Feeling Homesick for Sweden – (Borås – Borås)

In a lot of ways, Sweden has become a second home to Quatuor Bozzini. We usually go to Borås (near Gothenburg) at least twice a year, hosted by Björn Nilsson, producer of the Ny Musik series. His legacy and relationships with composers and their music merits a blogpost in itself, so I won’t go into it now.

Upon our arrival at Gothenburg airport, we are always personally greeted by a warm hug from Björn (which means ‘bear’ in Swedish). Getting picked up by someone you love at an airport is always a good sign that you’re ‘coming home.’ And for us, it’s always a welcome alternative to crossing our fingers for a minivan in a long taxi queue. Björn then personally tangrams all our luggage in the back of his Japanese SUV before we all pack in – Clemens always in the front passenger seat to catch up with Björn in German, and the ladies in the back with the cello across our laps, either listening to the conversation in front or taking a quick powernap. Usually, if Sweden is our first stop on tour, we will have flown the overnight from Montreal into Frankfurt or Munich, and caught a mid-morning flight into Gothenburg.

The 30-minute drive into Borås winds through the Swedish countryside, which is a lot like our own – granite, pines, lakes. It’s only when you see a roadsign or industrial park that you remember you are in another country (although I did spot a business called ‘Derome’ along the highway the last few times we were there.)

With a population of about 66,000, Borås has a small downtown area and our hotel is always a stone’s throw from the grocery store, where we get our salad lunches and pre-concert snacks, and from the church and chapel where we perform. Checking into the hotel and taking another powernap in our respective rooms (2 hours this time!) we force ourselves to a late afternoon or early evening rehearsal at the church, sometimes to play some of the obscure concert repertoire for Björn, but mostly to stave off any ensuing jet lag. Having an established routine feels familiar and helps reduce some of the anxiety and stress from being in unfamiliar places.

Each visit to Borås usually means two different concert programs. One concert is invariably a quartet recital, but sometimes in the second concert, the quartet is presented as a subset (solo, duo, or trio) or we are joined with other Swedish musicians to present different chamber works by the same composer as the quartet recital program.

Another highlight of our visits to Borås is the home-cooked meal. Pernilla, Björn’s wife, makes a mean fish stew, and Clemens has learned to replicate it in Montreal as part of his cooking repertoire. When Pernilla’s father was still with us, he and his wife would cook a wonderful multi-course meal, with hunted elk as the main attraction. Pernilla’s father did many years of business with Canadians, so his English was very good and conversations in their home were always lively (and alcohol generously flowing!)

For all these years that we have been going to Borås, we also get to know the next generation of ‘Nilsson’s’ – almost every year Björn boasts a new grandchild and once again his and Pernilla’s family life becomes very busy.

As always, Björn drives us back to the airport, with all our luggage in his small SUV, and we each get a nice big bear hug before we head into the terminal, on to the next tour stop. We can’t wait to see him and Pernilla again – we are homesick for our second home.

Alissa Cheung

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