Denmark

I’ve mentioned my UK cousins before (please see my January 18, 2020 post on Elbow’s “This Blue World”). While visiting the families in 2011, we took a road trip of northern England and southern Scotland. One day, we took in the opening day of the 2011 Edinburgh Festival Fringe (the largest arts festival in the world), walking along the Royal Mile, watching performers previewing their plays. 

Photo of people sitting in a semi-circle on chairs outdoors in a city square with many people in the background watching them.
Sweety giving her best serious acting, auditioning for a Fringe play, August 6, 2011. She didn’t get the part. Photo © Steve West.

While the day started sunny, it was pouring rain by the time we had made it to the end of the Royal Mile. The Brits’ strong recommendation was to get shelter from the rain, in a pub where we looked over the handbills we’d picked up along the walk.

Photo of a stack of many different handbills from theatre shows.
We didn’t see any plays that day, but had a fabulous time watching street performers. Photo © Steve West.

Since then, my sweety and I have been much more interested in Winnipeg’s Fringe Theatre Festival, which starts in mid-July, running for a week and a half, or so. We started seeing a few plays in each of the years following, and one year, I took vacation from work and we took in 42 plays in nine days. We’d get up and have a big breakfast, walk downtown and would start attending productions around noon. We’d stay in the Exchange District all day and evening, have dinner at one of the food vendors or in a restaurant or pub, then take the bus home at around 11:00 pm. It was a tiring but fantastic way to spend our holiday. 

At the 2015 Winnipeg Fringe, we watched a one-actor play called Loon, produced by the Portland, Oregon ensemble, Wonderheads. Their productions are known for oversized masks that the performers wear. The character in the play, Francis (played by Kate Braidwood), is a very lonely and sad man who cannot seem to make connections with anyone at his work or in any circumstance. At his lowest point of loneliness, he notices the moon and soon falls in love. The play is performed entirely in mime, using everyday items as props. It was a unique and mesmerizing performance that had us thinking about it for days. Here is the trailer for the play. 

The production features a remarkable cello composition of Gideon Freudmann called, “Denmark,”  which was recorded by the nine-member Portland Cello Project as the play’s theme music. It’s contemplative and melancholic, and suits the mood of the play. 

Portland Cello Project also covers contemporary songs by bands such as Radiohead, Beck, Pantera, and others. There’s a seemingly small but quite interesting genre of music that’s been developed by string ensembles making classical instrumental interpretations of rock music. We used one such transposition as the entry music for our wedding ceremony in 2009… it’ll appear here sometime!

“Denmark” and its association with the play came into my mind the other day when I was looking at some classical CDs that were mostly cello works. It’s a memorable piece that transported me back to that hot summer week and a half when Sweety and I were in full theatrical overload… a most wonderful time.

Now you know a little about why this is my song of the day for today. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy. 

Here is a video of Portland Cello Project playing “Denmark,” live on KEXP Seattle in December 2010:

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