Travel Diaries: Uppsala, Sweden

18 years old, I was a freshman in college, and it was my first international experience. Our choir toured through Sweden, the motherland of my kin.

There are certain moments when life impresses its  beauty on you unexpectedly.  This was one of them.  I had been lucky to land a spot in our college’s premier traveling Choir.  At the end of my freshman year we packed up our things, secured our passports, saved all our cash for Swedish fish, and caught the redeye to Copenhagen.  Ahead of us, hundreds of Swedes awaited the music, which we had spent a whole year memorizing.

Most of our time was taken traveling from city to city filling small and large Lutheran churches full of eager Swedish souls.  Yet,  we took in as many sights as the arts director could squeeze in.  We visited castles (the Castle), ancient viking ruins, country cottages, and other historic sites. I remember even getting the chance to wear a thousand year old vestment of some bishop we met.  One stop gave us the evening to rest at what seemed to me a summer camp.  There were cabins and woods.  My good friend Alice and I shared a walk in the woods (where we almost didn’t make it back before dark) and took turns on what seemed like an ancient rope swing strung from an older oak.  We also made our way to the cities.

Uppsala and Stockholm. Our choir had scheduled  a concert in the great Uppsala cathedral, the largest and tallest church building in Scandinavia.  It seemed to me to fit a thousand seats, which ended up surprisingly all filled for us in the end.

You often don’t realize when it is happening that life brings you unforgettable moments of pure joy.  Before our final concert our brilliant director took us behind the altar where the acoustics were most potent.  We sang a round through Rachmaninoff’s Bogorodise Dyevo (perhaps one of the most beautiful songs ever written for chorus).  As we sang through the unfolding harmonies, our eyes caught one another’s and as our voiced echoed through the spires,  it seemed as if thousands of angels had joined us.  We were pouring our hearts out in unison, yet somehow it seemed that we were not even partaking.  Surely this was a moment of ministry meant for us, lonely souls who joined voices in that day to transcend soul and body.  I will never forget it.


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