A pre-performance rehearsal.

A pre-performance rehearsal.

Things have been going really well with the women’s choir that I joined. I still don’t speak much Icelandic, so I Google translate all the group emails and postings on Facebook. And if I don’t understand what’s being said at practice, and it seems important, I’ll ask the woman sitting next to me. And they’ve continued to be so welcoming and accommodating. It really has been a lovely experience being part of their group.

This first “semester” has been focused on holiday music and culminated in two concerts at a local church called Guðríðarkirkja (Gudrid’s Church) in eastern Reykjavik. I got a kick out of the name as one of the books I’d read before we arrived was titled Gudrid, the Far Traveler about the Viking explorer Gudrid Thorbjarnardóttir.

According to Wikipedia, “She appears in the Saga of Erik the Red and the Saga of the Greenlanders, known collectively as the Vinland sagas. Along with her husband Þorfinnur Karlsefni, they led an expedition to Vinland where they begat their son Snorri Þorfinnsson, the first European born in the Americas outside of Greenland.”

And the church actually was named after her because “after the death of her husband, Guðríður sailed to Rome to become a Pilgrim and later she became a nun. According to the Sagas, she was a very passionate woman and very religious” (TripCreator.com). It isn’t a fancy old-fashioned European church. In fact it’s rather square and modern, but it has fabulous acoustics.

Interior view of the church.

Interior view of the church.

The Icelandic songs were definitely challenging! We sang about fourteen songs altogether; one was in Spanish (“Ave Maria”), three were in English (“Mary’s Boy Child”, “It’s Beginning to Look at Lot Like Christmas”, and “Please Come Home for Christmas”)…and the rest were all in Icelandic. I’d like to say that I was able to memorize all the lyrics, but I wasn’t. I’d say I could remember about 30% of them. The rest of the time I listened very closely and mimicked the director’s mouth as he formed the words. But I was able to remember all the music! And that’s the really important part. 🙂

And I can honestly say it was one of the few truly Icelandic moments I’ve had since being here. Surrounded by a bunch of Icelandic women, singing Icelandic Christmas songs to a predominantly Icelandic audience.

After the final performance, we had a little celebration and had some yummy snacks and a few glasses of wine. The women around me were super thoughtful and spoke in English, so that I’d be part of the conversation. I can honestly say that joining the choir was a fantastic decision, and I’m really looking forward to starting up again next semester.

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