Cancel culture is common practice, but this story is a bit peculiar. For once, this didn’t happen in the US but in France where Swedish musician Anna von Hausswolff had to cancel two concerts in churches because of Catholic fundamentalists’ threatening protests.
Von Hausswolff composes very specific music, a type of gothic pop that she performs on pipe organs, and this explains why she has to perform in churches. On Wednesday, she posted the following on her Instagram with a photo of herself sitting in an empty church:
“Yesterday night the far-right Catholic integralism won over art, but not over love. Here I am waiting inside the church while listening to about 50-100 integralists chanting and screaming outside the church’s doors, blocking the way for almost 400 people. It was a scary, tense and sad situation and there was nothing for us to do but to cancel, we had too little security. My thoughts go out to all of you amazing fans who stood peacefully and patiently in front of these guys, I loved that you remembered that these things will never be solved by violence. Me and the church are working together and not against each other. This has worked very well, both parts are happy. Lots of love and respect. Thousands of people have traveled to come to these shows, and there has been nothing but love and affection in the air, both from my audience and from the church. When different people try to overcome differences and barriers that’s when true healing begins.”
She was supposed to perform in a church in Nantes on Tuesday, and in Paris’ church Saint-Eustache on Thursday. If the pipe organ is essential in her music, she is not the only artist performing in churches, the First Congregational Church and the Immanuel Presbyterian Church here in Los Angeles have hosted plenty of rock concerts… I have even seen a band called the Horrors over there!
After listening to a few songs, I would say that Anna von Hausswolff’s compositions have a moody and gothic quality while her beautiful voice floats above a deep organ. Her music has been called doom metal, but I honestly don’t hear it. Meanwhile, there is nothing really shocking in her lyrics, and her darkest lines may be found in the song “Funeral for my Future Children.”
In Nantes and Paris, protesters blocked the entrance of the church, while singing: “Saint Mary, mother of God, pray for us poor sinners,” and accusing von Hausswolff of making “satanist” music. The concerts were canceled due to security concerns, as the organizers had no other choice if they didn’t want to use violence.
Calling Von Hausswolff’s music “satanist“ is obviously completely ridiculous, Eli Commins, the director of the cultural center that promoted the Nantes show rightly declared the demonstration was “an attack on the freedom of creativity and expression,” and that these were “unfounded accusations of desecration.” Describing her music, he added: “There is no religious inspiration, no violence! She just plays the organ, and organs are found in churches. It’s post-metal-influenced music.”
Other officials have screamed their outrage, but it is still incredible that such a thing could happen in 2021 in a country like France. Von Hausswolff has performed in plenty of European churches and cathedrals, among them London’s Union Chapel, and these cancelations come towards the end of a tour promoting her last album. These serious incidents are proof that obscurantism is still at our doors even in countries supposedly enlightened since the 18th century
In a time when culture cancellation is every day’s flavor, I wonder whether Catholic integralists are using this opportunity to do their insidious and heinous work.
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