A World Without Violence

What a week it has been. In spite of economic insecurities and a stressful, irregular work situation, I keep pressing on, stubborn and tenacious, towards realising my plans and fulfilling my dreams. Experiences like these make it all worthwhile.

My working relationship with the Norwegian vocal ensemble Kurve dates back to February 2015 when their leader e-mailed me, commissioning me for an a cappella arrangement of “Come Together” by The Beatles. After writing a couple dozen more arrangements for them, as well as visiting them several times, I feel like I have become a part of the group, if a remote one. “That crazy Swede” as they have come to affectionately call me.

The Valdres district of Norway is so beautiful that it almost hurts.

I have become steadily more involved with the group each time I’ve come work with them in Norway. This time, I led several hours of rehearsals together with their leader, working out details and offering new perspectives on their current repertoire. The 16-odd singers are dedicated, hard-working and responsive, even when faced with the whirlwind that is an excitable David Saulesco insisting on getting that one detail just right. (On reflection, I suppose that their nickname for me is rather apt!)

In the two concerts we did this weekend, I shared conducting duties with their leader, Gudbrand, as well as joining the ensemble in a couple of songs (subbing in for a tenor who was absent) and even singing a duet together with one of Kurve’s sopranos.

The songs I conducted – all of them also arranged by me – ranged from the euphoric (“Jump” by Van Halen”) to the groovy (“Lion” by Toto) as well as a ballad ( “Lær meg!” by Anne Grete Preus) or two. A nicely varied selection that both called for what I would call more traditional conducting as well as the more unorthodox, involving hip jerks and ad hoc disco poses for example. If it looked odd, then at least it worked rather well considering the response I got from the singers and that they in turn got from the audience.

Between rehearsals Saturday afternoon, I got to thinking about the lyrics to “The Prayer” which I sang together with Silje Helland, accompanied by Sjur Olav Ødegaard, another singer who also turned out to be a good accompanist.

I have had a soft spot for this song ever since I head the recording with Josh Groban and Celine Dion back in 2008 and have performed it on several occasions before. David Foster, one of the songwriters, is after all an all-time favourite composer of mine. The current situations in Ukraine and Iran, on my mind daily, made me appreciate the lyrics more deeply than before.

Sogniamo un mondo senza più violenza
Un mondo di giustizia e di speranza
Ognuno dia la mano al suo vicino
Simbolo di pace e di fraternità

From ”The Prayer” by David Foster, Carole Bayer Sager, Alberto Testa & Tony Renis

Dream of a world delivered from violence, a world of justice and hope. Reach for the hand next to yours in a gesture of peace and solidarity.

After Saturday’s performance, Silje, Sjur Olav and I got standing ovations from the crowd which took us all by surprise, honestly. But we were happy and touched, and it seemed we touched the audience as well.

The three of us all felt that Sunday’s performance went even better, even if we didn’t get standing ovations a second time. When I sat back down at the mixing desk on Sunday, however, the woman next to me in the audience leaned in and half-whispered something about how beautiful our performance had been. When I smiled back at her in the half-darkness, I noticed that her cheeks were wet and that she was still crying slightly.

I would like to think that we could offer some solace or comfort to those audience members who perhaps have or have had friends or family members who had to fight for their freedom or their lives, or who simply are going through a difficult time in their lives and, just like every child – to paraphrase the lyrics again – need to find a place where they’ll be safe.

Besides working with Gudbrand and the singers in Kurve, I was greatly impressed and inspired by Marit and Jørn, the couple who runs the gastro-hotel Nythun where we stayed for two nights and also performed Saturday night’s concert. Marit’s parents founded Nythun and were responsible for much of the construction, and now she and Jørn handle all of the main parts of the business themselves – including cooking the beyond-words delicious food and selecting equally delicious wines and beer to go with it.

Together with what I assume were part-time staff, they even serve tables themselves while conversing amiably with the guests. Marit and Jørn were honest, hard-working and dedicated, and that was quite inspiring to see. They also had two resident pets, informally dubbed their ‘hotel dogs’, one of which adopted me on our last morning there, keeping me company while I was working on finalising my suite for accordion and voice which will be premiered in Stockholm in November.

I believe my relationship with Kurve will continue to grow stronger. I have already been commissioned for three new arrangements, adding to the almost thirty songs I have already arranged for them. As soon as our respective schedules allow, I look forward to coming back to work with them again, helping them develop and grow even more. They for sure have the capacity for it. My working relationship with the ensemble has also evolved into something more heartfelt, besides, and I believe they feel the same way; “I lige måde” as they might say.

Finally, I want to reveal the surprise I mentioned in last week’s blog post: a recording from the concert in Gustav Adolf’s Church in Sundsvall back in August featuring myself, pianist Henrik Berg and bassoonist Sebastian Stevensson! More specifically, it is me and Henrik performing my two art songs “Klangen” and “Trädet och skyn”, both settings of poems by Tomas Tranströmer. I only recorded audio from the concert, so instead of live video I took some photos in and around the church itself. Please enjoy!

Also, I would like to remind you once again that a new feature of my website is that you can subscribe to my blog posts as a newsletter, getting them straight to your inbox. Sign up via the short form at the bottom left of the webpage; just type in and submit your e-mail address. Your contact information will not be shared with anyone, and I will only send out these blog posts to you. No spam.

Composer, arranger and songwriter for performance, recording, broadcast and interactive media.