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.
Continue reading Paula’s Picks Presents You Have To Be There From Kristina
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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.
Continue reading Kristina At Carnegie Hall Hits Stores Finally
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Later 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.
Continue reading On My Way To New York To See Björn & Benny’s Kristina
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The 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.)
Continue reading Awesome Remix Of “Story Of A Heart” By Benny Andersson Band
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Thanks 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.
Continue reading Benny Andersson Band – Story Of A Heart
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Benny Andersson Orkester, also known as BAO for short, recently released an album aimed at the English speaking market under the name of Benny Andersson Band. To commemorate the Swedes taking over the presidency of the EU, the Benny Andersson Band headlined a Swedish festival in Hampstead Heath on July 4th in a free performance just slightly north of London.
It’s not the first time the Benny Andersson Band has performed for a mainly English speaking audience. The band has performed previously in Glasgow as well as in Minneapolis. Brining a touch of Swedish folk along with several other styles of music, an evening with the Benny Andersson Band is always an eclectic experience. One of the joys of seeing Benny Andersson perform is his true love for music. He is clearly in his element and it becomes a pure joy to see him perform the music he’s crafted in both the most traditional of Swedish styles as well as his own pop styles.
Those expecting to hear a slick ABBA style performance would be clearly disappointed by what Benny dubs “14 middle aged men” and two vocalists, the incredible Helen Sjöholm, and Tommy Körberg. The very traditional folk and vocal styles are often more reminiscent of a big band era performance than a modern pop band. The band plays a variety of styles of traditional dance music and often encourages dancing while they play instead of a more traditional concert performance. Because of this their performances often last far longer than traditional concerts. When I saw the band in Minnesota a few years ago, they played for four hours. The London performance lasted for two and half hours and according to the reports that have come in, the show was excellent.
Continue reading Benny Andersson Band Played London On July 4th
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Elaine Paige, often dubbed, “The First Lady Of British Theatre,” for her impressive stage career as one of Britain’s musical theatre stars. Some of the highlights of her career include being the first woman to star as Eva Peron in “Evita” and was the first to ever belt out the song “Memory” from London’s stages in “Cats.”
In addition to her stage career, she hosts a BBC Radio 2 program highlighting music from theatrical shows. On the April 5, 2009 broadcast to mark the 10th anniversary of “Mamma Mia!” on London’s West End, Elaine interviewed Benny Andersson and Björn Ulvaeus ABBA to talk about “Mamma Mia!” as well as 25th Anniversary of “Chess” (Benny and Björn’s musical from the 1984 that they co-wrote with Tim Rice and coincidentally also starred Elaine Paige). Elaine joined Benny and Björn at Benny’s Mono Music Studio in Stockholm for the interview portion of the program.
In addition to spending time discussing both “Mamma Mia!” and “Chess” with the boys from ABBA, Elaine also got them to discuss their other musical “Kristina Från Duvemåla.” which up until now has only been in Swedish. One of the highlights from the discussion was the first presentation of “Du Måste Finnas” in English as performed by Helen Sjöholm, who played Kristina in the original Swedish cast. In English, the song is entitled, “You Have To Be There” and the lyrics were said to be a draft version and are not yet set in stone as the final version of it. If everything goes according to plan, New York audiences will be treated to a concert version of the new English translation of the show on September 23 and 24th at Carnegie Hall.
Continue reading Elaine Paige Interviews ABBA’s Benny & Björn on BBC Radio 2
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