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The lowdown on... Allsång på Skansen

The lowdown on... Allsång på Skansen

Published: 26 Jun 2012 16:03 GMT+02:00
Updated: 26 Jun 2012 16:03 GMT+02:00

Summer in Sweden means a few things: pickled herring and potatoes; dancing round the maypole; and, as we are about to see, millions of people tuning in to watch members of the general public stretch their collective vocal chords at Skansen open-air museum in Stockholm.

What does Allsång mean?

Allsång translates roughly as community singing or a bit of a singsong. The annual summer singalong that is Allsång på Skansen has proved a huge success since it was first televised in 1979. It is known to inspire fellowship, unity, good cheer and sometimes even violence. But more of that anon.

So what happens exactly?

What happens is that national broadcaster SVT books up a range of musical artists who convene once a week at Skansen to perform on the Solliden stage.

The professional performances are then interspersed with songs led by the presenter or choir leader, who whips a crowd of pensioners into a full-throated frenzy as they belt out well-loved songs about attractive places, lovely flowers and chirping birds.

That sounds very nice.

It is positively spiffing. In fact the whole thing is so overflowing with cuddly niceness that it can drive a certain kind of person into paroxyms of rage.

As a case in point, one viewer became so incensed on the opening day of one year's Allsång season that he threatened to sabotage the entire extravaganza.

While hardly commendable, news of such behaviour will cause a ripple of guilty delight among many of those not counted among the two million or so viewers who swear by a weekly dose of the stuff.

Who presents it?

Swedish singer and heartthrob Måns Zelmerlöv is the current host. He took over from comedian and former reality TV presenter Anders Lundin, in 2011.

Zelmerlöv, while definitely appealing to a younger audience, has big shoes to fill after Lundin, who was much loved by little old Swedish ladies, as indeed was his predecessor Lasse Berghagen.

From the moment Berghagen came aboard in 1994, the hugely popular singer and composer got everybody singing from the same hymn sheet, which at that time left Lundin with a daunting legacy. In fairness to both younger men, they have managed to successfully shed the burden of expectation.

What sort of acts turn up for the singsong?

Until the turn of the decade the line-up was dominated by Swedish artists of the schlager persuasion.

But ever since tricky Ricky Martin brought his vida loca to the serenity of Skansen in 2001, a regular infusion of modern chart music has caused the younger generations to commingle with the elderly in a display of rare solidarity.

Who's going to make this summer a televisual must?

Well, Sweden's winning Eurovision contestant Loreen will be there - what more do you need really?

But apart from her, the festival will offer its audience and the millions of viewers at home several big names from the Swedish music scene including Miss Li, Fibes Oh Fibes and Laleh as well as old time favourite Magnus Uggla.

There will also be quite a show up from this year's Melodifestivalen represented by metalcore/synthrock band Dead by April, Molly Sandén, Björn Ranelid and Sara Li, as well as the competition's presenter and singer Sarah Dawn Finér.

Big names indeed. There must be a signature tune for an undertaking of this magnitude?

Yes, there is. Every week the gathered masses join for a rendition of a song called 'Stockholm in my heart'. The original theme song went: 'Sing along, sing along, with your television, it will turn us into a united nation'. But that didn't last.

Amazing they didn't keep that one. It sounds tremendously catchy.

It wasn't.

More information on this year's dates and artists at the Skansen website

Paul O'Mahony (paul.omahony@thelocal.se)

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