Better than Eurovision

We were driving around Skania, looking at churches and castles and stuff and hit Dalby just after 3 pm. There were lots of young people rushing into the church, we thought there might be a wedding or something. But it was a choir, rehearsing for an evening recital.

About 25 young people, men and women, were practicing a gospel-sounding song that I had never heard before. They were so enthusiastic and the director, a very young man, was so energetically pulling sound from them and weaving an amazing song that we sat, fascinated. After a short deliberation over coffee we decided to skip attending the church service in Lund and instead go listen to this choir.

We got there early, but there was already a line. We managed to get seats rather far in the front, I was actually able to see the score, as I was just behind the elbow of the conductor. The choir, called Mixtum, presented a very varied program: Entire choir, women's choir, men's choir, solos, duetts, quartet, accompanied at various times by organ, piano, flute, guitar, djemba, tambourine - or just a capella.

They started with some standard Bach and a bit of Mozart and Purcell, then they sang a song that one of the conductors, Henrik Dahlgren, had composed. He arranged much of the gospel songs they sang later on in the program. My absolute favorite was the one we had heard during their practice: Days of Elijah, by Robin Mark. They were singing without a score, focused completely on Dahlgren, who was playing them like an instrument: louder, softer, repeat, modulate up, modulate back down. He had the whole church clapping along to the very catchy rhythm.

They closed with Ernst Toch's Geographical Fuge which was just hilarious! Time had just flown by, they had presented for over an hour and a half - and as the other conductor said: Hey, we could sing for 2 more hours if you would sit still for it. I believe her, they were so enjoying singing.

Much better than the songs of the Eurovision, and I'm so glad to see young people making music instead of just pushing buttons on a machine.


The Deep

The small movie theater across from the Cathedral in Lund had decided to extend the Icelandic film Djúpið (The Deep) for another week, so we were able to see it in original with Swedish subtitles. It is a film by Baltasar Kormákur, the Icelandic filmmaker who made the cult film 101 Reykjavik, among others.

It is a simple story - and a true one, apparently. Kormákur uses the first 3.5 minutes to check off all of the things that an Icelandic film must have: drunks; vomiting; pissing; gorgeous landscape of the Vestmannaeyjar (Westmann Islands); fighting over a girl. With that out of the way we see the hungover crew of a fishing boat take to the seas. They catch some fish, and have one bout of the nets getting caught on a jagged stone. They manage to free it, but soon the nets again get caught and the boat is threatening to sink. One of the sailors insists on cutting the net - the captain won't hear of it, as it is a brand-new net.

And so, the ship sinks.

Three of the crew die right away, two soon after. One guy, Gulli, solidly portrayed by Ólafur Darri Ólafsson, decides to swim to shore - a distance of about three sea miles or 6 kilometers. He starts swimming, and a sea gull decides to accompany him. He keeps swimming, and eventually reaches a rocky shore. But the cliffs are so steep - there is nothing else to do but to go back into the water and swim around the tip of the island to a place where he can draw himself up.

He walks over sharp lava in the freezing air back to town and collapses at the door of the first house. He is treated in the hospital, and then subjected to tests - how could anyone have survived this? It remains a mystery. He returns to his island, takes care of the things he had promised God he would attend to if he lived as he was swimming, and he returns to fishing.

A deeply moving movie, exposing many aspects of a people who live - and die - by the sea.


P!nk in Berlin

Ooooh, I had tickets to Alicia Beth Moore's concert in Berlin last Friday. That is the artist known as P!nk. It was in the large sports arena on the other side of town, I was not sure that it would be that cosy, as 14.000 people fit into the arena.

We went early to get some dinner, but the choice was extremely limited, so it ended up being fish & chips. We had good seats in the upper deck, on the aisle, except that people kept getting up to go get more food and drink. The band Churchill led off at the dot of eight. Kind of ho-hum, but it was something to listen to. They played for 30 minutes, and then they started getting everything ready for P!nk. We could see the technicians clearly, and they had a big problem: two computer screens were pitch black. The technicians were flipping switches, checking cords, restarting computers, all to no avail. There were no chickens sacrificed, but they fussed around for 45 minutes while the crowd grew a tad restless. We wanted music!

But oh, the wait was worth it! It was like a three-ring circus, you didn't know were to look next. And P!nk is quite the acrobat, pulling all sorts of fantastic stunts AND singing attached to some guy wires. In the finale she flies out over the crowd standing in the inner field, and came quite close to us even.

She sang the songs from "The Truth About Love", and played one round of drums and one song at the piano. She was skimpily dressed - as were many of the dancers - and there were lots of snide remarks of a scatological sort. But the music was great and the show fascinating. I'm glad we went!