Wed 19.09.18

In Remembrance of Jóhann Jóhannsson: ‘Virðulegu Forsetar’

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Unique church concert and tribute to an acclaimed Icelandic (film)composer

Please note: this concert takes place in the Church of Saint John the Baptist at the Béguinage (Begijnhof 2062, 1000 Brussels). This is 10 minutes walking distance from AB.

Icelandic composer Jóhann Jóhannsson is known to the general public for his soundtracks, including the acclaimed ‘The Theory of Everything’. Jóhannsson won a Golden Globe and a series of Oscar, BAFTA and Grammy nominations for it.

His tried and tested combination of classical compositions with electro was to be heard on highly-praised albums like his debut ‘Englabörn’ (’02), ‘Virðulegu Forsetar’ (’04), ‘IBM 1401, A User’s Manual’ (’06), ‘Fordlândia’ (’08) and more recently ‘Orphée’ (’16).

Jóhannsson passed away unexpectedly earlier this year, in his apartment in Berlin, at the age of 48.

Together with AB regular Adam Wiltzie (A Winged Victory for the Sullen, Stars of the Lid) – who belonged to Jóhannsson’s inner circle  of close friends – and under the approving eye of Jóhannsson’s management, the greatest care has been taken in selecting a programme, line-up, location and date.

On the programme: a complete performance of ‘Virðulegu Forsetar’, Jóhann Jóhannsson's second album, which was released in 2004 as the successor to his debut ‘Englabörn’. ‘Virðulegu Forsetar’ means as much as ‘eminent presidents’ and also served at the time as soundtrack for an expo about … euh … presidents. ‘Virðulegu Forsetar’ is a stately, minimalistic composition in four parts with a duration of about 60 minutes. The instrumentation consists of 11 brass players, percussion, organ and piano. Until now, the album has only been performed live twice. The première took place in the famous Hallgrímskirkja (Reykjavik, Iceland), the place where Jóhann’s funeral was also held.

For the location of the concert, it was a deliberate choice to opt for a church, and then specifically the Church of Saint John The Baptist at the Béguinage. No coincidence, as Adam Wiltzie fell for the acoustics there after a previous successful concert with his band Stars of the Lid.

Adam Wiltzie (electro/organ) – who is also to be heard on diverse soundtracks by Jóhannsson – put together the line-up with the greatest of care. Although it is still a work in progress, aside from Wiltzie, Skúli Sverrisson (bass/electro) and conductor Guðni Franzson will join the band. Both were to be heard on ‘Virðulegu Forsetar’. Belgian Brass was selected for the wind instruments, they had already been invited by Jóhannsson for the live performance of his album ‘The Miners’ Hymns’.

DATE: 19.09.2018
There’s no such thing as coincidence, as even the date has been chosen with care. On September 19 Jóhannsson would have turned 49.

Britain’s electro-label Touch. (see too: Fennesz, Hildur Guðnadóttir, Chris Watson ...) was the first to believe in the power and beauty of Jóhann's work and released his first two albums. Founding father Mike Harding will provide the soundtrack for the evening.

Finally: Jóhann Jóhannsson was no unknown to AB. He already shared the prophetic bill at the Domino festival in 2009 with the now great Jon Hopkins. Jóhannsson performed twice in the series Silence Is Sexy – whereby the focus was upon contemporary classic. In 2011, as curator of his own evening, he was here when his album ‘The Miners’ Hymns’ saw the light of day and in 2012 he was here in the good company of Hauschka and Dustin O’Halloran.


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Onwaarschijnlijk straf en waardig eerbetoon aan een groot componist. Alles klopte : de locatie , de belichting , de soundtrack van Mike Harding van Touch voor het concert. De uitvoering zelf was intens, adembenemend, ontroerend, bloedmooi. Een onvergetelijke avond die mij alvast zal bijblijven tot het einde van mijn dagen. Enig weliswaar beperkt minpunt : de vallende lege flessen en plastic bekertjes. Misschien volgende keer gewoon geen drank/catering bij muziek zoals deze op zo een locatie ? Wat mij betreft maken jullie hier een jaarlijkse traditie van. Volgend jaar projectie "The Miners Hymns" met live soundtrack ?
Une note discordante. De l'avoir vu sur scène à Leuven et à Bozar, ces concerts étaient pleins de couleurs, de reliefs, suscitant l'admiration. Ici, la performance était certes belle, mais austère et parfaitement ennuyeuse.
True respect, I was moved to tears, so atmospheric in the church.
Where do I start... this was perfect. The music, setting, lighting, atmosphere, staff, everything was just perfect. I was nearly in tears from the outset, from the first deliriously triumphant yet painfully mournful trumpet fanfare. It is an experience that will live with me forever. Congratulations to everyone involved, and happy birthday Johann... you'll be missed but you've left behind a musical legacy that will live forever. I look forward to sharing his music with appreciative audiences again and again. Encore!
Geweldige plek, magisch verlicht, ideaal voor dit magistraal concert.
Zeer mooie locatie en belichting, Jóhann zou zeggen dat het goed was ;-)
Beter kan je Jóhann Jóhannson niet in herinnering brengen. Dit unieke concert zal nog heel lang nazinderen.
It was a stunning performance and the mood/lighting - fantastic. But the ticket said it starts at 20h00 when here I see starting time is listed as 20h30. Basically we arrived early to get good seats and in the end waited an hour before the concert started.
Unique performance in an even more unique setting. Mesmerizing and breathtaking! Thank you all!!
Het was een geweldige ervaring. Bedankt Johann en heel de ploeg van dienst.
Nothing is a coincidence. My parents celebrated yesterday on sept 19th their 49th wedding anniversary. What a thrill, what a concert. Nothing is a coincidence.
Amazing setting. I came in a little late, and going up the side, there were people lost in reflection - sitting or lying on the floor - it was all quite moving. The bar situation was bizarre, though. Why set it up if you won't sell during the show? I understand the reverence during the performance - got it - but sell it out front or something. Seems like a big waste.
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