Peace Symphony – An evening for Yemen

Radiohjälpen, Berwaldhallen and Swedish Radio invite you to an evening for Yemen in order to raise awareness about the world’s largest ongoing humanitarian disaster. The evening opens with a seminar in which Ambassador and Sweden’s Special Envoy for the crises in Yemen and Libya, Peter Semneby and Michaela Friberg Storey from the Red Cross participate, among others. The seminar is followed by a concert presenting the first performance of Johannes Jansson’s newly written work, Peace Symphony. We will livestream the concert on Play. Due to late refunds, Foreign Minister Margot Wallström can not participate in the seminar.

In 2011, Yemeni journalist and peace activist Tawakkol Karman was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for her non-violent efforts to promote women’s safety and rights. At the time, she was the youngest ever recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize and her beautiful speech inspired Johannes Jansson to write Peace Symphony for choir and orchestra. Karman’s boundless vision is the very essence of the piece and a crucial window to a new challenging, behind-the-scenes humanism that permeates our world today. Peace Symphony, which is now being performed for the first time is a work commissioned by the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra.

Together, we will push the horizons,

one after another,

towards a world of true human perfection.

Peace be upon you!

The final words of Tawakkol Karman’s lecture at the award ceremony in 2011.

Visit Tawakkol Karman’s website for more information:

Here you can listen to Nobel Prize Winner Tawakkol Karman when she talks about the premiere of ”Peace Symphony




The Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra serves as a symphony orchestra for the whole of Sweden. Regardless of where you live you can listen to the orchestra’s concerts through the Swedish Radio’s broadcasts or on their website, and several concerts are also shown on Swedish Television. The Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra is one of the best and most versatile orchestras in Europe – perhaps even in the world. Every year they perform well-loved works from the classical repertoire as well as new music by exciting contemporary composers such as Victoria Borisova-Ollas, Magnus Lindberg and Unsuk Chin. In addition they perform music from popular films and computer and video games and collaborate with leading jazz, pop and rock artists in a constant endeavour to develop and to break new ground.

The Swedish Radio Choir is like a leading mountaineer in the world of music. The choir’s former chief conductor Peter Dijkstra has described the ensemble as “the group that leaves base camp first and stakes out the course for others to follow.” Three hundred years of Swedish a cappella tradition, combined with an ambitious and culturally diverse repertoire with some of the world’s finest conductors, has established the Swedish Radio Choir as one of the foremost ensembles of its kind. The 32 professional singers are as equally at home in completely new music by today’s most exciting composers as they are in classic favourites from the rich international treasure trove. Through the Swedish Radio’s broadcasts and website the choir not only reaches concert audiences but also radio listeners everywhere.

Finnish pianist, composer and conductor Ville Matvejeff was born in 1986. After studying at the Sibelius Academy and the Espoo Music Institute, he debuted at 18 years of age with the Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra under Susanna Mälkki. It was followed by number of years of touring the world, for example as Lieder accompanist for Karita Mattila. From 2014 he has been the chief conductor of Jyväskyla Sinfonian and the principal guest conductor at the Croatioan National Theatre. Last year he also took over as Artistic Director of the Turku Music Festival.

Alexandra Büchel trained at the Stockholm University College of Opera as well as under Professor Dorothy Irving. She has rapidly made a name for herself as one of the foremost interpreters of modern and contemporary music. In 2017 she was awarded the Birgit Nilsson scholarship. Alexandra has sung such roles as The Blind Poetess in Blomdahl’s Aniara, Gepopo in Le Grand Macabre, Coloratura Machine in Carl Unander-Scharin’s Sing the Body Electric, Gerda in the Snow Queen by Valtinoni, as well as Agnes in the première of Catharina Backman’s Floating Woman at the Malmö Opera. She has also performed on the stages of NorrlandsOperan, Folkoperan, Vadstena-Akademien, OscarsborgOperaen, the Cape Town Opera in South-Africa and Landestheater Gera in Germany. In addition, he is much in demand as a concert singer, performing works such as Mozart’s Great Mass in C minor, Haydn’s The Creation, Brahms’s Ein deutsches Requiem (A German Requiem), Canteloube’s Chants d’Auvergne, Correspondances by Dutilleux, Ligeti’s Aventures, Orff’s Carmina Burana and Mahler’s Symphonies No. 2 and No. 4.

For many years now, Olle Persson has been one of the most sought-after and busy Swedish soloists in his genre. His unusually broad repertoire has taken him to more or less every major stage in the Nordic region. In addition, he has frequently been engaged to perform in premières of newer repertoires.
Olle Persson has been a regular guest soloist since 1987 at Folkoperan with over ten major roles. In addition to the collaboration with Folkoperan, Olle Persson has participated in a number of productions including at the Royal Swedish Opera, Göteborg Opera, Malmö Opera, Drottningholmsteatern and NorrlandsOperan.


