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Sunday, August 18, 2013

My Best Salary by John von Daler

               We are in #Greenland, in #Nuuk, on tour, playing concerts all the finest places. Some of the richest people in the arctic have paid for us to be flown up, lodged in good hotel rooms, served the good, fresh Greenlandic food, and shown the sights by dogsled and helicopter. And we get paid, too.
                In return we play concerts for them in the finest auditoriums in Nuuk.
                About the second day out we get to talking about our trip and our expectations. Somebody says, we should also meet the Greenlanders who don't have much money. Somebody else says let's play some free concerts too, but then that might ruin the sale for our scheduled program. Then somebody says, let's call an old people's home and play there, a morning concert.
                So we get in contact with a home and arrange to play at nine the next morning. This is no mean feat for Danish musicians whose evening concerts end at 11:30 p.m. or thereabouts.
                We drive down in a taxi the next day to a low, modern building close to the water at the bottom of the town with snow-covered hills in the background. It is surrounded by sky-blue and burgundy-colored wooden buildings spread out evenly like some tiny village in God's new electric train set. We unload our equipment amidst a flurry of nurses and volunteers steering wheelchairs and rolling beds down to the lovely meeting room with its view of the fjord. The old people with their wrinkled, weathered-cured skin, as beautiful and full of symbols as some old parchment, sit waiting for us. Some are asleep, some talkative, some in a daze.
                The leader of the home makes a little speech and then we start to play. Most of the songs are in Danish, poetic lyrics most of which are about Greenland. The music is Nordic, minor-keyed, blue and green. The guitar keeps the beat and the chords going, the accordion fills out the middle and bass and I fly around with spacy figures drawn from nature: seagulls and whales and wind. Our singer draws pictures in the air, cascades of words that describe the great splendor of Greenland.
                In the middle of the program one of the oldest Greenlandic ladies, who has been sitting quietly in her chair, gets up and starts to weave and swirl in her muumuu, her head tilted back, her arms stretched out towards the sky.
                As she twirls up towards us the song comes to an end and she lowers her arms and head and looks directly at each of us with her clear, brown eyes.
                "I can hear the echoes from the hills," she says. Then the orderlies help her back to her seat.
                 I have never been more well-paid for a concert.

                My book, Pieces: A Life in Eight Movements and a Prelude (WiDo Publishing) is now available. Order through, the publisher or your local bookstore. Click to buy Pieces at the top of the blog. Please feel free to write a short review of the book in your own language at or GoodReads. Thanks for your support!

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