My second visit to Sweden in as many weeks was as heart-warming and revelatory as the first. This time I was singing in a new venture under the umbrella of Daniel Stighäll’s Serikon ensemble. The second of our two concerts followed the 14th century pilgrimages of St Bridget of Sweden (one of six patron saints of Europe, incidentally) from her home in Östergötland to Santiago del Compostela, Jerusalem and Rome, where she died in 1373. The programme included Spanish pilgrim songs, Italian Laude and Cypriot polyphony, and began and ended with Swedish folksongs (including a stunning improvised dialogue between Anna Maria Friman’s cow-calls and Daniel Stighall’s answering cow horn). There was some extraordinarily virtuosic wind playing from Daniel and his fellow blowers Gawain Glenton and Katharine Bäuml. It was part of the Trollhättan Early Music Days, a relatively new festival that manages to combine international visitors with musicians from the community.
The first concert, entitled Acqua Alta, also featured some fabulously virtuosic playing by the larger Serikon ensemble, this time Gabrieli, Merulo, Castello and their contemporaries. But the most remarkable thing was the agenda behind the event, which combined Venetian music with spoken interpolations by Pär Holmgren, Sweden’s most famous tv weather man and environmental activist. I didn’t understand much of what he said (my tv cop show Swedish doesn’t go very far) but his charismatic delivery and engagement with the audience was unmistakable. It was arresting on two counts – firstly having substantial spoken interludes between the music, but mostly because it used the occasion to make a serious statement about social and environmental issues and to explain to the audience that there were plenty of ways where they could make their own presence felt in the struggle to rescue the environment. Ironically, the concert was on the day of the UK political climate change disaster, when despite the hugely increased Green vote green issues sank beneath the Tory tide. I’d voted Green by post (both for the first time) and having then sat up most of the night trying to take in the terrible result my first thought was that Russell Brand was right – there’s no point in voting. But the next day I realised that my vote may not have made a difference, but the concert I’d been involved in just might have done. I have Daniel Stighall’s Acqua Alta project to thank for that, and I hope to get involved in similar events in the future. Music doesn’t have to be just entertainment.
Even the Greens only seemed to mention climate change once. Sign the Guardian’s petition here.