Jun 15, 2014

A Choral Dream about to come true

It’s happening! It’s unreal, but it’s happening!

I am a choral singer, I’ve been singing in choirs most my life, and the greater deal in Kammarkören Sångkraft, Sångkraft Chamber Choir. In the late eighties me and my friend Pälle, a tenor in Sångkraft, started planning on an international choir festival in Umeå. Umeå is a festival city. At that time the Jazz Festival, the Chamber Music Festival and the Folk Festival. Our idea was that Umeå was lacking a choir festival.

We also had a very clear idea of what kind of festival we wanted to create. Our experience from visiting festivals in Europe was that the bigger ones with a lot of choirs spread out over a large area wasn’t as fun as the tighter ones where you constantly ran in to each other. We wanted a warm and welcoming festival offering high quality choral music.

1989 Pälle and I walked in to the City Cultural Department with a hand written document in a bender. The head of the Umeå Festivals listened to us for a good while, really liked the idea and said Go! Only, he didn’t give us any money. I still remember the weird and uncomfortable feeling standing on the winter side walk afterwards. Kind of loved and rejected at the same time. There was no way Sångkraft could make the festival happen on a volunteer basis, and the plans for an international choir festival in Umeå was filed in the far back of my private book shelf.

Time passed, I took a 16 year sabbatical from singing and on my return 2009 a couple of people were toying the idea of a festival again. More festivals around Europe had been visited over the years and the impression was the same as during the eighties: if you don’t get to share and connect you are loosing the very idea of a festival. Once again we knew what we wanted to do and create.

Umeå is still and even more so a festival city, extended with several pop and rock festivals and MADE, the international, eclectic festival for performing arts at NorrlandsOperan, the Umeå opera house. But the timing was different than in the late eighties: Umeå was elected the European Capital of Culture 2014!

At the time a group of 6-7 people in Sångkraft started fantasizing about an international choir festival, the year for the Capital of Culture was pretty much empty. Umeå had won the title but didn't have much to fill the title with. After pitching the idea to the choir, them buying it, we were quite fast on formulating a concept, making a preliminary budget and presenting it to the City. 

While other cultural players in Umeå have been fighting hard with very little result in the Capital of Culture process, the Sångkraft Chamber Choir choir festival concept and budget was approved at an early stage. The fantasy was suddenly real and the choir was facing something we had no practical experience from. Enchantment was mixed with fear as we were up to the evidence, high expectations from the Capital of Culture has been a pretty heavy load on our inexperienced shoulders.  

So, the concept was a given. And the time of the year for the festival too. We wanted to attract singers from the world with the most exotic feature of northern Sweden: the Midsummer light!

During a dinner at a summer glass porch we came up with the given name: A Choral Midsummer Light’s Dream. Added with the subheading Umeå International Choir Festival. Perfect, it was perfect! Trouble 1, actually, is the artist behind the logotype, and we created a visual identity transferring the early summer shimmering greenery and light in our minds, into a picture.

Hundreds, thousands of work hours later, Sångkraft Chamber Choir is now at the home stretch fore the start of the historic first international choir festival in Umeå. On Monday the first choirs will be arriving and on Tuesday A Choral Midsummer Light’s Dream will be inaugurated, continuing until Saturday. 34 vocal ensembles from 8 countries, altogether about 800 singers, will make Umeå sing 24-7 for the next week!

Every Sångkraft member will have a special assignment: hosts for visiting choirs, office duty, coordinating the parade for the inauguration, work shop hosts, MC-ing concerts, drive the bus to the airport, selling tickets, picking the flowers for the May pole, bus hosts, at the door concert service a s o, a s o, a s o… 

Malls, out door stages, churches and concert halls will be the scene for the vision a group of just a few imagined five years ago. Even what Pälle and I were planning 25 years ago! Connecting and sharing in music and in person. Finishing the festival with a traditional Midsummers celebration on Midsummer’s Eve, and a grand finale on Midsummer’s Day premiering Lux Arcticas, a piece composed on commission for A Choral Midsummer Light’s Dream, performed by hundreds of singers.

Are we excited? Yes we are! Are we scared? Not any more. Can we do this, yes we can, let’s go!!!

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