Thursday, April 25, 2013

Language notes part 8: A very multicultural moment

JenniferMy lecture in Swedish class today was about the official languages in Sweden. Swedish is one of them (duh, you say, but it was only in 2009 that it was decreed to be the official language), and additionally there are five minority languages. Today's lecture was about them, and we listened to a bit of each one. The Very Multicultural Moment came I realized I was getting a lecture in Swedish, while sitting in a building called The English Park, listening while the lecturer (an ethnic Lapp) played us a CD of a reading of 'The Very Hungry Caterpillar' translated into Yiddish. Yes, Yiddish is one of Sweden's official minority languages. Betcha didn't know that!

The others, for the terminally curious, are Finnish, Lappish (many kinds), Romani chib (again, many kinds), and a sort of Swedified Finnish called Meänkieli.

Want more multiculture? How about Sofia Jannok singing 'Waterloo' in Lappish?

Monday, April 1, 2013

A weekend in Stockholm, unexpectedly posh

Jennifer A couple of weekends ago I had the pleasure of going down to Stockholm to see Verdi's Requiem performed by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra at the Royal Concert Hall. Some of you may know that Verdi's Requiem is among my favorites of classical music. It's overwrought, bombastic, melodramatic, and just plain fun. This performance was no let-down. I was especially impressed by the Eric Ericson Chamber Choir, which was 78 voices strong at this evening's show. Swedes sing well, and they sing well in groups; to hear a professional choir sing this piece was truly memorable. What was unexpected, and also a somewhat memorable, was that the king and queen were there, and their seats were only about two rows down and a dozen seats or so towards the center of our right-side first balcony seats. They were sitting so close that we weren't allowed to leave our own seats right after the performance, not until the royals had made their getaway. (There. I have now been Personally Inconvenienced by royalty. Down with the monarchy!) Frankly I was surprised at that actual royal heads were actually there, although I don't know why – I suppose this sort of thing happens all the time if one frequents the Royal Concert Hall. For some reason I still don't take that name very seriously – by which I mean that I don't expect anything that calls itself the 'royal' this-or-that will have anything to do with actual royals. But that leads to ruminations about the nature of being an American living in a country with a king that are perhaps best suited to a later post...

An aside: Yes, yes, I know I've been promising 'later posts' about things for at least a year now. Well, this is me, trying to get back into it!

The next day was sunny and warm-ish (meaning over freezing, anyway), and we went into town for a little window and sundry shopping. We wandered eastward to the area of Stockholm called Östermalm, which is where the idle rich hang out. When I went with my friend K. for 'brat spotting' a couple years ago, this is the area that we went to. If you are going to see women in fur coats, this is where you'll see them. (And we did in fact see a couple.) It's a beautiful, old, well-preserved part of town, with pretty buildings often with fantastic little details, like this great wooden door. A food market building, Saluhallen, is on the square here; the army museum is in this neighborhood, as well as the music museum, which used to be the navy's bakery. I took a few pictures with my ailing old camera; a link to the whole gallery is up at the top of the post.

All the wandering about was eventually wearisome, and we started to cast about for somewhere to have a bite of something to eat. We wandered by the Royal Theater, which is reputed to have a good bar/restaurant, but it wasn't open, so we wandered back to the fancy mall, Sturegallerian, for refreshments. It's a fancy mall, as you will see just by its homepage... suffice to say it's the kind of 'mall' that has a Bentley dealership tucked behind it. We sat upstairs and had a nice view over one of the mall's courts, where they have a stand selling baked goods and various other tasty treats. This being a couple weeks before Easter, they had a corner devoted to chocolates. In hopes of springtime – the court was decorated with pastel-painted and flower-bedecked bicycles hanging from the ceiling, which I found charming and cheerful.

'Springtime' remains only a hope. As I write this post two weeks later, on April 1, the ground outside my window is still covered with snow; sidewalks still have big patches of ice on them; the temperature, though above freezing on the sunny afternoons, dips down to well below freezing at night. S. noted as we were walking around that the fashion economy of Stockholm has suffered financially in the last two months, because the stores put out their lightweight spring clothing at the end of February. Apparently even Swedes are finding it mentally difficult to plan for spring when everyone is still wearing their down jackets and warmest hats during the day.