During these days of financial upheaval, Sweden is in the news, and for good reason. The Swedes manage their finances with more than a modicum of fiscal aplomb and, with just over 9 million people-88th largest in the world-and a low population density of 53 people per square mile, the Swedes enjoy universal health care, generous holiday and maternity leave and an ingrained national conservancy. (The United States, third most populace country in the world, remains incapable of grasping these societal brass rings.) The Swedes also enjoy a creative community of musicians, though of late, financial tightening has hindered even Sweden’s famed Kroumata percussion ensemble.
I came to Stockholm at the request of David Lindberg and Anders Åstrand. David is drum leader of the Swedish Army Life Guards Band and will give a major presentation on his country’s military drumming at the 2009 PASIC in Indianapolis, Indiana. Anders’ part in my visit was as chair of the Swedish Percussive Arts Society and it was for his colleagues that I was to give two presentations on the history of European percussion instruments-timpani, cymbals, side drums, bass drum, tambourine and triangle.
David and I met privately for a couple of hours at the cavalry barracks of the Lifeguard Dragoons. David writes the every-day beatings and drum section Salutes for Tattoos and other occasions, such as King Carl XVI Gustaf’s recent birthday celebration in the Stockholm palace courtyard: click here
Then David and I toured the ultra-modern and internationally famous cavalry stables where Roger Johansen introduced me to Odin, the mighty timpani horse of the Mounted Band of the Swedish Dragoons. Odin’s head is larger than my head and torso combined!
When computer programs are ignited in unfamiliar territory, a glitch or two is to be expected, Thus, I was delighted to learn that Andy Bliss, a PH. D. candidate from the University of Kentucky, Lexington and a student of Jim Campbell’s, would be in Stockholm during my visit. Andy and his wife Erin had shown me the mysteries of Mac Keynote during a week long visit to Toronto and with him beside me, technical concerns would vanish. My presentations went without hitches; I accept responsibility for any flaws. (My materials, the product of compulsive research and collecting, have achieved the mass of a black star; culling to achieve an hour and a half’s presentation, is where the work lies now; how can I possibly leave out That story?)
The PAS events took place in a Rikskonsertene building which also houses the Kroumata ensemble. Daniel Berg who teaches in Gothenburg, demonstrated teaching methods for young player with excerpts from his latest marimba book. Daniel is a wonderful musician and his methods are refreshingly musical and successful. Previously, the Harlequin Drum Ensemble gave an exhibition of precision field drumming.
Stockholm is a city built on islands. My wife and I toured the harbor and met Elizabeth, a 90 year old travel veteran from Chicago, whose mother was born in Stockholm. Every summer, nostalgia and a love of travel bring Elizabeth back to Stockholm where she resides for a month at the Grand Hotel-and it is Grand, then travels on to Geneva, Switzerland and Berlin. She travels without a cell phone and has told her worried daughter, “You’ll hear from me eventually”. Elizabeth invited us to tea in the bar of the Grand Hotel where she was greeted warmly at the hotel entrance by the Concierge and other members of the staff.
Stockholm’s Old Town-Gamla Stan-is, in itself, worth a visit to Sweden. It is a place to stroll and a place of beautifully painted buildings on narrow cobble stone streets and quaint squares. Stockholm Cathedral-Storkyrka, (begun in 1279) with its gorgeous columns, organ loft and famous statue of St. George slaying the Dragon (1489) by Lubeck master Bernt Notke.(d.1509), should not be missed.
Just before we left for Finland, I was finally able to meet Einar Nielsen, the interesting and ebullient percussionist who played Maurizio Kagel’s “Faites votre jeu I/II” from “Sonant”, during the Stockholm Days of Percussion hosted by Kroumata in 1998. Einar’s performance had impressed me deeply and I had promised myself that I would do everything possible to meet him if I ever returned to Sweden. As arranged, Einar brought a score for the work and, over a light repast in a local restaurant, graciously explained to me how he’d played the piece.
My wife Eleanor and I took some of our meals at the Åstrand home. Anders’ wife Ann and their children Emma and Tove are thoughtful, gracious hosts and engaging conversationalists. By all accounts, Tove is a gifted writer and Emma wants to continue studying Japanese in Japan.
Tack så mycket!! to Anders, David Einar, Daniel, Ann, Tove , Emma and all the Swedish PAS members.