Feb 25 2024 5:11 PM
'A Prayer for Ukraine'

Murphy's law states, that all that can go wrong, will go wrong. And boy did this show go wrong!
Some incidents were out of my hands, others were caused by me not being concentrated enough. Fortunately my crew is so skilled, that I think next to none ever noticed anything.

Anyway... we played this charity concert called 'A Prayer for Ukraine' in one of the oldest churches in Denmark.

I honestly thought Russia was bluffing. My imagination didn’t stretch far enough, as to believe Russia would actually attack a peaceful neighbor. Yes, there were unresolved issues with the russian minority in Donbass, but to actually wage a war…

I have been to Ukraine myself a few times, and I really enjoy Kyiv. Saturdays at the Maidan is something to experience. And I hope the day comes, when I can visit Ukraine again.

When parish priest Benedikte Gyes asked if I would like to play a charity concert in her church on the second anniversary of the Russian attack, I did not hesitate to say yes. And when everyone from my crew also said yes, the preparations began. I knew we couldn't just repeat the recent concerts, but had to include more about Ukraine. I included several heavy tracks, such as Broken Arrow from 'Thaw' which is about the careless handling of hydrogen bombs. I also cut several new film sequences, with footage from Ukraine and I made the artistic choice not to show anything from the ongoing conflict. I would rather show how beautiful a country Ukraine was before the war.

The lineup was the same as the Gongladen show back in august: Tanja on vocals, Jesper on bass, Anders on guitar, Mikkel on lights and me on electronics and a few strings. This time Jens the sound engineer also joined in, which made my job a lot easier.

Unfortunately the concert was plagued by technical issues. When you involve technology as an active player, you also expose yourself to the risk that the technology betrays you. For example, the recently purchased projector, which was supposed to give the show a visual boost, chose to break down only 40 minutes before the start of the show. This meant that the videos were both dim and tinted purple. Running out of options we decided to carry out the concert, hoping that the quality of the films would be seen as an artistic choice. I felt this was a micro version of Jean-Michel Jarre in front of the pyramids, where fog during the concert meant that none of his projections could be seen. That must have been hard to swallow. My films were watchable after all, they just weren't impressive.

What was impressive, however, was the light Mikkel had designed! Mikkel had brought twice as many lamps and spent a long time on the show, and where I have always been satisfied with his work, this was so much more.

For one of the shorter tracks, I played a balalaika. The track Tabula Tertius has only been performed once before, and that was 11 years ago. Last time it was played on a mandolin, and so was the studio version. But on a long drive home a few weeks before this concert, I had the idea to play the theme on balalaika. However, I quickly dropped the idea, as there was only a short time before the concert and where was I supposed to get a balalaika? When I reached Ystad in Sweden, I had a quarter of an hour to kill before the ferry, and I chose to look into a thrift store. To my great surprise, they had a balalaika, and I took that as a sign.

I have always found it akward to adress the audience between songs, so I was more than happy to have Benedikte doing it from the pulpit. I held a meeting with Benedikte at the beginning of January, where we went through the setlist and I explained my thoughts behind the music. Subsequently, Benedikte wrote the text to be read between the songs, and it was quite different from what I would have come up with. The fact that Benedikte is a priest and that the concert took place in a church made, for example, that God was mentioned several times.

By the way, playing in a church is quite different from playing elsewhere. There was no applause along the way, so only at the end did we know if we had done an acceptable performance.

Well... I haven't adressed all the things that went wrong... Maybe I'll just leave it there!