Approximate timings

The British composer Judith Bingham originally trained as a choral singer and is a former member of the BBC Singers. Her choral music, like her other works, is characterized by great variation. Another distinctive feature is the sensation of going on a journey. We never return to the same starting point but instead, end up in a new place.

Therefore, it was not surprising that while hiking in the Austrian Alps, she was inspired to write Water Lilies. During a refreshing swim in an Alpine lake, she managed to become entangled in the lake’s water lilies and began to think about a painting by John Waterhouse, Hylas and the Nymphs (1898), which depicts the legend of Hylas who is enticed into the depths by the nymphs. Bingham’s experience resulted in the poem that forms the basis for the work. Later in the winter, she wondered how the water lilies survive the cold environment and found that they overwinter frozen in the ice but come to life again during the summer. A beautiful symbol to represent overcoming difficulties.

The work is a tribute to all survivors and was part of a collaboration with several composers (including Paul McCartney) under the title A Garland for Linda. A close friend, who miraculously survived cancer and during the illness frequently listened to Ralph Vaughan Williams’s music, was behind this initiative. The idea behind the project was to pay tribute to music as a healing force. The work is replete with dense, but not overworked, harmonies and Bingham conveys the feeling of a journey by using different compositional techniques and a consistent, harmonious progression. She paints on a wide canvas of sound with small solo inserts that are intended to imitate the dots in impressionist paintings.

The music takes us from the nymphs’ siren-like enticements, through icy winter, to finally greeting the return of summer and life itself.

 Text: Andreas Konvicka

Judith Bingham

Born: June 21, 1952, in Nottingham, Great Britain

Education: Royal Academy of Music (1970–73) with teachers such as Malcolm MacDonald and singing teacher Jean Austin-Dobson. Later composition studies with Hans Keller who had a strong influence on her development.

Selected works: Her international break-through came with, Chartres for Orchestra (1988), Passagio Bassoon Concerto (1998), The Shooting Star (trumpet concerto, 1998–9), Prague (1991) and The Stars above, the Earth Below (for brass band, 1991). Over the years, she has composed many important commissioned pieces and now has a solid and varied list of works.

About her sources of inspiration: She draws inspiration and finds subjects for her compositions from widely differing sources, ranging from the previously mentioned Chartres Cathedral to the Hubble Telescope, and from ancient Egyptian writings to contemporary poetry (including her own), all of which feature an innate style for musical drama and imagery.

Paula af Malmborg Ward is perhaps best known to us as one of Sweden’s foremost opera composers, but she also moves with ease across genre boundaries. Influences, including popular music, Latin American dance music, etc., have over time merged to create her very own personal artistic expression. For her, everything stems from opera. Text and music are equally important and this permeates all her works, even her non-stage works.

In 2008, a unique beauty contest took place in war-torn Angola – Miss Landmine Survivor – where all the women taking part had experienced the trauma of having stood on and been injured by land mines while working in the fields. A competition where mutilated women step forward as proud and beautiful individuals with prospects for the future. Women who are no longer victims. In addition, the first prize was an artificial limb. Paula af Malmborg Ward was greatly impressed by the competition and found the lyrics for Tending Fields on the competition website. These quotes are from the women reflecting on their fate and their dreams. Tending Fields II is a version written for an eight-part men’s choir. Having men perform the piece brings yet another dimension to the work.

Andreas Konvicka

Paula af Malmborg Ward

Born: Februari 27, 1962, in Stockholm

Education: Trained as a music teacher at the Royal College of Music in Stockholm (1983), and later continued studying composition under Hans Gefors at the Malmö Academy of Music (1997).

Selected works: 25 works for the stage, of which the opera The Bomb Party (1997) was her break-through. Although she herself finds the radio opera The Foundling Woman (2005) to be her most important opera. She has also mastered other genres and exhibits a wide range of skills: the music to the SVT Christmas calendar, A December Dream from 2005, the orchestral works Il gallo cortonese: sinfonia concertante (2008), Threads (2011), the cantata Win (2009) for choir, accordion and saxophone, as well as the choir project Out of eggs (2016)

Trivia: Her father is former conductor and opera director Lars af Malmborg and her mother is opera singer Gunilla af Malmborg. She grew up with popular music, while also studying classical piano. She wrote songs, arranged music, sang in a bossa nova band and developed a passion for salsa music – a novelty in Sweden at the time. In 1984, she wrote the song Rendez-Vous, which competed and came third in the Swedish qualifiers for the Eurovision Song Contest.

