Feb 1, 2015

A farewell to Brage

My sister’s first memory of him is trying to read the text of the song from a clipboard. She was six and accepted in the children’s choir although she couldn’t really read. My first memory is my first piano lesson.

Brage was the church organist and music director in Nordmaling, the small town 45 minutes south of Umeå where my sister and I grew up. Nowadays, visiting our parents grave and attending funerals for their friends, the grown ups in our childhood world, is pretty much the only time I am back in Nordmaling. And this Thursday Nordmaling bid a last farewell to Brage. It was his time now.

Although my sister’s and my musical life began in our family, it was within the frame of the congregation it got a structure. To start with, the children’s choir and the group for playing the recorder. And of course the piano lessons. In our teens we advanced to the church choir. And Brage conducted and administrated the activities.

Being reminded now about this part in my life there is a lot of mixed feelings. I hated the piano lessons. They weren’t my choice, but my mother’s. And I actually feel sorry for Brage who put up with me reluctantly showing up every week for years and years, never really improving. I liked to sing though, so the choirs were something I enjoyed. Although, as the stage most of the time was the Sunday service, there was a lot of boring sermon listening hours to get to the few minutes of performing.

Brage wasn’t a fantastic musician. And he was not one of those super inspiring persons always on fire. Quite moody too. You never really knew if he would show up happy and joking or if it would be one of his grumpy days. But what he did was providing us environment and context for musical education, exercising and performing what we learned and accomplished. And he was there. Quite ambitious in his programming, present and persevering.

Thinking about it now, he was a constant, as the white medieval stone church from 1480, the old rectory which serves as a parish house, and the red belfry built in 1767, looking inspired from the east. These are all acknowledged beautiful buildings, the trinity that makes the pretty center piece of Nordmaling. And this was the heart for our childhood musical life. The start for a life where music has always been a center piece. A heart.

Brage first came to Nordmaling in 1964. My sister was six, I was eight. Neither of us developed to become great pianists (not at all, we are really lousy pianists!), in spite of all his efforts. But we have our voices. Something he always appreciated and confirmed. As grown ups, now and then we visited our childhood church as part of different musical settings: choirs, vocal groups, jazz ensembles. He was always in the audience. And we watched his face lit up listening to us. Smiling. Proud even? I am thinking now, he is probably a big part of the confidence our voices are carrying.

Today my sister is 56 and I am 58. Fifty years after Brages arrival in Nordmaling, we are bidding our farewell. Taking our seat in the medieval stone church where our part of his life have made us know every painting in the church by heart. Recognize every bend of the sculptures. The acoustics so familiar it is a part of our breath. And singing him the last hymns in the church where he served for most his life, I am hoping he is lighting up. Smiling.

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