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Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Sweden – Uppsala, Orphei Drängar and Robert Sund – Part 2

Gunilla met us at the apartment early Friday afternoon to drop a few things off, since she was going back home directly from Uppsala. We caught the train to Uppsala and who would we see when we got settled, but Diane and Dick Loomer! We had a wonderful time catching up during the trip. Diane has been co-conductor (with Morna Edmonson) of the women’s choir Elektra in Vancouver B.C. for 20 years and is founder/conductor of the men’s choir, Chor Leoni. She and Dick also run a small publishing company dedicated to Canadian choral works, Cypress Music, well worth checking out. Dick and Diane are both delightful people and the time passed quickly.

The weather, by the way, has been beautiful, with lots of sunshine. After checking in at the hotel we made plans for dinner. When we came downstairs, Jerry McCoy (head of the choral program at the University of North Texas and President-Elect of ACDA) had just arrived, so he joined us for dinner. A great time with great people.

The next morning we met Lawrence Cherney for breakfast—Lawrence is Artistic Director for Soundstreams in Toronto. Pro Coro has taken part in several Soundstreams events and we wanted to talk about possible future collaborations. Ágnes came down for breakfast as well. At 11 AM we met to rehearse a Schubert song (including some different words wishing Robert a happy birthday) that we were singing at the dinner, so met all the others at that time. Philip Brunelle led the rehearsal—I have to say, we were a pretty motley choir! Afterwards we all had lunch, joined by Karl Eric and Margareta.

After a bit of a break, we dressed and left for the concert. There was an almost full house, with most of the “veteran” members of OD who were attending wearing tails, as is traditional for the dinner (their wives in evening dresses). The concert itself was great and Robert chose a program with some of the pieces that will be on the tour program next fall, traditional Swedish male choir repertoire, plus guests Lena Willemark (a marvelous singer who does a wide variety of styles from folk to jazz to “kulning”—the high, loud singing originally designed to call the cows home), Claes Janson (a fabulous blues/jazz singer), and jazz piano trio, Trio X.

Besides traditional Swedish male chorus songs, the classical repertoire included Bob Chilcott’s 5 Ways to Kill a Man, Anders Hillborg’s male chorus version of muo:ayiy:oum, Toivo Kuula’s Iltapilviä, and Murray Schafer’s Magic Songs, commissioned by OD some years ago. Magic Songs is a challenging set (I’ve done the mixed voice version with Pro Coro) and OD did them from memory with choreography—very impressive! There were also songs by Lena and Claes, duets with the two of them, a solo performance by the trio, and Robert joining Lena on Ale Möller’s Tango vid midnatt on accordion (a talent I didn't know he had, but I'm not surprised!). There were also speeches and the presentation of a medal to Robert by the President of the University. Great fun, the choir sounded wonderful, and the program was followed by at least three encores.

During the second half of the program it was arranged to have spotlights on all of us so that Robert could finally see the “secret guests.” It took a minute for him to finally realize who was there—he said he first saw Steen, who’s very tall—and he was genuinely surprised and delighted. In his own speech, he broke into English momentarily to great his “friends from abroad.” Believe me, it was our pleasure!

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