The German-speaking poet Rainer Maria Rilke, born in Prague in 1875, began his Duino Elegies in 1912 in Trieste at Duino Castle, which has lent its name to the work. However, war and an extended period of writer’s block intervened, and the poems were not finished until he went into a creative period in February 1922. Finnish composer EINOJUHANI RAUTAVAARA describes his encounter with Rilke’s poetry and the circumstances around Die erste Elegie as follows:

My youthful encounter with the poetry of Rainer Maria Rilke turned out to be quite a momentous discovery, not only in literary terms but also for the development of my world view. I still associate it with the mysticism surrounding the ruins of post-war Vienna. It was there that I composed my Five Sonnets to Orpheus and two years later, in Cologne, I started writing the song cycle Die Liebenden to Rilke’s text. From that time onwards, I continued to carry with me – both mentally and in my suitcase – the Duino Elegies, Rilke’s seminal work. Over the years, I came to prefer, and find myself particularly drawn to, the first elegy, whose angel figure took on the role of a personal ‘animus’.* My orchestral works Angels and Visitations, Angels of Dusk and Playgrounds for Angels are all musical embodiments of that figure.
     However, only as recently as in 1993, when the international choral body, Europa Cantat, wanted to commission a large-scale work from me, did I feel that the time was ripe for an angel elegy. It had evidently matured in my subconscious in the interim, since the process of composing the work was swift, eager and fluently self-assured.

An elegy is really a lament, and this holds true for Rilke’s elegies as well, a lament over the weak, divided and limited creature that man is. And the angel being invoked is not a Christian angel, but a higher being that has completed the transformation that we humans are currently undergoing. The Duino Elegies, with the aim of countering the dehumanisation that may happen as a consequence of new discoveries and technologies, have been cited frequently – including in popular culture – and are seen as one of the most important collection of poems in the 20th century. Likewise, Rautavaara’s composition has become one of the leading choral works.

*) In Jungian psychology, Animus represent the male aspects of the female soul.

Text: Karin Ekedahl

Einojuhani Rautavaara

Born: October 9, 1928, in Helsinki.

Died: July 27, 2016, in Helsinki.

Education: Studies in composition under Aarre Merikanto at the Sibelius Academy, recommended by Sibelius himself for studying under Vincent Persichetti at the Juilliard School in New York and under Roger Sessions and Aaron Copland in Tanglewood, Massachusetts.

Works: Eight very varied symphonies (no. 7 Angel of Light a global success), orchestral works such as Angels and Visitations, Isle of Bliss and Before the Icons, a number of concertos (Cantus Arcticus, three piano concertos, two cello concertos, the double bass concerto Angel of Dusk), his break-through with A Requiem in Our Time for brass ensemble, two piano sonatas, chamber music, essential choir productions, nine operas, such as the biographical works Vincent, Aleksis Kivi and Rasputin.

He holds the Finnish record in intensive care treatment: An aneurysm in 2004 led to Rautavaara being in intensive care for close to six months, a record that probably would hold up internationally as well. After that, he was able to resume composing until complications following a hip operation took his life twelve years later.

Inner contemplation opens Johannes Jansson’s Peace Symphony, which is based on parts of the speech held by the 2011 Nobel Peace Prize recipient, Tawakkol Karman (1979), at the ceremony. She shared the prize with two other women’s rights activists “for their non-violent struggle for the safety of women and for women’s rights to full participation in peace-building efforts”. Karman is one of Yemen’s best-known activists and she has been subject to murder threats and been arrested numerous times. To Jansson, the boundless vision of her text is the very essence of the piece and a crucial window into a new challenging, behind-the-scenes humanism that permeates our world today.

Tawakkol wrote the speech in Yemen in 2011, in the midst of the most dynamic moment of the Arab spring, at a time when a huge revival swept the country and, over night, made the impossible possible. A sense of community and dialogue flowed across previously unthinkable boundaries in society and a new dimension of collective generosity permeated the nation. Thus, the text can be interpreted in several different ways. The word “revolution” must be completely liberated from its purely political connotations. Of course, it represents radical social change but at the same time, it is a transformation that also encompasses an inner personal journey, a revival of humanism, a broader concept emerging. And this lies hidden throughout the text. It is more evident in stanzas like “I see on the horizon a glimpse of a new world”, or “Drive us to speak noble words, do noble deeds”, and maybe most clearly in “Towards a world of true human perfection”, which refers to the journey of human evolution towards new, as yet unimagined, eras.

After his revolutionary years in India, this is a concept in which Jansson is firmly rooted. Peace Symphony is a work commissioned by the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra.

