Tag Archives: Björn Ulvaeus

Paula’s Picks Presents You Have To Be There From Kristina

If you are lucky enough to live in the Portland, Oregon area, or happen to have an Internet connection (which I suspect you might if you’re reading this) then you had the opportunity on Thursday May, 6th, 2010 to tune into the Paula’s Picks program on KBOO FM during her program and hear her present “You Have To Be There” performed by Helen Sjöholm from the musical “Kristina.” “You Have To Be There” is written by Björn Ulvaeus and Benny Andersson of ABBA. Paula Small is a friend of mine that I went to high school with and she moved to Portland and one of the fun things she does out there is host a radio program on the first and third Thursdays of every month for KBOO.

The last time I saw Paula was when she was back in town to visit some family at the end of 2008, so I took Paula to see the Xanadu production at the La Jolla Playhouse, and when I saw her online on Facebook and I said hello using the chat feature of Facebook, we ended up discussing some music. I was so excited about the live album “Kristina At Carnegie Hall” coming out and I’d just gotten it in, I sent her “You Have To Be There” to share my excitement about the show. Paula really liked the song and we both commented about how it starts out similar to “Don’t Cry For Me Argentina” but ends up being a much more powerful song. Paula thought it might make a great addition to her show the following night.

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Kristina At Carnegie Hall Hits Stores Finally

Björn Ulvaeus and Benny Andersson of ABBA first let audiences in on their masterpiece, “Kristina Från Duvemåla,” in Malmö, Sweden on October 7, 1995, then record buying audiences were able to obtain the 3-CD cast recording in September of 1996. Almost immediately there was talk about translating the work to English and bringing it to an American audience, particularly because the story of “Kristina Från Duvemåla” (translating to Kristina From Duvemåla) is just as much a story about Sweden as it is a story about America. However, it seems a lot of the work in bringing “Kristina” to America would have to wait due to the surprise success of a little show launched in London in 1999, called “Mamma Mia!” would demand a lot of time and attention for Björn and Benny.

The story for “Kristina” is based on Vilhelm Moberg’s “Emigrants” series of four novels, which follows the lives of a group of Swedish settlers which include Karl Oscar and his wife Kristina, as they make the tough decision to pack up and take their chances settling in the unknown wilds of America in the mid 1800’s. While the books follow the group, the show has singled out Karl Oscar and Kristina to be the central focus of the show. The novels are considered to be some of the finest works in Swedish literature, which is what attracted Björn and Benny to wanting to tell the tale of Kristina. Their earlier musical effort, a collaboration with Tim Rice on an original idea by Tim Rice resulted in the musical “Chess.” As much as “Chess” is praised for it’s incredible songs, it’s also panned for its relatively weak plot, which left Björn and Benny looking for a well crafted story to transform into a musical. Björn and Benny felt for their second musical, they didn’t want plot to be one of the problems to plague the show.

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Ryan’s 10 Most Incredible Things About About 2009

Now that 2009 has come to a close and 2010 has begun, I can safely say that it’s a year that has been very challenging and although I am not the least bit sad to see 2009 go, it certainly was not without some really incredible experiences for me that I would like to highlight before wipe the slate clean and start fresh with 2010.

This list was especially difficult to narrow down since 2009 was the year I kicked my blogging into high gear. I had started Ryan’s Incredible World in 2007 didn’t actually start blogging until 2008 and I would maybe make no more than five entries a month. So picking my highlights of 2008 was relatively easy since there wasn’t so many blog entries to go through to pick out the defining moments.

I had joined a couple of 30-Day blogging challenges which requires 30 blog entries in 30 days and it essentially got me into the habit of making almost daily blog entries. Now it’s pretty safe to say that each month sees about 25 new blog entries. The constant blogging has actually helped bring a bigger audience to my blog, so if your first time reading any of my writing has been in 2009, then no doubt something I wrote in 2009 caught your eye and is why you’re here reading this entry now. I am grateful for the many folks who’ve read my blog and left me comments, it’s been a pleasure to hear your feedback throughout the year. In any case, I looked through every post of 2009 to select what I feel were the 10 Most Incredible Things about 2009 that happened for me. You’ll note I combined a few complimentary things to narrow it down to 10.

I do hope you enjoy my reflection on 2009 and continue to join me on my quest to find the most incredible things of 2010. Without further ado, in no particular order.

