Jun 22, 2014

A Choral Midsummer Light's Dream, a true story

It is 41F (5°C), poring down outside and I am tired, overwhelmed, grateful and very happy. I wouldn’t be surprised if this has been the coldest Midsummers since the measurements started, but the passion and joy from 800 choral singers invading Umeå during the Midsummer week has made the week one of the warmest ever.

During the years working on making A Choral Midsummer Light’s Dream - Umeå International Festival come true, I had pictured myself running around town being a part of concerts, workshops, impromptu musical meetings and late night hang outs. Even this last bedridden winter I saw myself being on my feet in time for the festival, anything else would just be too damned sad.

Well. My condition is not as bad as it was this winter and spring. I am a bit better. But just a bit. Running around town is not happening. And the festival week was coming up, me still spending most of my part on my couch. It sucked.

There were five slots in the festival schedule though marked red in my calendar. Which I hoped and wished for. Every member of Sångkraft Chamber Choir (Kammarkören Sångkraft) who has been arranging the festival and which I am a member of, had different assignments for the week. My job was to MC the White Night Concerts together with my alto colleague and friend Agneta and my sister Kia who used to be a Sångkraft soprano. And then there was the Sångkraft main concert  which I so badly desired to sing. And the final concert, the closing of the festival: the Grand  Premiere Concert which I would both MC and sing.

Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday were filled with Bright Light Concerts and On Site Concerts, and in the evening we wrapped the day up with a late concert, the White Night Concerts, featuring excellent vocal ensembles from different European countries. This would be the peak performance of the day. And it was. Even so for me. From my couch I would rise, put something nice on and enter the spotlight on high heels. 

Agneta and Kia are teaching foreign languages as their profession. Our idea was to present the concerts in four languages: Swedish, English, German and French. To make every nationality feel welcome and respected. We didn’t cover Latvian, Estonian and Icelandic unfortunately, but maybe it was a good thing, the concerts would have been way too long if so.

Our intention was to create a warm and welcoming feeling, to be informative and professional and to look good. Yes, you heard me right. This was an opportunity to dive into our closets, spread everything out on my bed, look for different themes, try on, match with shoes and… have fun. Boy, were we having fun! 

Tuesday morning I woke up with a very specific and scary pain in my lower back. Shit! Why? Always that big WHY? Why can’t I just be allowed to do what I have planned to do and enjoy it??? Just for once!

I have a choice. To give in and stay on my couch or to mobilize myself and everyone I can think of to help me live my life, the best way possible.

Audrey was my dresser, putting on the different outfits and jewelry for each day. Kia, Agneta and members of Sångkraft have been helping me up from and down on the folded bed I have been lying on back stage inbetween our appearances in the spotlight. And without Mimmi there is no way I could have been a part of the festival at all. 

Mimmi is a friend from my teens who has come back into my life recently. Mimmi and her cool and wonderful 16-year old daughter has picked me up every day, been at my side during the events, dropped me off in the late white night, undressed the outfit for the evening and tucked me in on my couch. They have been dragging my folded bed and loads of pillows and bags with necessities back and forth from here at the end of the road and the back stages of downtown Umeå. They have taken care of all the logistics and given me the chance to focus on my MC scripts and making a good looking entrance on stage. I don’t have words for what Mimmi and her daughter has done for me this week.

Three nights. Three concerts. The first one in off white tones, the second colorful solids, and the last one midsummer flowers on white. Yes, we did look good. And we acted professional. And we had fun. Most of all we had so much fun!

The Sångkraft main concert was the toughest one for me. Standing singing was extremely hard. In bed later I really didn’t think I could do the grand finale yesterday. But I did. A final MC and the premiere of Lux Arctica, a piece composed on commission for the festival and performed by 200 choral singers. And the fact that I could even hang out at the festival hotel bar with euphoric choral singers from all over Europe a couple of late nights makes me feel like I really was a part of the festival after all.

Now, this was my introspective story about A Choral Midsummer Light’s Dream - Umeå International Choir Festival. There is a different one, the one with the birds eye-view. The one telling about 800 singers, 34 choirs from 10 different countries making Umeå sing for five 24-7 days. The one about a dream coming remarkably true and fulfilled in most every detail. The one about Sångkraft, this afternoon sharing laughs and tears of joy and gratefulness over what we achieved and experienced together this Midsummer week. The story about making choir history, for ourselves, for Umeå, and for our guests from other parts of Sweden. And France, Germany, Lativa, Estonia, Belarus, Iceland England, U.S and Canada. The story about A Choral Midsummer Light’s Dream. 

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