Home for Christmas

Árstíðir –  Fríkirkja, Reykjavik; December 23rd 2013

I had been planning and waiting for this concert for an entire year and when the day was finally here it felt so surreal I had to keep reminding myself that I was not dreaming. No, it was not a dream, but a dream come true to see Árstíðir at their annual Christmas concert at Fríkirkjan í Reykjavík and it was even more amazing and more beautiful than I could have ever imagined. The atmosphere at that church is really something special and the sound can only be described as otherworldly (*tips hat to the sound engineer*) – that alone would have made for an amazing concert, but there was something extra in the house that night, some magic that only happens when great musicians put all their love, passion and energy into one performance and captivate the audience so fully they forget space and time, only existing in that one moment for as long as the concert lasts. Not only am I very happy but deeply grateful for having had the chance to witness this. It was worth every minute I waited, every cent spent and every kilometer traveled, it is even worth having to spend Christmas Eve in a foreign country, far from my family.

There are a few memories connected to this concert long before it happened: Checking flights in November last year and realizing I would not be able to afford going that December; finding out the date of this concert on an April day in Budapest; finally booking the flight; making and changing plans; some incredulous, surprised and happy looks I got from the guys when I told them I’d be there. Yet December was so busy I didn’t even find the time to mentally prepare for this when suddenly I was on a flight to Reykjavik and tomorrow was going to be the big day. The city greeted me with ice and snow – the winter I had been missing at home. 🙂 I had a wonderful first evening in the city. 😀

The day of the concert was spent in a tired haze – excitement had kept me from sleeping. The weather was shitty, but nothing and nobody could have spoiled my good mood. 😀 Finally the time was there and after a short walk I found myself inside the church sitting in front row, looking at the stage where I would see Árstíðir for the final time this year. This felt even more surreal than the trip to Toronto had and while I was looking at the still empty stage I was wondering if I’d wake up any time soon. The concert was sold out and the church filled up quickly.

At first time slowed to a crawl, but suddenly my watch said it was 9 pm. Mere moments after I heard the guys sing, but the stage was empty. Following the sound I turned in my seat and saw them standing in a half circle up on the balcony where the organ is. As their voices filled he church singing ‘And so it goes’ a huge smile spread on my face. To my surprise only very few people turned to look at them. The guys walked down from the balcony to much applause and sang the second song ‘Shchedryk’, an Ukrainian folk song, standing by the soundboard. I don’t know the proper musical terms to describe that song, but it sounded really interesting and fun. They continued the concert on stage with ‘Ages’, ‘Látum okkur sjá’ and ‘Góða veislu gjöra skal’ and every song was just perfect. From here on they performed many songs with guests. It was a mixture of their own songs and Christmas songs. At times I wished I knew Icelandic to understand what they were saying, especially when they made jokes and everyone was laughing. Yet it did not spoil my enjoyment that I didn’t.

‘Gläns över sjö och strand’ was the first song with Karin on stage. She has a wonderfully clear and full voice that seemed to rise forever. I’m pretty sure my mouth was hanging open, while I was marveling at the sheer beauty of her singing. The rest of the audience agreed and would not stop clapping and cheering for her. She also sang on ‘Allt er hljótt’ and they added an extra violin player for this and the following song. I did not catch the violinist’s name, but she was a great addition. 🙂 ‘þér ég unni’ was as beautiful and amazing as always, yet did not stick out as much as usual, because absolutely everything sounded great that night. With all the concerts I have seen, I don’t think there has ever been one that sounded better, even though there were a few very special ones among them. The church has perfect reverb for this type of music and the sound engineer worked a miracle with it.

For ‘Silkirein’ Myrra Rós joined Árstíðir on stage and shared vocals with Jón. It was the first time I consciously heard him sing lower and not falsetto as he often does – a beautiful contrast to Myrra’s high voice. 🙂 Myrra stayed on stage for ‘Vetrarvisa’ and the a-cappella song ‘Hatið fer að höndum ein’. Somehow time stood still and moved at double speed simultaneously – they were more than halfway through the concert already while it felt like mere minutes. Yet, at that time I was not thinking about how many songs they had played or how many might still be ahead. Instead, I was caught up in the moment so much the outside world disappeared and only music existed. My heart was so full of love and pure joy I thought it would burst.

‘Orð að eigin vali’ and ‘Ljoð í Sand’ followed – the tears I had been close to all night started flowing. The smile on my face never faded though, these were happy tears. :’) All the emotions from the past few days caught up with me then and there, memories to last me a lifetime. For ‘Til Hennar’ the violinist, who had been gone for a few songs, joined the guys again. ‘Nú gleymist ég’ was even more powerful than it usually is and ‘Heyr himna smiður’ seemed to finally have found its place and come home – which venue could suit the song better than a church in Iceland?

‘Ó helga nótt’ brought Karin back and the final song ‘Heims um ból’ (Silent Night) was sung by everyone, including the audience who had been handed the lyrics upon entry. I didn’t dare trying to sing Icelandic and opted for the German version instead. It went quite well until I realized I had completely forgotten anything after the first verse. 😉 Oh well, listening was just as nice. 🙂 They left the stage to standing ovations and much cheering. Nobody in the audience stopped until they came back out and Jón motioned us to sit back down. I’m not entirely sure what he said, but I assume it was something along the lines of “We did not rehearse anything else, so we will have to sing the song again”, because they went for a reprise of ‘Góða veislu gjöra skal’. Along with other people in the audience, Myrra and I were stamping our feet in rhythm. We shared a look and a smile and did it through the whole song. 😀 Thus ended the concert and after a final bow they left. It was everything I had imagined and so much more. Thank you, Árstíðir and everyone else involved for making this one so special.

Setlist

And so it goes
Shchedryk
Ages
Látum okkur sjá
Góða veislu gjöra skal
Gläns över sjö och strand
Allt er hljótt
þér ég unni
Silkirein
Vetrarvisa
Hatið fer að höndum ein
Orð að eigin vali
Ljoð í Sand
Til Hennar
Nú gleymist ég
Heyr himna smiður
Ó helga nótt
Heims um ból

Encore:
Góða veislu gjöra skal

Of course I hung out for a while, hugged everyone, watched them taking down the stage and went out with a few of the guys for a drink after. It was a nice way to come down and change from “sky-high and unable to sleep”- mode to a calm and comfortable feeling of relaxed happiness. 🙂 Around 1 am all energy suddenly left me, I got tired. A last goodbye, a last hug, “see you next year” and it was time to go. Soon after, drifting off to sleep I was still smiling.

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