Yesterday started super early, as Anders' alarm went off at 4:45 and he was gone by 5:15 for a skiing in Italy with friends and co-workers. I did manage to get back to sleep but was up again fairly early and rousting Karin out of bed as well, as we had to both get ready and eat before leaving at noon to pick up my colleague Anette on our way to the 1 pm general rehearsal for the gospel fest concert yesterday evening.
Last year, we were 6 people from work, and the event was very professionally staged at Malmö Live's convention center with guest directors and pop/gospel artists. We were 1000 singers and more than filled the venue. THIS year, it felt like they scaled back considerably, for reasons unknown. It was held at St. Pauli Church, a beautiful late 19-century hexagonal church in the center of Malmö with a newly refurbished and very shiny (originally copper, now bright silver aluminum) spired exterior.
We were "only" 700 choristers this time, and the audience was quite small, only 200 people, but we nearly filled the church to bursting. Two balconies were empty, as we weren't allowed to use them for some reason, but every other bench/pew/seat was filled and 3 parts of the choir were standing throughout. Karin participated with me this year, after having learned all the songs last year, and it was fun to have her by my side. The only thing was that the whole event felt much more like a church service and less like a concert event, like last year's.
Don't get me wrong, that's fine...but it was quite a contrast for the few of us participating who aren't particularly religious, and surprising to me, in a basically secular country like Sweden. I basically only participated this year BECAUSE Karin wanted to, and it's not like the name of the event doesn't clearly spell out what you are getting into. But it will be the last time for me...gospel and church music, while beautiful in many ways, just isn't part of my life anymore. And it was hard not to roll my eyes at some of the behavior going on by other participants.
I have many issues with organized religion, even though it was a huge part of a short period in my life, and it's best if I just stay away in the future. If only the beliefs professed by the faithful were always carried out in real life, I would probably feel differently, but too often that isn't the case, and for those who DO believe and who DO live by a creed of love and kindness, I hope they continue to fight against the hypocritical behavior and insularity that mars so much of religion in the world today. It didn't help that a large part of the evening news just days before had been centered on the abuse and murders perpetrated by members of a Christian sect in northern Sweden a dozen years ago.
ANYWAY, I didn't set out to write about my beliefs and feelings when it comes to religion or faith, far from it. The other part of the evening that wasn't so fun was that they had shortened the practice time to only half a day. Which meant much less time for all of these people who had learned the music and songs separately, to practice them together. Added to that, of the only 7 songs we had learned, they removed a favorite song at the last minute, AND tried to teach us FOUR new songs in the same space of time, with varying degrees of success, without really going through any song all the way. Very stressful and confusing, and it contributed to my overall feeling of nope, not doing this again.
All that said, Karin did a fantastic job, for someone who has little singing experience and NO choir experience. She learned all the songs by ear, despite minimal time spent listening to them in the car with me (she's not IN the car with me much anymore), and was engaged and attentive throughout the event. And it was fun to have Anette with us, too, who is one of my favorite people from work and a lovely person.
To add to the long day, I drove both my mother- and sister-in law home afterward (we gave tickets to Anders' mom for Christmas) and then spent another half hour taking Karin to meet up with friends in another part of Malmö, and then hit every single possible red light on my way out of town. I didn't get home until well after 11 pm and I feel like I could use another lazy day like today to make up for it!