeth and Christoffer. I actually knew Heidi before I knew Kathryn, as she was a student at PLU my first couple of years and went on one Choir of the West tour when we took a chamber orchestra (she's a violinist).