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Susan Boyle Duets With Elaine Paige On ABBA Penned “I Know Him So Well”

Elaine Paige Susan Boyle IKHSWWhen Susan Boyle knocked the socks off Simon Cowell, she soon after stated that one of her dreams was to sing a song with her idol, Elaine Paige. Within days of the hubbub, Elaine Paige, who is not nearly as well known appeared on US Cable Network, CNN’s, Larry King Live program and gave an interview about Susan Boyle and said she would be open to singing with Susan. Now that dream has become a reality.

Sadly, the duet does not appear on Susan’s recently released album (which gets it’s name from the song Susan sang on Britain’s Got Talent, “I Dreamed A Dream”) but made it’s debut on UK television. The song selected for the two ladies to sing together is hardly an original choice, especially for Elaine. The duet selected was “I Know Him So Well” from the musical CHESS, which was a hit for Elaine Paige and her original duet partner Barbara Dickson way back in 1984. In fact, the song still holds the record in the UK for the longest running #1 song in the UK charts sung as a duet between two women. The song is a staple for Elaine whenever she goes out on tour and it’s a special song for ABBA fans as well as the song was co-written by ABBA’s song writing team, Benny Andersson and Björn Ulvaeus along with lyricist Tim Rice.

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ABBA Fab Brings Unique ABBA Tribute Show To Escondido

ABBA FabHaving literally just gotten off the plane from New York where I spent two nights with the real Benny Andersson and Björn Ulvaeus as they presented the first English language performance of their musical, Kristina at Carnegie Hall, I took the opportunity to attend the ABBA Fab tribute concert at Escondido’s California Center For The Arts. As the author of the eZine article, “ABBA Tribute Bands – 8 Tips To Improve Your Show” I often like to check out ABBA Tribute Bands to see which ones are worth recommending and which ones are worth avoiding.

ABBA Fab bills themselves as “The Premiere ABBA Experience” on their posters for the event and on their website at ABBAFab.com as “The most amazing tribute show you will see anywhere.” which are some pretty grand statements for a tribute band that has never been seen or heard by me or any of the other ABBA fans I am in touch with around the globe. So I was a bit skeptical of their claim as I have seen some truly great ABBA tribute performances and some truly appalling performances as well.

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On My Way To New York To See Björn & Benny’s Kristina

Kristina Carnegie Hall InfoLater today I will be boarding a couple of flights that will take me to New York City. My flights are “Red Eye” flights that will deliver me to New York first thing tomorrow morning. I’m excited to be seeing the new English translation of the epic musical, Kristina, written by ABBA’s Björn Ulvaeus and Benny Andersson. The show is based on Vilhelm Moberg’s epic novels in “The Emmigrants” series which chronicles the adventures of Swede Karl Oskar and his wife Kristina as they move their family from famine stricken Sweden to the wild’s of America in the late 1800’s.

Kristina is not being staged as a complete show, it is being staged in a concert style at the famed Carnegie Hall. The purpose of which is to record the show as well as gauge the reaction to it to see if there’d be interest in a fully staged version. The original Swedish epic was a definitely considered an epic masterpiece by those who saw it, but at a four hour running time, is going to have to undergo some trimming if its ever going to be staged fully here in the United States. The concerts will be a good indication of where some of the trimming has been done.

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Remembering September 11, 2001

New York City Cop October 2001In some ways it’s hard to believe it’s been eight years since the tragedy of the World Trade Center towers in New York City falling due to two terrorist highjacked passenger planes aiming for and crashing into each tower. In other ways its hard to believe it hasn’t been longer. In any case, this year it seems a little more poignant to remember the tragedy of September 11, 2001 or 9/11 as it seems to be commonly referred to.

I think the reason why I feel like I need to honor the memory of September 11, 2001 is that I had my first trip to New York in October 2001 to attend the Mamma Mia! premiere on Broadway, and this year, in a couple more weeks I will be returning to New York for the first time since 2001 to see Björn Ulvaeus and Benny Andersson of ABBA launch the English language concert version of their musical, Kristina. Kristina is the musical Björn and Benny wrote that tells the story of Swedish immigrants coming to the United States in the late 1800’s. The story is based on the book series known as “The Emigrants” by Vilhelm Moberg. The New York performances are being staged as a concert version of the show instead of a fully staged production at Carnegie Hall. This will be in many cases the public’s first chance to experience the show in English. A workshop version of it was worked on a couple years ago but never heard if it actually had any public performances.

