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Associations say ‘thank you for the music’ in Gothenburg

In this age of hyper-globalisation and people claiming to be ‘citizens of the world’ (I’ve always found the phrase rather smug) it can be comforting to discover that national stereotypes are still ‘a thing’.

The popular idea of Swedes as a laid-back bunch of people who enjoy a good party was, at least, borne out when Gothenburg played host to the Associations World Congress this week.

Almost 500 people attended the event, a rough split between associations and meetings industry suppliers, and the consensus was that it really ought not to have been so much fun.

I can’t recall hearing so much music (and singing!) at an event.

The opening reception set the standard, with guests entertained by the Little Boys Choir, an acapella boy-band with perfect comic timing, a superb community choir, and the life-affirming Dream Orchestra – a group of refugees who had made Sweden’s second largest city their home.

The gala dinner (a messy and raucous seafood extravaganza) was an ABBA-inspired feast for the ears, with the excellent Timo Räisänen – Youtube him – proving that, for Gothenburg at least, The Winner Takes It All. Long before the night was out, delegates – high on Aquavit – were on their feet singing self-composed drinking songs and adding their own harmonies to Sweden’s Fab Four.

Of course, Sweden has a proud tradition of folk music, and choir singing, professional and amateur, is something of a national pastime. As for musical exports: The Wannadies, The Cardigans, The Hives, Ace of Base, and Roxette are just a handful of the Swedish-Pop-Bands-That-Aren’t-Abba to make it big.

This year Gothenburg is hosting the European Choir Games. In 2021 it celebrates its 400th anniversary. So if you’re looking for an attractive, sustainable city with excellent meetings infrastructure, and one that will leave your delegates with music ringing in their ears…look no further.