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Requiem…for all the saints. November 4, 2006

Posted by thebigswede in Uncategorized.

Hello. Have you ever heard W.A. Mozart’s Requiem? Odds are you have. Its one of the most widely known, performed and loved works of classical music in existence. Today I took to opportunity to hear this monumental work in Scandinavia’s largest cathedral, right in the heart of Uppsala. I dressed up in my black suit, slipped on my gloves and got there plenty early to assure a good seat. Its a good thing too, because the church was packed. The performance itself was earthshaking for me. Chills-down-the-spine, raise-the-hairs-on-your-neck type of amazing. While I know the parts of the Requiem quite well, everytime I hear it live it means something different for me. The group who performed this evening was amoung the best I’ve ever heard, live or in recording. And it goes without saying that the venue itself really set the tone. How I wish you could have all been there. This is what Websters has to say:


1. Roman Catholic Church.

a. Also called Requiem Mass. the Mass celebrated for the repose of the souls of the dead.
b. a celebration of this Mass.
c. a plainsong setting for this Mass.
2. any musical service, hymn, or dirge for the repose of the dead.

At its very core, a Requiem is for the dead. “Duh Mike!” you say… “whats your point?”; permit me to continue. It just so happens that today, on the first Saturday of November is when Sweden celebrates All Saints Day (Alla Helgons Dag). This is a day founded on the idea of remembering the dead, specifically those who put their faith in Christ Jesus before death – the saints. In America we only remember one day associated with All Saints Day, that is, the day before All Saints Day, also known as All Hallows Eve or Halloween (“hallows” meaning “saints”). Halloween is another wonderful reminder of how effectively the good ‘ol USA masks (many) otherwise sacred and religiously meaningful days behind a facade of commercialism. But not quite so in Sweden. The tradition is that families go out together on the night of Alla Helgons Dag and visit the graves of their family members. Once there, they light candles and place them around the grave along with wreaths made of pine tree branches and cones. It just so happens that I live near one of the largest graveyards (kyrkogård) in Sweden. So naturally, as I’m walking home from the Reqiuem I take a night stroll through the yard which is dimly lit with the ghostly glow of a thousand candles.

I must say, it was quite moving to see the families moving throughout the graveyard tonight remembering the ones they love. Tonight I saw emotion in the faces of many Swedes who normally go about their day to day business nearly emotionless, cold and stoic. It was a good night to walk in the snow, by candle light, and contimplate.



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