On Monday, on the way to Västerås for a meeting, I sat in the train with a co-worker. We inevitably got around to the subject of the Eurovision Song Contest.
"So what do you think?" she asked me. "As an American."
She had watched the show with friends, including someone's American boyfriend who had recently moved to Sweden.
"He was rolling on the floor laughing" she told me.
Yes, I said. The Eurovision Song Contest is beyond the comprehension of an American. It defies description. And even when I think I have it figured out, I am suddenly mystified all over again. For instance, while we were watching it this year, I was assured by I. the former backup singer for David Byrne that the bizarre act from Ukraine- drag queen Verka Serdyushka with a big glitter star on her head singing in German and then what sounded like "I want to see Russia goodbye" - would probably win. And sure enough, it came damn close.
No one could adequately explain to me why this would be so popular, why millions of Europeans would think "I think this is a winner!"
And I wasn't rolling on the floor laughing. I was cowering under a blanket, painfully embarrassed for a wide range of singers from every corner of Europe.
But then to make up for the ridiculous vocal experience of Saturday, on Sunday I sang Vivaldi's Gloria at Kungsholm's Church, complete with strings and oboes and a little boy soprano singing the "Domine Deus" so that I nearly wept. And these were not tears of horror or embarrassment. The singing was sublime. It is embarrassing, though, that in my dotage the strangest things can make me nearly weep. I am such a sentimental idiot.
But I have to ask myself: which makes me stupider - those cringing tears of horror of my fragile American sensibility or the foolish sentimental tears of an old fart?
The Swedish word for the day is tävling. It means contest.
- by Francis S.