Hate mail... that made us change a concert!
During the spring, a letter arrived at Helsingborg Concert Hall. The letter took up a specific concert during Helsingborg Symphony Orchestra’s season, in which music by homosexual and bisexual composers was performed. The anonymous letter writer suggested that this was a sign that even the HSO was “hopping aboard the fag train”. In response to this criticism, the HSO will be performing the newly written cantata Bögtåget (The Fag Train).
The penner of the aforementioned missive states that, “like many others”, they will not be visiting our concert hall again. Given the writer’s choice to remain anonymous, the Helsingborg Concert Hall has been unable to meet this criticism directly – instead, the HSO, led by Fredrik Österling and tenor soloist Rickard Söderberg, has chosen to respond in an entirely different manner. They have turned the letter into music and will be performing Bögtåget (The Fag Train) as part of the previously planned concert with Rickard Söderberg on 26 May.
“As an artistic institution, we naturally actively relate to our surroundings and events going on around us. The hate letter I received reeked of contempt and fear for the love between human beings. I had no hesitation when Rickard Söderberg suggested that I should set it to music. By considering the text as an opera libretto, we were able to scrutinise the emotions that the anonymous sender was seeking to express. And at the same time, we are doing exactly what an artistic institution should be doing; we are reflecting our times in our art,” says Fredrik Österling, composer and general manager of Helsingborg Concert Hall.
“I have sung many cantatas, for example by Bach and Vivaldi, with strange and incomprehensible lyrics. However, I think that Bögtåget probably takes the biscuit in terms of being out of step with the times. I hope that the homophobe behind the letter will attend the concert to hear their epistle raised to the status of art. I promise to arrange seats at the very front of the gay train for them,” says Rikard Söderberg, tenor soloist.
As well as performing Bögtåget, an entirely new version of Robert Schumann’s song cycle Frauenliebe und – Leben will also be performed. This work describes a woman’s love for her man, from the first trembling meeting until her husband’s death. On this occasion, the song cycle will be performed by a man, thereby casting a new light on the lyrics as a depiction of eternal love rather than a relationship between a woman and a man. The songs, normally performed on the piano, have been given new orchestral garb by Fredrik Österling, who has also composed contemporary comments in the form of interludes.
The Helsingborg Concert Hall’s Salong Markelius series presents music from new angles, with new instruments and voices. It is therefore natural that we welcome tenor and love activist Rickard Söderberg to join us in this new version of a classic song cycle.
Salong Markelius: BÖGTÅGET (THE FAG TRAIN) and FRAUENLIEBE UND LEBEN 26 May, 18:00
During the evening, the following will be performed:
- FREDRIK ÖSTERLING
Bögtåget (The Fag Train)
- ROBERT SCHUMANN
Frauenliebe und Leben (chamber orchestra version orchestrated by Fredrik Österling)
The musicians of the Helsingborg Symphony Orchestra
Rickard Söderberg, tenor
Stefan Solyom, conductor
For more information:
Fredrik Österling, general manager, +46 (0)705 69 17 65