In Part 1 of our conversation, Singing Saturdays choral mentor Ragnar Bohlin talked about his development as a singer, pianist, organist, and chorus director. In Part 2, we look at how the pandemic has changed music-making.
It’s now been more than a year since the Covid pandemic upended our lives. For musicians it’s been a pretty devastating year. How have you been managing?
The lockdowns and lack of music-making have of course been devastating. In early March 2020, when the pandemic was announced, I was on tour in Florida with Seraphic Fire. I was supposed to return to San Francisco to conduct the Symphony Chorus in the Bach Magnificat. Instead I went to Sweden, where I’ve been ever since.
With the lockdowns, have you been stuck in front of a screen?
I’ve been fortunate in that I have a country house, where I’ve been able to do some gardening. I also took up organ-playing again. In the city [Stockholm], I have the keys to a nearby church. I practice almost every day. I picked up all the major organ works I used to play in my 20s–the Bach D-Major Prelude and Fugue, the Widor Toccata, the Franck Chorale no. 3, and so on. I’m very happy that all I had to do was dust it off; it was still there.
What else have you been doing musically?
I’m actually quite busy! Quite early on, I started doing online things. I offered my services to the San Francisco Symphony Chorus to do one-on-one vocal coaching. After a couple months of that, we switched to online open rehearsals, which Amateur Music Network has been hosting. Those open rehearsals turned out to work, and they became the embryonic form of AMN’s Singing Saturdays.
I also work one on one with members of the San Francisco Conservatory Chorus, and I even have some “live” students who come to my home. But I have to say that Amateur Music Network is one of my favorite musical activities!
So connection is in the air, even if it’s online only.
Next: Part 3 of our conversation with Ragnar Bohlin, on Verdi’s choral music and making Singing Saturdays workshops successful for singers connecting online.
Pictured: Ragnar leading a rehearsal with his professional chamber choir Cappella SF.