I arrived in Stockholm last night. My friend, Anders Jalkéus, picked me up at the train station to give me a ride to his home. Anders was one of the soloists last year for Messiah, as well as the Pearson Professor at Bethany College. He has recently retired from the internationally known vocal jazz group he helped to found, The Real Group.
It was so nice to arrive at his home he shares with his wife, son, and youngest daughter, and see that he had prepared me an outstanding meal! It was so good I didn’t even take the time to snap a photo!
After a great night’s sleep we had our breakfast and headed in to Stockholm where I was allowed to sit in on a rehearsal of the Swedish Radio Choir. The Radiokören is one of the best choirs in Sweden, and even the entire world.
They were sightreading a number of pieces in Spanish because next week a guest conductor comes in from Spain and that weekend they have a concert of these works. The choir has 32 singers and was consistently singing in 12 or more parts. I wish I could explain the sound. It was one of the most solid ensembles I have heard in my life. And they were seeing the music for the absolute first time.
I wouldn’t have had this opportunity without the help of Anders, who sang in the group for six years a number of years ago. It seems like every singer knew him and wanted to give him a hug!
They rehearsed intently for quite some time and then, at around 10:30 everyone stopped. You guessed it. . . Fika!
I thought it would be uncouth to be snapping photos in the choir’s fika space so the above pic is all I got. But what I learned was that the best choral singers in the world are pretty darn cool and nice to chat with.
After leaving the rehearsal, I met and had lunch with Roger Berg from Scandinavian Performance Tours AB. I have been corresponding with Roger for quite some time and we wanted to meet while I was in Stockholm so we could talk about details of the Bethany Choir and Handbell tour to Sweden and German in spring 2018. I have found throughout this trip that there is simply no substitute for sitting down and talking to someone face-to-face. We had a great conversation and came up with plans to even open the trip up to a second bus that would include alumni and friends. Now, I just need to see if there is enough interest to fill the bus!
Roger and I parted ways after lunch. I had the option of calling Anders and going back to his house to relax or to see the city on my own. Of course I chose the latter. I have visited Stockholm three other times and it is truly one of my favorite cities in the world. I had never been here in the winter, so I wanted to see it from this perspective.
My first stop was the Vasa Museum. I had been there before (twice) but it is always impressive. However, it is slightly funny to think how there is an entire museum dedicated to a ship that sailed for about 10 minutes before sinking to the bottom of the harbor.
The visit to the museum was great as always. But I wanted to head to Gamla Stan, or Old Town to look around and have my afternoon fika.
I took the ferry from Djurgården to Gamla Stan. Unfortunately I do not have any pictures of this because I took a Facebook Live video most of the way. It’s on my Facebook if you want to see it.
I find a very cool coffee place, with a cool basement, in Gamla Stan and had coffee and semla. Yummy!
I walked from Gamla Stan to the T station and met Anders at a restaurant in the city central, near Adolf Fredrik Church.
As luck would have it, the only table available was right in the window. Ha!
After an outstanding dinner we walked about a block to a rehearsal space near the church to hear the Mikaeli Chamber Choir, one of the top amateur choirs in Sweden and, therefore, the world. Anders sang in this choir, under the direction of founder Anders Eby, during their tour to the US in 1988. They sang in Presser Hall on that tour and I was there! How many of you remember that?
Maestro Eby was incredibly generous with his time. He is an old friend of Anders’ (who isn’t?) and spent plenty of time speaking with me. The choir sounded wonderful while singing a couple of incredibly difficult pieces.
When Professor Eby introduced me and said I was from Lindsborg, Kansas, a young singer asked, “you mean, Little Sweden, U.S.A.?”
Bjorn Genfors had spent 1999-2000 as an exchange student in Newton, KS and had visited Lindsborg and eaten at the Swedish Crown! Seriously, people. The world is small.
Rehearsal began at 6:30 pm. At 8:00 pm on the dot we took at break for, yes, fika. I enjoyed talking with the singers and discussing specifics about Kansas with Bjorn, who still visits sometimes. He’s a tenor, by the way.
A long but wonderful day! Once we pulled in to the driveway at the Jalkéus residence I realized something terrible. I had left my bag with my computer at the restaurant hours earlier!!!!! I won’t tell you what Anders said, although to his credit it did not contain any curse words. We called the restaurant and they had put it in a safe place so we could pick it up tomorrow. Stockholm.
So, my first world problems now consist of trying to type this blog on a Swedish keyboard and it taking forever.
It’s not as easy as it looks.