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Monday, April 7, 2008

Sweden - April 2-7

Last week was mostly taken up with rehearsals with RK. As outlined earlier, Tu-Wed-Thurs were working on Verdi Quattro Pezzi Sacri (what gorgeous pieces and RK can make a wonderful sound on them) and the Pizzetti Requiem (another gorgeous piece--mostly review and help for those 4 or 5 singers who didn't do the Pizzetti on their recent production with the Latvian Radio Choir, plus giving them Peter's markings).

Rehearsals went generally well, although for whatever reason the men struggled with the opening of the Te Deum, particularly singing it in tune. Since on Wednesday I let the men go early so I could work for the last half hour on Laudi alla Vergine, I let the women go early on Thursday to work with the men on the opening. Better, but not yet where it should be. I'll have one more rehearsal on May 14 (a long way off) on this repertoire before they head for Holland to do it with Nederlands Kamerkoor and Peter Dijkstra.

Friday was rehearsal on Werle's trees and Sandström's April och Tystnad. The Sandström is gorgeous, slow (except for one short section), and was great fun to do, since I hadn't conducted it before. If you don't know the Werle, do get to know it! You can find Eric Ericson's recording here. It's a setting of 4 ee cummings' texts for choir, octet, and baritone solo, virtuosic and great fun. Werle worked for a period as a dance-band pianist and his knowledge of this "American" style is integrated wonderfully into the piece. It's difficult, though, and we spent a lot of time repeating some sections to get pitches and ensemble down. There are still a few places needing work, but hopefully we got a lot done for this program, which Peter will begin rehearsing this week.

Also on Friday evening, I went to the airport to meet Kathryn, who was scheduled to get in at 9:30 PM, but was delayed until around 10 PM. Given the fact that she was on British Air going through the new Terminal 5 at Heathrow, which had a disastrous opening the week before, we were both happy that she came that close to being on time and with all her luggage! She'd slept for about 6 hours on the Seattle to London leg, so was surprisingly rested.

Saturday (after a fairly lazy morning) we went to another Sjung Med! (Sing With!) concert at St. Jacobs with Gary Graden. This was an expansion into new repertoire of the same group that has been doing the Folkjul concerts I wrote of earlier. Again, it was organist Gunnar Idenstam, violinist Lisa Rydberg, with Gary conducting an octet from the Chamber Choir. Most of the music was Bach (some organ music, the Bourée from the violin partita in E major, "Zion hört die Wachter singen" from Cantata 140, several chorales from Johannespassion, a couple of minuets, etc.), some familar hymns with the audience singing, and a great improvisation by Idenstam at the end. Gary leads the singing with infectious joy and the audience (the church probably 2/3ds full) was really responsive.

Lisa is a wonderful player (as I'd mentioned before, besides her specialities in folk music, she also plays baroque violin with various groups around Sweden) and her takes on Bach offer the kind of HIPP (Historically informed performance practice) one might expect (although on a modern fiddle and bow), but with the addition of folk influences and ornamentation. She has a website, but it's fairly out of date. Gunnar Idenstam is a wonderful player and, as you'll see from his website, very busy!

At any rate, a wonderful hour or so of music.

Sunday was another relatively slow day, but then Gary picked us up around 5 to go out to their home for a walk and dinner. The four of us took a great walk around the neighborhood (which is close by an arm of the Baltic Sea) then came back in time to go pick up their youngest son, Philip, who had a football game and practice that day. Their older son, Johan, was busy at home editing some electronica music that he'll be doing at a club in Oslo with two other friends. Maria made a fantastic soup, which we all had with crayfish to spread on top, a salad and wonderful bread. It was followed with a dense, gooey, chocolate torte, fruit and ice cream. Decadent doesn't begin to describe it! At any rate, we had a marvelous evening with good friends, conversation and food.

Monday was another slow day, with some score study and a few errands. One of the errands was to go to the train station to buy tickets for our visit to Kathryn's youngest sister, Heidi, husband Trygve, and children Elisabeth and Christoffer, in Kristiansand, Norway. We leave Thursday and come back Monday--not a long enough visit, but the time we could afford, given other commitments. It'll be a great time.

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