föstudagur, desember 23, 2005

night of the living chorusheads

Last night was a magical one on Laugavegur, Reykjavík's Main Street. The stores stay open late this week before Christmas and there are people walking up and down, carrying bags and exclaiming "frábært!" and talking in hushed tones about gift possibilities. People are running into their friends and relatives, too, the women saying "nei, hæ!" and the men exchanging a "blessaður". The clothing shops are all done up with beautiful window displays, and the toy store was packed with eager grandparent-types staring up at the wall of Legos.

On my way up and back on the chilly street, I saw at least five roving choral groups. There was so much caroling, in fact, that I was never out of earshot of at least one of the choruses. They would sing two or three carols and then the whole group would amble along to another storefront or driveway and stake out a new spot. There was even a bit of a choral turf-war as one would set up shop in one place and force the chorus just behind it to move further down the street.

The choruses each had their own character, something that was apparent as I walked along beside and amongst several of them. One group was a stylish all-black overcoat-clad male bunch with a fur-coated babe of a director leading them enthusiastically. Another was a community choir from Mosfellsbær, the sort of ragtag bunch of oldish folks that suddenly looks alive and purposeful when the singing begins. Their director was a passionate white-haired man, who turned around in the middle of songs and belted out his own mellifluous solos. Another group was from Kvennaskólinn í Reykjavík (the Reykjavík Women's School), with two girls carrying a banner and two others passing off a cell phone in the middle of a number, to the frowns of the arm-waving lady leading them. There were two or three other choruses, dressed all in Santa hats, ambling along, stopping, then caroling up a storm.

The carols are of course arranged to be sung in the Icelandic language, both the old standbys and the newer stuff (with the exception of the time-worn Jingle Bells). Hearing these old childhood classics sung in the language of the Vikings on the darkest of nights on a rock in the far north Atlantic made me feel the real magic of the season in my heart: on the Solstice, this oldest of human celebrations, people have for ages lit up the darkness with song.

When a song concluded, the passersby and lookers-on (and even some drive-by clappers) would cheer and the director would bow and sometimes someone would shout "meira!" As I walked up and down the street in that magical hour, the sound of singing voices carried me along under the inky night sky.


Blogger Greta Björg said...

..that was BEAUTIFUL...*dream*


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