Liam – August 12, 2019

In three days, on August 15th, America – and perhaps the world – will celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Woodstock music festival. Yes, for a few days in August 1969 on a farm in White Lake, New York, love, music and community reigned supreme.

Billed as “An Aquarius Exposition: 3 Days of Peace & Music,” the famous festival brought the remarkable 1960s to their zenith. Were it not such an interesting time in history, when people were breaking away from the stringent mores of earlier decades and expressing themselves as never before, we may have all but forgotten Woodstock.

Even if it were not the half-century anniversary of those epic three days, I would still be thinking about music and the many festivals celebrating the power of live music this time of year. From Lollapalooza here in Chicago in early August to Summerfest in Milwaukee over the 4th of July (the largest music festival in the world) to Roskilde in Denmark, music festivals bring people together to enjoy “the universal language of mankind,” as American poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow put it.

Spanning every known culture around the globe, the art of music has had the power to move people (literally and figuratively) throughout history.  As perhaps the most famous Dane of all, Hans Christian Andersen, said, “Where words fail, music speaks.”

From gospel and blues to opera, Chicago has become known for all types of music. This year alone Chicago music festivals will draw millions of people to the city to celebrate all genres of music. At The Danish Home too, live music is a main attraction every year at the annual Summerfest. Two years ago, for the home’s 125th anniversary, Summerfest featured an ABBA tribute band; last year, it was a Blues Brothers band; and this year, it was vintage country western swing. It’ll be interesting to see and hear who will get our toes tapping next summer!

Denmark is also known as a music hub in its own right and is the setting for many popular music festivals throughout the year where folk music influences and musical traditions can still be heard.  Spillemandsmusik (“folk music”) and folk dancing are important parts of Danish tradition and customs that have been used to preserve the culture of its people for centuries (watch here).

If I’ve learned one thing, it’s that Danes love to sing!  At the Danish Home I know that residents practice this beloved Danish pastime quite often. They sing together at monthly birthday parties and various other events throughout the year, and several Summerfests have included featured performances from the Bjornson Male Chorus. 

In this editorial piece from Scandia from December 1908, a cultural appreciation for Scandinavian music is expressed so eloquently:

 “We Scandinavians love our songs of the home land–songs that breathe memories of the past, of childhood, of mother love. We have heard our Scandinavian Singing Societies sing these songs, and we have been carried home to the shores of childhood.”

The most wonderful aspect of music is that it is a shared experience. Around the world and in every culture, music, in all its forms and genres, has the ability to make us laugh and cry, to inspire and excite.  It evokes emotions and memories and is oftentimes the bookmark to our most significant life events.  Music is, in its simplest form, a wonderful pastime spent among friends, loved ones, and even strangers.

So get out this summer and enjoy some musik! This year, in honor of Woodstock, you may even want to resurrect the tie-dyed shirts and headbands.