Classical music and public service broadcasting – both have had their relevance questioned recently. But both have come to the rescue of a beleaguered Denmark entering its third week in COVID-19 lockdown.
On 16 March, Danes woke up to their first day in self-isolation and the conductor Phillip Faber made a short broadcast from home via Facebook. From his own piano, Faber invited viewers to sing along to favourite songs from Denmark’s High School Song Book, Hymn Book and from classic films.
After overwhelming engagement, from the next day Faber’s sing-along was moved to the state broadcaster DR’s primary television channel, DR1. Two weeks later, its audience had soared to over 340,000 while its Friday night offshoot ‘Community Song’, in which well known musicians join in, was last viewed by 1.2 million Danes – a fifth of the population (5.8 million).
In both shows, production style is basic and borders on the homespun: the stage is a domestic living room, the filming managed by a skeleton crew. There is the distinct feeling of a return to traditional, analogue live broadcasting and collective involvement in-the-moment – to the world before convenience streaming existed.
In the space of two weeks, Phillip Faber has gone from the hard-working conductor of DR’s Danish National Girls’ Choir to a national treasure, with one high-profile journalist claiming he deserves a knighthood when the crisis is over. During an online chat, a viewer asked Faber ‘how does it feel to be Denmark’s most popular man?’
You Are Not Alone
‘At a time like this, which feels so different and is extremely worrying for many, we need to reinforce a sense of community,’ says Phillip Faber. ‘This programme would not exist at all if people weren’t singing along. When you sing with hundreds of others at the same time, you have the feeling that you are not alone.’
Danes young and old, across the country’s various islands, can be seen singing along with Faber in homemade videos submitted to DR.
Prime Minister And Crown Princess Sing Along, Too
Denmark has a unique communal singing tradition. Danes sing together at birthday parties, in offices, at Christmas and on Midsummer’s Eve. In September 1940, 700,000 citizens took part in a giant sing-along during the country’s occupation by the Nazis; the Coronavirus crisis is thought to have prompted the biggest acts of communal singing since then.
The melodies most Danes know come from an unparalleled treasure-trove of national songs. The songs transcend genre boundaries, ranging from classics by composers Carl Nielsen and Poul Schierbeck to popular songs by Kim Larsen and Anne Linnet.
As a result of the sing-alongs, the song compendium known as the ‘High School Song Book’ entered Denmark’s Bestseller list on 31 March.
DR’s 10-minute daily ‘Morgensang’ (‘Morning Song’) consists of two songs: a classic chosen by the broadcaster’s team of researchers, and a song requested by a member of the public. Songs have been requested by Denmark’s Prime Minister, Mette Frederiksen (Kim Larsen’s ‘Joanna’) and by Crown Princess Mary (Carl Nielsen’s ‘Solen er så rød, mor’).
Public Service Broadcasting
DR has a public service obligation to the Danish Ministry of Culture, and its remitted to nurture and disseminate the country’s culture and to reflect the breadth of its creativity. In the midst of the pandemic, DR has transformed its schedules to better meet the dramatically changing needs of the population – from news and updates to culture, participation and home economics.
‘We have seen a strong need for cultural sustenance in the midst of this crisis, and it has taken us all by surprise,’ says DR’s Head of Ensembles and Concert Hall, Kim Bohr. ‘As a public service broadcaster with a staff of musicians and conductors, including Phillip, we are well placed to serve Denmark in this way. The response has proved how vital our work is and how public broadcasting is at the heart of our societal and cultural fabric.’
On submitting her song request to Phillip Faber, Crown Princess Mary of Denmark wrote: ‘Singing together is rooted deeply in the Danish psyche. Morgensang is reminding us that our community can sustain itself, even if we can’t be together right now.’
Contact: Cecilie Rosenmeier - CERO@dr.dk - +45 21 45 15 28
Press photos for download – credit: Mikkel Suppras
View Morgensang on DR TV - click here