Inbetween the blurry images of a Great britain by trains/flights/busses/taxis/cars.., the wonderful wedding of one of my best friends, a well-needed ice cream in Sweden with another great friend, an even blurrier Malmöfestival and a couple of great concerts consumed (in what seems to be the last days of summer) – inbetween these flickering and wonderful memories – there is the memory of the Swedish Guitar and Lute festival @ Ingesund of this year. It functions as a power plant for what I’ve been trying to endure the last couple of weeks and it is still fueling me. It has been a catalyst for great things. Because if all of the above were pure magic, the festival this year was a fairytale.
There’s 600 km between my home in Skåne to Ingesund. It’s almost as far to Stockholm from Malmö. Even though the road up there is quite plain and straight forwards, missing One sign might bring you way off.. Sitting in the car on the way up, listening to good music, having a sandwhich in the car and just dreaming away – suddenly Norwegian car plates are everywhere.. Apparently I’ve trusted my GPS too much and took a wrong turn after Trollhättan. You can say Trollhättan trolled me. Or Apple.. I can’t really decide. I was halfway to Norway before I realized something was totally off..
Correcting this mistake, I’ve got to see more of this wonderful country. ..and entertain the crew already in place at the festival with a phone call explaining I would be a tad late.. I was then welcomed at Ingesund in the best of ways: -”How was Norway”, a couple of friends joked. ”Lovely. No dragons up there, yet, though”.
In the matter of fact, I was nervous the whole car ride up. I had been looking forward to this festival all year, since this festival was celebrating its 50th anniversary. Can you believe it? It might be one of the oldest festivals and gatherings in the world related to the guitar. Being a part of the festival at this time – conducting the festival orchestra – that is an honor I will never forget and I will always be grateful to do this. I used to dream of going to the SGLS festival. In the beginning we couldn’t afford sending me there, but you heard stories about the place. Magnificent stories. And now I’m a part of it?
A part of me is still in chock. Another part is so very proud. This life has been a rollercoaster and I’ve worked really hard to get where I’m at. To be here at all. For me, this is an achievement of a gigantic proportions and I’m trying to curate the responsibility given to me; with an endless respect and gratitude. As long as I’m able and allowed to, I will curate and honor this trust.
So. The festival turns 50. How do one even commemorate that? Sure. Making another arrangement is fun, needed and I try always to arrange music that is new and accessible for the participants. It has to be an event in itself to join the orchestra. But this year? The first thought was to just arrange a fanfare for us. But then it felt too small of a gesture. The cadeaux* should fit the character. Should I compose a fanfare?. Ofcourse. A fanfare – only?
No. I decided that it was time to be bold for once. I decided to write a piece that represented the time passed, the celebration of this moment and I wanted to end with the possiblity of a future.
In March of this year I tried the first themes for the fanfare and would let that theme guide whatever happened next. I treated the work as a movie, a work of art that indeed travels through time in the most managed way.. It needed an introduction to set the tone, it needed to highlight the fanfare. There was a need to create time for retrospection, so I borrowed some of the most iconic themes for the guitar and tried to comment them – as a spectator and reviewer. Not as an equal. Then it needed the ending (which was actually composed on site in Ingesund, actually under time-pressure in the computer room an hour before printing..). I structured it all around Mediants and Dominants and the most wonderful scale I know about – the Lydian. I named it: Retrospect, with the subtitle: ”Introduction, fanfare, retrospect and the future”.
(I told you I was insane.)
So. The orchestra assembled. We started with an arrangment of Chopin’s Polonaise 12 (the piece turning 150 years old at the event of performing it) and then I handed out my piece for rehearsal. In the beginning I thought the orchestra would hate it. But no. They Liked it? I liked it. But others Liked it? Unreal feeling after the first rehearsal of it. I can’t describe it. Everything just became more beautiful after that. Lighter. The sun reflexed differently. It was pure magic and I’d love to have that feeling again.
Concerts and lessons for life
I had another, similar but equally unreal experience conducting the piece on the festival stage in front of a full room of the whole industry and enthusiasts. They also Really Liked it. They applauded it? Again. Unreal. I was so happy and in total gratitude. Six months of hard work (with the included stressful hour..) later – it paid off. It had the desired effect. It gathered people. It moved people. It’s everything I’ve ever wanted to do with my art.
What I also enjoyed this year was all of the ensembles I’ve worked with during the week. So much joy and passion is found in chamber music for the guitar and especially the guitar in trios, quartets and duets. There is so much music that can happen in the dynamic between people. When you teach and play with individuals or yourself, you can’t escape who you are. But in a setting of one or more people with another set of skills – you can then focus on creating a new ”persona”.
A duo/trio/quartet and above is a unity. It is in itself a unit that can do extraordinary things that is impossible to do alone. To bring out all these possibilities and help others explore sides of themselves they were unable to accept or even locate – that is pure gold in my life. I get a kick out of it. When you see someone getting a concept and then leave from the lesson a greater musician, that is like parachute jump for me. It’s adrenalin directly to my veins.
Oh. My fucking god – the concerts! I’ve never heard this much brilliance on one single stage before! Everything from the mastery of Jakob Lindberg and maestro magnificat Göran Söllscher to The Afra Rubino and The Gothenburg Combo (my uncles from another mother). Concert after concert, song after song, piece after piece. Goosebumps and ears that still thanks the performers for the eargasm. Even the pub-musicians were great this year. I especially remember Anncatrine & Ingmarie for their beautiful (and a bit cheeky) performance. It made its way to the heart.
Thank all of you. Thank you for fighting in this industry and for bringing it to excellence. You move people and inspire others in ways you can’t imagine. One concert might just feel like one concert. But what you are doing, my dear collegues, is keeping this instrument alive and relevant. Not only relevant: interesting.
Future in Retrospect
In all: a great festival this year as well. I think people knew at the festival how great this event was and what it means for the guitar in Sweden (I mean.. if we survived for 50 years – the next 50 will be even more easy! I hope to see the 100th-mark of this festival.). I really hope people found out what I did when I came home: This was time spent with extreme value and a party that will never be forgotten. I think many of us will talk about this event for a long time afterwards. It deserves to be talked about.
It’s already in my calendar to come back next year. You should consider it too.
See you soon. I’ve got news for you. Pictures down below, but that is in the past now. Do a retrospect, if you want to.
(*cadeaux is french for gift)