Musical ambassador meets a real ambassador!
I am just back from three weeks of concerts, workshops and musical “fact finding” in Sweden and Norway. Although my grandfather was Swedish and I have visited many times over the years, this was the first time I have performed professionally there. Besides appearing with some great players I enjoyed visiting two amazing artistic institutions: the first being Stockholm University College of Music Education (Stockholms Musikpedagogiska Institut, SMI) which is headed by an Australian, Ian Plaude, and the second, Norway’s RijksKonsertene (Concerts Norway), which is headed by an American, Scott Rogers. Concerts Norway presents more than 9,000 concerts per year across Norway’s schools and local regions and, increasingly, in several European countries. I got to perform and give a workshop at SMI – which was attended by the Australian Ambassador to Sweden, Gerald Thomson, no less. At Concerts Norway, however, I was simply a welcome colleague. I greatly appreciated the 4 hours (!) Concerts Norway Director Scott Rogers spent with me and the time his producers gave to answering my questions. In between I was able to attend a dress rehearsal of Don Giovanni at the famous Drottningsholms Slottsteater, the oldest functioning baroque opera house in Europe. The stage equipment, for example, has never been updated!
We can never stop innovating
So what did I learn? Being a professional musician is tough everywhere – including Europe – but I was struck, as I have been before, by how committed the Scandinavians are to ensuring their culture is not left behind in a rush for efficiency and economic success.
We also have to continue to be bold and innovative in all that we do. In some areas of the arts, such as early music, we can consider our approach in Australia to provide a lead. I took back to Sweden several of my group “The Marais Project’s” arrangements of jazz, and even Swedish folk music, and the audiences loved them! Several people told us that our first performance is Stockholm – which sold out – was the best early music concert they had been to. People loved the creative programming and the chance to hear old instruments perform newer music.
Concerts Norway are unique
As to Concerts Norway, there is much to learn. Their approach to presenting fine music of all kinds to kids is leading edge. I’ve been a proud part of Musica Viva in Schools for more than 27 years so I know a bit about this topic. One of the Concerts Norway producers really challenged me to change my thinking on the very basics of how we have gone about constructing shows for children in the past.
In summary, I had a great time professionally and personally and a special thanks to my gorgeous, generous relatives who put me up, and put up with me, in Stockholm and Oskarshamn.
Jennifer Eriksson is one of Australia’s leading early musicians. She is Founder and Director of The Marais Project. She also leads the Musica Viva in Schools ensemble, Sounds Baroque. She is Australia’s only professional electric viola da gambist and is co-leader of electric gamba group, Elysian Fields.