THE JUSSI BJÖRLING SOCIETY was formed in 1989 by five Björling enthusiasts:
Frank Hedman, record producer with many Jussi issues on the Bluebell of Sweden label. After Frank Hedman’s demise his wife Hanna Hedman has successfully continued issuing Jussi material, mainly from the archives of Swedish Radio.
Harald Henrysson, former record librarian and curator of the Jussi Björling Museum in Borlänge. Harald Henrysson was the first chairman of the Society.
Bertil Bengtsson, who in his hometown Gothenburg single-handedly arranged a comprehensive Björling exhibition and now with great success is responsible for an AV-production for concert venues, which portrays the art of Jussi Björling. Bertil Bengtsson was a member of the first board of the Society and was for many years editor of the Society’s magazine.
John Erik Eleby, opera singer at the Royal Opera, choral conductor and former music teacher. John Erik Eleby was a member of the first board of the Society, and through his many contacts in the world of opera he has contributed to the successes of a number of celebratory concerts to the memory of Jussi Björling at the Royal Opera and Folkoperan.
Lars Hemmingsson, former editor at Swedish Radio. He was a member of the first board of the Society and its chairman 1995 – 2004, after that deputy chairman until 2009 and since then honorary chairman. Lars Hemmingsson is since many years responsible for the Society’s member meetings in Stockholm.
The collaboration with the Royal Opera in Stockholm resulted in a big concert on 9 September 2000 for the 40th Anniversary of Jussi Björling’s death.
The collaboration with Folkoperan (The People’s Opera) resulted in three big celebratory concerts in 1997, 1999 and 2001. The last of these was arranged on 5 February to commemorate Jussi’s birth 90 years ago.
The Society has also actively contributed to the west Avenue in Kungsträdgården (King’s Garden), from Hamngatan to Arsenalsgatan and the Royal Opera, since 1998 being named Jussi Björlings Allé (Jussi Björling Avenue).
Lars Hemmingsson, Chairman of the Society 1995 – 2004 and presently Honorary Chairman, looks in the rear-view mirror and recollects ...
THE FIRST (and greatest) event is the formation of the Society in 1989. Our British sister-society had then existed in one year. Shortly afterwards the American Society was also formed.
To avoid any kind of catalogue aria I will in what follows only briefly and lucidly call attention to some summits of the Society’s arrangements during the bygone years.
The first annual meeting should be counted to this category; it took place in Kohlsgården in Borlänge on 19 May 1990 and was connected to the unveiling of Jussi’s statue in "Jussi Björling Torg" (Jussi Björling Square), the celebration at Jussi’s grave in Stora Tuna Churchyard and the Memorial Concert in Stora Tuna Church with participation of the Björling Family et al.
Thenceforth the annual meetings took place alternately in Stockholm, Borlänge, Gothenburg and Malmö. Lately the order is that the annual meeting takes place every second year in Stockholm and every second year in Borlänge.
Examples of early events were the walk in Jussi’s footsteps in Stockholm including visits to the old Academy of Music and the Royal Opera and the programme in the Radio House about Jussi’s activities in recording- and radio studios.
Let us also remember the coach ride to Jussi’s childhood area in the autumn of 1997 and the inauguration of Jussi Björling’s Avenue in Kungsträdgården in March 1998.
2001 was the start of the tradition with concerts at Voxnabruk, where many of Jussi’s ancestors are entombed. In the highly appreciated concerts established artists as well as promising young singers in the beginning of their careers take part. As a complement was added somewhat later the concerts at Strömsbruk, the birthplace of David Björling.
With the object to further widen the interest in Jussi’s life and art, a number of congresses and conferences have been arranged in Sweden and USA. Moreover the Society has arranged several celebratory and memorial concerts at Folkoperan, the Royal Castle and the Royal Opera.
During the first years the member meetings took place in venues in the Radio House in Stockholm, later on in one of the studios and presently at “Stallet” at Kaplansbacken in Kungsholmen. According to tradition the programmes are built around singer colleagues to Jussi in combination with younger singers for whom Jussi is a model. It goes without saying that the meetings are also devoted to listening to Jussi recordings.
The events of the Society are regularly mirrored in the magazine and the newsletters. That the board of the Society is not only looking backwards, the creation of a special Future Group bears witness about.
Bengt Kratnz, Chairman