fimmtudagur, desember 25, 2008

the páll óskar mistake

One of the great new Christmas traditions for me here in the Land has been the midnight mass. After the big dinner on the 24th comes the opening of presents, then after that heading on down to a bright church full of candles and music has always felt just right for this dark and peaceful time of year. Hallgrímskirkja, the towering feature of the Reykjavík skyline (yet now looking a bit like the Statue of Liberty circa 1986) has been my church of choice for the past few years running. But this year, we decided to "mix it up" in the words of my bro, and go instead to Fríkirkjan, the Free Church of Reykjavík. It's a beautiful old building on the banks of Tjörnin, the city pond. Páll Óskar, Icelandic pop star extraordinaire, was going to be a featured performer. I thought it might be nice to see a different church and hear some Christmas hymns from a famous Icelandic voice.

Well, what we thought was going to be a mass actually turned out to be a concert, very thinly veiled as a church service. Sure, there was a priest who came walking down the aisle, but after saying a few words he took a back seat (lit'rally) to Páll Óskar. In a move completely unnecessary in a fairly small church, he was amplified, singing into a PA system he had rigged up himself beforehand. He had a harp player next to him, also amplified, and between the two of them, they completely drowned out the voices of the meager house choir and handful of hapless string players.

Our friend Páll sang 5 numbers before the Predikun and then another 4 or 5 after. The whole event was built around him. The first two of these were hymns, but at least one was a summer hit of his, delivered without decorum as though he was on stage at a club. The last, in English, was the worst: some atrocious ramblings about a spaceman come in a UFO to light the sky like a star for the baby Jesus. I got the feeling Páll Óskar, clad in a mirror-covered jacket that reflected light like a disco ball, wished he were the spaceman. I wished I was the UFO fleet commander, getting beamed out of the sweltering crowd to a better place in the sky. This song in particular had so many refrains and reprises it went on about as long as "99 bottles of beer", but with possibly less entertainment value.

We were clearly, however, in the minority, because everyone else there seemed to eat this stuff up. After every song (and in what was, remember, billed as a "mass") the crowd erupted in hearty floor-shaking applause, even clapping in synch for an encore after the spaceman debacle. The people really did love it. It was clearly our mistake to expect something other than a Páll Óskar stage spectacular, even at midnight on Christmas.


Anonymous Skúli said...

Gleðileg jól. Ég er gammall lesandi of finnst gaman að sjá meira frá þér.

Blogger JB said...

Gleðileg jól Skúli. Gaman að heyra frá þér og gott að vita að a.m.k. einn gamall lesandi er ennþá með!

Anonymous Michael said...

Interesting report, thanks. I didn't realise Protestants used the term "mass".

Shame you had a rainy and windy Christmas.

Blogger Kristen said...

Merry After-Christmas and a Happy Boxing Day!

Blogger JB said...

Michael: Maybe it's a bad translation on my part, but the Icelandic word for church service is messa. So, "mass".

Actually it cooled down a bit and we did have some snow to wake up to on the 25th, so all's well that ends well.

Kristen: Thanks! "Boxing Day" is called annar í jólum in Icelandic, or "the second day of Christmas". (Notice how much more efficient Icelandic is than English. When words have cases, it takes less words to say the same thing.)

Blogger Lissy said...

Gah! Your description of this event is really stomach turning, especially at a time when the priests in Iceland actually could be stepping up to the plate and providing some guidance. No, a rock performance will do, I guess, if it is all just opium for the masses anyhow.

Blogger JB said...

Thanks Lissy. We found it quite reprehensible, but as I say, the crowd seemed to get what they had been expecting.

Interesting blog, by the way. I used to live not far from Berkeley (Oaktown/Rockridge) and sometimes miss it there. I added a link to 50/50 in the sidebar.


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