Text: Andreas Konvicka

This is an extract from the Nobel lecture 2011 and the speech held by Tawakkol Karman, on which Peace Symphony is based:

Oh, children of the revolution in the arena
of freedom and change
All free people of the world.
Your country is a country of prophesies and
divine messages
that all decree peace.
”Thou shalt not kill”
”Blessed are the peacemakers”
”Oh, you with the courage to believe, may you all enter the kingdom of peace”
Mankind’s strong yearning for creation,
Not for destruction,
For progress,
Not regression and death.
All the peoples and nations of the world,
in spite of all our differences,
are members of the same family
Sharing the same yearnings, the same fears.
Mankind will continue its march
Giving and receiving
Where understanding will replace dispute, Collaboration – conflict,
Where peace will replace war,
And integration –  Separation.
A march towards the creation of a new world
For all of mankind.
A world where all relationships
rule out human slavery –
As well as injustice, oppression, discrimination and tyranny.
A world full of partnership,
Collaboration, dialogue and coexistence.
In acceptance of one another
Where the law of force and power
Against groups, peoples and nations,
To rob them of their freedom and dignity,
Will disappear once and for all.
I see on the horizon a glimpse of new world
Of a shining and flourishing globalisation,
I certainly see the end of a vicious and black History
And the beginning of a History full of love and brotherhood
Where oppressed people have rebelled,  And declared the birth of a new Dawn
For the free people of earth to throw off their chains.
All forms of belief,  all divine messages support the oppressed.
Any injustice committed against one person is an injustice committed against all mankind.
We rejoice in being on the right side of history
With flowers and bare breasts
Filled with dreams , love and peace.
The triumph of a peaceful revolution
With the sacrifice of magnanimous, peaceful people.
Share my conviction
That peace shall be mankind’s hope for ever
Our best hope for a better future
That drives us to speak noble words and do noble deeds.
Together, we will push the horizons
One after another
Towards a world of true human perfection.
Peace be upon you!

Johannes Jansson
Born: July 24, 1950, in Stockholm
Education: Studied composition, musical theory and conducting at the Malmö Academy of Music (1968–1972). The private studies under the tutelage of Sten Broman were an important first step in shaping his own musical language and later studies under Ingvar Lidholm, Sven-Erik Bäck and Siegfried Naumann added important aspects.
Selected works: A comprehensive and varies list of works where the string quartets and in particular no. 2 (1976), The Mutation of Death for soprano and orchestra (1985) deserves mention. His break-through came in 1987 with Piano Concerto no. 1 Corpo in Luce. Guitar Concerto (1996) and Hymn to the Mystic Fire (2004) are other important milestones.
About musical development: He grew up in an artistic household and started his career as an improvisational musician on the guitar. During a longer sojourn in Auroville in southern India, he radically reassessed his musical approach. His meeting with musician and composer Sunil Bhattacharya in Pondicherry, who used a deep inner sensibility to compose his works by listening to the music within. The culture had a profound effect on Jansson and he found a spiritual community in it.

Concert length: 2 h 15 min incl. intermission

Before the concert, we invite you to a seminar to raise awareness of the situation in Yemen.

SEMINAR AT 18.00–18:40


“Jamal is six months old. He weighs only three kilos. There is a faraway look in his eyes, almost apathetic. He is too tired to cry. His skin sags in dry flaps, he suffers from acute malnourishment. Jamal is one of 400,000 children under five who risk dying from acute malnourishment. His family belong to the 18 million in Yemen who do not know when they will eat their next meal.”

This is a report from foreign correspondent Johan-Mathias Sommarström from a Yemen severely beset by war. The situation in the country has been called “the world’s largest ongoing disaster” by the UN. 75% of the population (22.2 million people) are dependent on emergency aid, and almost half of them require immediate help in order to survive. Hear more of Swedish Radio’s reporting on Yemen here.

Opening greeting (via link):
Tawakkol Karman, recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize in 2011, Yemeni journalist and peace activists, whose lecture at the Nobel ceremony in 2011 constitutes the lyrics in Peace Symphony.

Participating panellists:
Peter Semneby , Ambassador and Sweden’s Special Envoy for the crises in Yemen and Libya
Michaela Friberg Storey, Red Cross International Programme Director
Hella Hultin, surgeon, Doctors without Borders
Johan-Mathias Sommarström, foreign correspondent, Swedish Radio, and others

Moderator: Erik Blix

Helena Wessman, General Manager at Berwaldhallen welcomes us to the seminar and opens by telling us about the evening’s focus on the situation in Yemen.

The seminar is held in Berwaldhallen’s concert hall from 18:00-18:40 with no entrance fee. Find your free ticket here. If you already have a concert ticket, it is valid for the seminar as well. Free seating.

In connection with the concert, Radiohjälpen is raising money for the benefit of the people of Yemen. Feel free to swish your contribution to Radiohjälpen’s number, 9019506