When the acclaimed Swedish songwriter and organist Annavon Hausswolff first heard that a conservative Roman Catholic website called her a Satanist and demanded a boycott of the concert. She and her team laughed at it.
“We thought it was cheerful,” recalled 35-year-old von Hauswolf in a recent interview. “We were laughing all day”
This site, Riposte Catholique, excited readers ahead of von Oswolf’s epic pipe organ music concert in the church of Nantes, a city in western France. Some of her fans were Goths, and her song was “Black Mass rather than Church Music,” Site said. The site points out that music bloggers called her the “great shrine maiden” of “the devil’s harmony,” and a conservative Roman Catholic group sang “I fell in love with the devil” on the track “Pills.” I noticed that.
“I said,’This is a great PR campaign,'” said von Hauswolf. “In other words, it’s the Great Priestess of Devil Art. Wow!”
But as soon as she arrived in Nantes’ church, the joke stopped. According to Von Hauswolf, there were about 30 young men outside, most of whom wore black jackets and hoodies to protest the show. The concert promoter told her that some men had just broke into the venue trying to find her.
Immediately, 100 people were blocking the entrance to the church. Von Hauswolf sat in a colorful church, staring at the organ he wanted to play, and heard protesters screaming and slamming outside doors as fans shouted.
“There was a major part that I said wasn’t safe,” she said. “I wanted to go out.” She canceled the show.
In recent years, disagreements between conservatives and liberals over issues such as gay marriage and abortion have become increasingly hot in parts of Europe. The experience of von Hauswolf is another example of tension in the continental cultural war. In some countries, a few Roman Catholics regularly protest what they consider to be blasphemous art.
In a telephone interview, French scholar Celine Bellow, who studies Catholic sociology, said militants have been protesting works of art and theater in the country for the past two decades. “It comes from a well-organized minority who is very good at getting attention in the media,” Bellow said.
One of their regular targets is Hellfest, an annual rock music festival near Nantes. In 2015, a group of protesters broke into the venue and set fire to some of the festival’s stage sets. Since then, protesters have regularly poured holy water into the fields of the festival venue. Eric Perrin, Hellfest’s communications manager, said in an email that staff recently found 50 gold pendants depicting the Virgin Mary scattered around the site.
Playing a real pipe organ at a concert means playing in a church most of the time, so despite some French bishops making a statement of support, the problem of von Oswolf’s tour Did not end when she left Nantes. In Paris, he planned to play a magnificent organ at the Saint-Eustache Church, which is widely regarded as the jewel of the French Renaissance, but after the priest complained, he instead gave a secret show at the Protestant Church near the Triumphal Arch. I did de Triomphe.
Then, in Brussels, about 100 people protested outside her show at a church in the Dominican Republic, took a more peaceful approach than the French, and left the door at the request of police. In Nijmegen, the Netherlands, two protesters stood quietly outside, with a sign saying “Satan is not welcome.”
Von Hausswolff is not the one who expects you to cause such a fuss. She grew up in Gothenburg, Sweden, and said she was “very creative” when she was a kid. (Her father, Karl Michael von Hauswolf, is a composer and performance artist.)
As a teenager, she sang in the church choir and dreamed of becoming a musician, but eventually trained as an architect. Her musical career began in 2009, and at the age of 23 she released a demo of a piano piece called “Singing from the Grave”. This demo quickly gained fans in Sweden thanks to the soaring vocals. She was often compared to British pop star Kate Bush.
She tried it after the organ builder told her that she could make beautiful pipe organ music, she remembered and tried the organ in the vast Anedal church in Gothenburg. “When I reached the lowest note, I couldn’t believe my ears,” said von Hauswolf. “I felt it through my whole body.”
Since then, she has been exploring what this instrument can do with five albums, combining it with rock bands and playing solo. Her latest release this month is a live album recorded at the Montreux Jazz Festival in Switzerland.
Organist Hans Davidson, who helps von Hauswolf examine the abilities of the instrument, said he “opened his ears, eyes and sensations to explore the organ” and developed “a unique musical language.” She added that her music inspired many classical organists like him. “It’s fortunate for us that she chose the organ,” he said.
In an interview, von Hauswolf, who wore Christmas leggings covered in cartoon reindeer in Santa’s hat, denied she was a Satanist. Von Hauswolf didn’t talk about what the 2009 track “Pills” (she sings demonic sexual activity) is. The song should leave room for interpretation. But she added, “If you’re asking me if I’m literally having sex with the devil, the answer is no.”
Last month’s incident left a mark as much as she was pleased to joking about the accusation. She was still scared of the French and Belgian protests, she said, and also worried that the church might think twice about letting her play their organs to avoid dissatisfaction. did.
“I’m not a good Christian and I’ll never do that,” said von Hauswolf, adding that she thought she was an agnostic. “But I’m there to showcase pipe organ art, and I hope it can evoke deeper thoughts for people.”
She said she had already planned more church tours. As long as she was welcomed, she added, “I will go there and play music.”