Eric Sahlström’s 100th birthday in Uppsala

Saturday’s packed agenda began with the 11am dedication of a museum exhibit about Eric at the Upplandsmuseet, in an upstairs room with central spiral staircase, a space that was really not designed with extreme overflow in mind. Outside, musicians were assembling for the spelmanståg, though in this case a tåg is a parade rather than a train. We all processed from the museum to the central station, grouped into batches of maybe 30 musicians with the groups spaced a ways apart, to improve our chances both of playing together and of crossing streets safely. We stopped in the main square where we could gather en masse and play a few tunes all together, and then we also gathered for a final few tunes with everyone together at the big square near the station. Much of our route was through pedestrian streets, but at the crossings I did see some entertainingly incredulous drivers who were Not Amused by having to wait for even a partial parade of nyckelharpas.

Here’s a tiny video snippet of Mungalåten, courtesy of Mills and his iPhone.

The rest of the day’s events were held at the Uppsala Konsert & Kongress (UKK). The first concert of the afternoon, I Erics kök (In Eric’s kitchen), was built around the concept of recreating the atmosphere of sitting around a kitchen table, telling stories and playing tunes. It featured an all-star lineup of a couple dozen musical luminaries with stories to tell about Eric. Unfortunately, it was being announced as “all full” by the time we arrived at the building, so we settled in for our picnic lunch instead. After lunch I found that the usual overflow-crowd rules did still apply: you can stand in the doorway, and after a bit it’ll be your turn to edge farther into the room and watch a little. Though, despite mics I was still not really able to hear any of the talking, and the tunes seemed few and far between. So I retained mostly the impression that Eric sure had a gigantic kitchen table!

The centerpiece of the day was the Jubileumsgala concert, which was fabulous. Some solo and duo performances, some interviews of musicians and local politicians by the celebrity host, sets by bands Bazar Blå, Hedningarna, and Väsen, some collages of video footage sent in from afar, and a grand finale featuring a stageful of kids with pint-sized nyckelharpas. It seemed like pretty much all of the best nyckelharpa players in the world made appearances (I hope I’m not inadvertently insulting someone else brilliant who should be springing to mind), and the entire show was skillfully crafted. I kept thinking, hey, we should stay in Sweden for a year and study with these folks!

Thanks to all the many people who worked so hard to bring us a spectacular celebration!

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