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Awesome Remix Of “Story Of A Heart” By Benny Andersson Band

Benny AnderssonThe release of Benny Andersson’s latest album entitled “Story Of A Heart” earlier this year featured a very pop like song also entitled “Story Of A Heart” this song was released to radio stations to promote the album. With the song being the most ABBA-like song, Benny Andersson and his lyrical partner in crime Björn Ulvaeus have written in more than a decade, it was really just a matter of time until some home made remixes of the Benny Andersson Band’s “Story Of A Heart” got made.

One such remix that has popped up that I’ve actually been quite addicted to listening to over the last week is one by someone who just simply goes by the name “DJ Matt” The Matt Mix of “Story Of A Heart” speeds up the song a little bit to give it a bit of urgency, additionally a really well done drum beat has been added to help set and maintain the pace, and just for some fun at the end, the final time through the chorus, the Swedish language version of the song is used to close out the mix. The mix is really quite fun to listen to. Whoever this DJ Matt is, he’s done some really good work. If the number of times I’ve played it hasn’t already cracked the top 25 most played songs on my iPod, it soon will. I’ve really been enjoying it on repeat for hours at a time. Who knew Helen Sjöholm’s amazing voice would sound great on a dance mix? (She is mostly known for show tunes style songs.)

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Benny Andersson Band – Story Of A Heart

Benny Andersson Band - Story Of A HeartThanks to one of my good local friends, I’ve had Benny Andersson’s new album for well over a week now. The Benny Anderssons Orkester (BAO) has compiled a bunch of songs from their three previous albums and translated a handful of songs originally sung in Swedish into English, and added an all new song and released the album with the intention of releasing it outside the Swedish market. To help make it more readily accessible for the English markets, they’ve even renamed the band for the album calling themselves, the “Benny Andersson Band”

The most successful singles from the previous albums have been sung by Helen Sjöholm. From BAO’s first album, “Vår Sista Dans” topped the Svensktoppen (Swedish language song charts) for 30 weeks of it’s 56 week stay on the chart. It makes it’s official English language debut on “Story Of A Heart” as “(If This Is) Our Last Dance.” The song has been performed in English for the live performances BAO has done outside of Sweden such as Glasgow and Minneapolis, but now fans can officially have a studio recording of the English language version. And from BAO’s second album, “Du Är Min Man” which was originally released on July 11, 2004, and to this day still hasn’t left the Svensktoppen charts, that’s 5 years on the chart, 261 weeks and counting according to Swedish Radio. It is officially the longest charting song in the history of the Svensktoppen list and it also has the distinction of being the longest running song in the number one spot, which it held for its first 38 weeks on the chart. The song makes it’s officially released debut as “You Are My Man” on the album. However, it does have some interesting history as an English language song. Prior to the Minneapolis, Minnesota appearance of BAO, a promo CD containing a recording of the song in English was sent out to the attendees. However, the lyrics to that recording are different from the new lyrics featured here on the officially released album. So the promo CD as a collector’s item retains it’s value. I’m still undecided if I like the new lyrics as featured on the album, I think it could be that I’m just so used to the promo CD’s lyrics that I can’t get into the new ones. In any case, it’s still a welcome addition to the original Swedish version.

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CHESS In Concert DVD & CDs Available Tuesday

Chess In ConcertIf you think the only musical theatre entry of Björn Ulvaeus and Benny Andersson of ABBA is MAMMA MIA!, you’d be wrong. Shortly after the last songs of ABBA’s catalogue were completed, the members of ABBA decided to take a break from the group, and Björn & Benny decided to try their hand at writing a musical. Tim Rice, well known for his collaborations with Andrew Lloyd Webber, was in the market for new composers to work with for his idea of building a musical around the idea of a Chess championship. After having met Björn & Benny and deciding to work together, the process of bringing Chess to life was born.

Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice established a successful formula of trying out the songs from shows they wrote in a “Concept Album” format that got released to the public long before a staged version of the show got made. This methodology was an invaluable way to see if the songs were good enough to warrant the time and expense of launching a full scale musical. Instead of going to the expense of launching a full show, it’s a chance to release the album to the public and see if it generates enough interest. If the album tanks, a fortune has been saved, and if it succeeds, then it creates an audience for the show when it gets launched.

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