The URUK Story – Part I

by Patrik Karlsson (en av URUKs grundare)

“Back in 2001 I was studying my last year at the conservatory and I really wanted to get a real life, when I noticed a small piece of paper on the wall saying guitar teacher wanted in Fagersta. I had no idea where Fagersta was located and I assumed it was close to Gothenburg, I was so wrong. I ended up in the dark forrest of Västmanland close to Dalarna. Fagersta had had its golden age when the steel industry was much more in demand and the mining industry was in it’s prime. When I arrived this was long gone and the depression had set in, I felt like I was pulled into the dark corners of hell.

In the beginning there were little light. I was teaching music at an elementary school, taught violin, taught music for the kids with special needs and I taught a couple of students on the guitar. A month went by and my boss, John Björklund turned out to be the little light I could find. He noticed that I was skilled as a musician and hungry to perform, so he hooked me up with some gigs and the right people were in the audience. So since I basically was the only performing musician in the area I got to play everywhere, and one time I did a tiny gig at the Society of Poetry´s annual board meeting. There I met Per and Ann-Mari Sennerfeldt, a retired couple that led this society. They asked me if I wanted to join them for the annual event, Kura Skymning, which was organized by and held at the library. The theme for this year, the fall of 2001, was Scandinavia and they wanted me to perform Scandinavian music. I had just graduated so I had a ton of difficult spanish pieces and Bach and other classics, but I had luckily been a bit active as it came to working with composers at the university so I had a couple of swedish guitar pieces.

During this time I was socializing a lot with my friend from college, Mårten Falk, and during one of our late night musical discussion I told him about this project and he gave me a guitar piece that he had written, and in a drunken haze I promised to perform it at the Kura Skymning event. So Mårten traveled from Stockholm to Fagersta to hear the piece and other works be played and I had managed to get quite a lot of Swedish works for the concert.

The library was packed, everybody loved my all contemporary swedish program and Mårten and I celebrated our success as the super stars we are. Mårten and I have a bit of a competetive streak in our relationship, when we were students we competed in who had practised the most during the day. So I told him that people love contemporary music, they might not always know it but I´ll perform one world premier every month during next year and they will love it. Mårten was a bit sceptical, since it would require 12 composers writing for free.

But as it turned out, it was duable. I wrote to every website in the world calling for pieces and I also sent e-mails to all the concervatories in Sweden. Only one conservatory had students that replied and that was the Gothenburg University. That´s how I met Tony Blomdahl, Anna Eriksson and Fredrik Hagstedt. I still wonder what the rest of the conservatories were thinking, didn´t their students want to be performed outside the school. If I was a student and didn´t get the forwarded e-mail I would call my teacher up today and call him a douche. A big douche. Anyway. I also sent the call for works to the internet magazine Tritonus, and that´s how I met Martin Q Larsson and also the great Miklos Maros.

I decided that commissioning solo works for the guitar would be to easy and almost cheating so I went with chamber works. Now I had another problem, how to get musicians. My boss John played the basson and Mårten played the guitar, so we were three. This is where John Björklund stepped in, he brought me to the city council and we had meetings with everybody, starting with Stig Henriksson and we worked us down the hierarchy. We managed to get some money for a festival and I decided to pitch in some of my own money for my fellow musician’s travel expenses. I performed a world premier every month at the Sennerfeldt poetry slam at the church together with a lot of nice musicians such as, John and Mårten, Georg Gulyas, Malin Trast, Ulrika Nilsson, Anne-Mette Skovbjerg, Tobias hall, Magnus Andersson and many more. When we reached the summer John and I held the festival and everybody came once more for a couple of days of practising performing and partying. It was a huge satisfaction for us all.

After the summer I continued my work with the world premiers and I met up more often with Mårten, bascially every weekend we plotted on how every living composer should write at least one piece for the guitar and how we were going to save the world and enter the history books as those cool guys that did that thing. It was a great time, we were fairly young and did whatever crazy idea that came into our heads.

Since I was performing a lot in Västmanland  I soon got in touch with Lars Knutsson, the region’s chairman of cultural affairs, and Dag Celsing the director of the newly built great concert hall in Västerås. I pitched the idea that we could perform the same concerts in both Fagersta and in Västerås, that would be really good because then the composers would be performed twice and not just one time and then never again. Dag and Lars really liked the idea and so it was settled, we got a spot in their hall and some money from them to organize the concerts.

Just before the first concert at Västerås concert hall Mårten and I visited Martin Q Larsson and he showed us the scores for his Basho triology. Martin asked us:
-What do you guys want to do next with your World Premier Club. We liked the expression and he was right, we were a club. So Mårten and I decided to work together on this project and from that day we labeled ourselves as Uruppförandeklubben.