The Swedish Orchestra that Turn Homophobic Hate Mail into Music - Ooh, Interesting! Fascinating Facts

June 08, 2018

We love fascinating facts from the world of entertainment and whether the fact comes from dance, magic or anything else at all, we hugely enjoy sharing it with you all. This week’s fact is from the world of music, classical music in particular, and is only a week old! Without further ado, let’s investigate this fab tale of a Swedish orchestra…

The Helsingborg Symphony Orchestra has a history that stretches back just over a century and upon receiving some mail recently, the group were rather happy to take in the praise. Fine wine, a great setting… It was an absolutely glowing review. Until composer Fredrik Österling continued reading. The attendee to one of their recent shows ended their anonymous letter by saying that the performance has made them ‘want to vomit’ and criticised the orchestra for ‘hopping aboard the fag train’ along with notice of a cancelled membership.

Oh dear.

How best to respond to such a letter? Considering the writer was anonymous, there seemed only one option to Osterling: to turn the hate into a brand new composition! As he told the Queerty website:

“The hate letter I received reeked of contempt and fear for the love between human beings. I had no hesitation when [tenor Rickard] Söderberg suggested that I should set it to music. By considering the text as an opera libretto, we were able to scrutinise the emotion that the anonymous sender was seeking to express. And at the same time, we are doing exactly what an artistic institution should be doing: we are reflecting our times in our art.”

The resulting composition was premiered on 26th May under the hilarious name of Bögtåget, which literally translates as ‘The Fag Train’. Not only did the Helsingborg Symphony Orchestra play this brand new work, but they did so alongside Schumann’s Frauen-Liebe und Leben, a piece traditionally performed by a woman. Under Österling's new arrangement, the orchestra instead decided to opt for a man to sing the song, which expresses a hopeless romantic’s love for their husband.

Söderberg summed up the performance in a direct-to-camera Facebook video where he noted that he could not “let hate with such poetical ambitions go unnoticed.”  Smiling broadly he adds that he feels for the anonymous letter writer: “It’s a shame they cancelled their subscriptions, so that they cannot hear their nice libretto.”

Wonderful. Just wonderful!

Photo: Rickard Söderberg of the Helsingborg Symphony Orchestra.


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By Henry Fosdike