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From Stockholm to Chicago: An Immigrant’s Journey

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From Stockholm to Chicago: An Immigrant’s Journey

Program

Sinfonia in B flat Major
Anders von Düben (1673-1738)

from Sujkmans Musique, BeRI 7
Johan Helmich Roman (1694-1758)
No. 10
No. 8

Trollpolska
(Traditional Dalarna)

Sonata No. 2 in D Major for harpsichord
Johan Helmich Roman
I.      (Allegro)
II.     Lento non troppo
III.   Allegro moderato
IV.   Non troppo Allegro

from Golovinmusiken, BeRI 1
Johan Helmich Roman
No. 2 
No. 3
No 5
No 6

from Drottningholmmusiken
Johan Helmich Roman
No. 12 Presto

 

de O ̈nnersta. Febr. 1730. Be RI 343
Johan Helmich Roman

from Golovinmusiken, Be RI 1
Johan Helmich Roman
No 11
No 12
No 13
No 14
No 15

Swedes in Chicago
Kurt Westerberg (b. 1950)

Performers

Patrick O’ Malley, recorder
Brandi Berry Benson, baroque violin
Katherine Shuldiner, viola da gamba
David Schrader, harpsichord

Kurt Westerberg, composer

 

Program Notes

Performed by Thomas Aláan

We take you back in time to highlight the journeys of two immigrants: Johan Helmich Roman, a court musician who rose to become Sweden’s “Handel” and left a musical legacy in the Swedish royal court after living in London and returning back home to the motherland; and, Julius Thor Westerberg, a native of Gothenburg who immigrated to Chicago in 1894 to work on the farms and eventually pastor the Swedish Methodist congregations in Andersonville.

 

This is the tale of Johan Helmich Roman’s journey.

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Born into a musical family, Johann Roman was taught lessons on the violin and oboe by his father who was a member of the Royal Court Orchestra of Sweden, named the Hovkapellet. The musical culture was rich with the French and German styles, and the court was filled with the music of one Anders von Düben, who studied in Paris and brought back all he learned to Stockholm.  It wasn’t long before Roman would also become a composer himself and have the lead musical position in court.

Sinfonia in B flat Major by Anders von Düben (1673-1738)

By the age of 7 years old, he “played his violin at the Royal Court where he performed difficult passages from diverse compositions with much skill” noted Abraham Sahlstedt, the court’s royal secretary of the time. At age 17 he was offered an official position with the Hovkapellet where he spent much of the time sitting next to Johann Sebastian Bach’s older brother, oboist Johann Jakob Bach. The next year, Roman was granted permission to travel overseas, and four years later traveled to London where he met “the great Maestro Handel.”

from Sujkmans Musique, BeRI 7 by Johan Helmich Roman (1694-1758)
No. 10
No. 8

When he arrived in London, Roman was “quickly taken up as a violinist at the Opera” and employed in the King’s Theater, one of the top opera houses in all of Europe. Under Handel’s direction, Roman was the only Scandinavian employed in one of the most prestigious orchestras in all of Europe.

Trollpolska (Traditional Dalarna)

Roman watched Handel lead his epic premiere of his opera, Radamisto, from the harpsichord, and it’s said that Roman also took basso continuo lessons from him as well. Regardless, Roman got to watch and soak in Handel’s harpsichord and basso continuo techniques every night at the opera house.

 

Sonata No. 2 in D Major for harpsichord by Johan Helmich Roman
I.      (Allegro)
II.     Lento non troppo
III.   Allegro moderato
IV.   Non troppo Allegro

As much as Roman wanted to stay in a vibrant music scene among the top performers, the Royal Court of Stockholm was calling him home. With the sudden death of Charles II and new election of King Frederic I, the court music scene was in shambles “in a state of much decrepitude” as Roman himself put it.  But, he returned as a much more skilled violinist, leader, and composer, and right out of the gate composed an abundance of tribute music, including his  Golovinmusiken in honor of the Russian ambassador Golovin who visited Stockholm in 1728.

from Golovinmusiken, BeRI 1 by Johan Helmich Roman
No. 2 
No. 3
No 5
No 6

Dubbed the “Father of Swedish Music” and “Sweden’s Handel” Roman received yet another opportunity to travel abroad in 1735. For two years, he traveled all over Europe and gained proficiency in English, French, Italian and German. He brought back a wealth of his own instrumental music, and in 1744 celebrated the arrival of a new royal couple who would change everything for the music at the Swedish courts, Adolf Frederick (not Frederic I!) and Louisa Ulrika who loved music and played cello and harpichord, respectively. He composed Drottingholmmusiken in their honor.

from Drottningholmmusiken by Johan Helmich Roman
No. 12 Presto

However, even in the highest of times, tragedy can strike. Roman was made a widower not two months before those celebrations, and was granted a paid leave of absence following those celebrations. By 1752, he was in Haraldsmåla where he spent his final years “in the wildnerness”.

de O ̈nnersta. Febr. 1730. Be RI 343 by Johan Helmich Roman

He continued to compose while spending quality time with his five children. The last document he writes “‘my solemn Will that since my Children are all equally dear to me, so shall that which I leave behind be divided equally between them, so that the Sisters shall receive the same portion as their Brothers, for they are all equally dear to me.”  His last piece of music, written June 1756 were to the words of Pslam 11, “In the Lord put I my trust.”

from Golovinmusiken, Be RI 1 by Johan Helmich Roman
No 11
No 12
No 13
No 14
No 15

The following was contributed by Kurt Westerberg about his paternal grandfather, Julius Thor Westerberg.

The instrumental composition “Swedes in Chicago” was written for the Bach and Beethoven Experience series known as Chicago Stories and is based in part on incidents in the life of my paternal grandfather, Thor Julius Westerberg, who emigrated from Sweden to Chicago and eventually served as pastor at several Swedish Methodist churches in Chicago.  TJW wrote an autobiography in 1953 and it originally existed as a typewritten manuscript, written in English.  My older brother, Kermit Westerberg and I recently discovered copies of the manuscript.  My music, in part, portrays three incidents found in the manuscript:

  1. Leaving Sweden for Chicago

  2. Working in Chicago – this reflects my grandfather’s early jobs in Chicago that included working on farms and working in a coffee packing plant; it also reflects on the history of Swedish immigrants playing an important role in building Chicago after the Chicago Fire.

  3. Conversion on a Train – while taking a train from the Des Plaines Campgrounds back to Chicago, TJW experienced hearing a “rowdy” group of passengers singing bawdy songs and drinking and also hearing another group of passengers singing hymns.  He joined the latter group and viewed that as a significant conversion experience.

In addition to the music, I have asked my brother to translate portions of the autobiography into Swedish and record those portions that will then be heard in the background during different sections of the work.

 Summary of Autobiography of Torgny Julius Westerberg

 1874 – birth near Gothenburg
1894 – Emigrated to America and came to Chicago
1895 – Converted to the Methodist Church
1899 – Entered the Swedish Methodist Episcopal Seminary in Evanston
1903 – Graduation from Seminary
1903 – 1923 – served Swedish Methodist Churches in several communities near Austin, Texas
1923 – 1945 – returned to Chicago, serving in three different churches and as District Superintendent
1945 – retires
1953 – writes autobiography; 50th wedding anniversary
1954 - death

Kurt’s piece was commissioned by the BBE as part of its 2018 Chicago Stories project, an annual new music program that sets the stories of Chicagoans, Chicago neighborhoods, and Chicago communities to music.

Swedes in Chicago by Kurt Westerberg (b. 1950)

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