Monica DominiqueBorn: July 20th, 1940, Västerås (Sweden)
Monica graduated from the Adolf Fredrik Music Gymnasium in 1956, upon which she continued her studies at Stockholm’s Royal Academy of Music, her main subject being the piano. Also having followed courses in the violin, counterpoint, harmony, choral singing, and choral and orchestral conducting, she passed the piano pedagogue and music teaching exams in 1963. “These years were not that easy”, Monica explains. “My father died when I was eighteen and to make ends meet, I had to start working as a pianist in bars and restaurants. All of this had to happen in secret, because the academy did not allow her students to work at all. At the same time, life at the conservatory turned out to fall short of my expectations. Whilst I had hoped to meet interesting people to make music together, everyone was just sitting alone in their little rooms, practicing the piano. Although I liked classical music a lot, especially chamber music, the way of life coming with it was not for me. One of the few fellow-students, who were not just interested in classical music alone, was Carl-Axel. Like me, he had to work as a cocktail pianist. We had long talks and it was not long before we fell in love. In 1961, we married.”
Upon graduation, Monica and Carl-Axel Dominique found employment in Stockholm’s Scala Theatre, working as piano accompanists of theatre plays as well as sometimes appearing on stage as actors as well. They stayed at Scala for five years, one of the most successful productions being the 1963 musical ‘Stoppa världen, jag vill hoppa av’ (the Swedish version of ‘Stop the world, I want to get off’) with leading roles for Jan Malmsjö and Anna Sundqvist. In 1965-’66, Carl-Axel’s musical ‘Utsålt’ (Sold out), for which Monica wrote the arrangements, was immensely successful. After a three-month-spell in New York in ’66, Monica wrote her first big band arrangements for the Swedish Radio’s Jazz Group. Jazz singer and namesake Monica Zetterlund was instrumental in bringing this about. Monica Dominique: “Monica Zetterlund played one of the roles in ‘Utsålt’ and the two of us got along very well. She insisted on having me as her arranger and conductor for that radio broadcast with the SR Jazz Group. As she was a very important factor in Swedish cultural life in the 1960s, she was in a position to demand such things.” Between 1966 and 1969, Monica Dominique was a member of Lasse Bagge’s close harmony group Gals & Pals (which also included Svante Thuresson). With this ensemble, she enjoyed considerable success in Sweden and Norway. In ’69, she played one of the leading roles in Hans Alfredson’s and Tage Danielsson’s revue ‘Spader, Madame!’, which was staged in the Oscars Theatre.
In the late 1960s and early 1970s, Monica Dominique started making her mark in the world of television, initially by writing arrangements for the Monica Zetterlund Show. With Zetterlund and musical actress Monica Nielsen, she performed in another show, aptly dubbed ‘Monica, Monica, Monica’. She also appeared in several satirical programmes as a singer, actor, and dancer. Dominique: “I was fond of doing many different things, so those television shows were ideal for me. I also remember accompanying a parrot with my Hammond organ. It was almost like working in a revue. With Monica Zetterlund, I worked for many years. She was one of those stars who were so big that they were given their own Saturday night entertainment show. That was very much the way television worked in those days.” In the early 1970s, Monica Dominique wrote several arrangements for recording sessions with Zetterlund as well, including the classic ‘Trubbel’ (1971).
With her husband Carl-Axel, Georg Wadenius, and Tommy Borgudd, Monica formed the progressive pop group Solar Plexus in 1969. Somewhat later, singer Tommy Körberg joined the band. Monica played the Hammond organ and composed much of the group’s repertoire. Between 1972 and the band’s dissolution in 1975, Solar Plexus released four albums. In this same period, she was commissioned to write music to the films ‘Förpassad’ and ‘Jänken’ (both 1970). Later onwards in her career, Dominique composed several other film scores, including ‘Kärleken’ (1983), ‘Sanna kvinnor’ (1991), and ‘Alla dagar, alla nätter’ (TV film, 1996). She also wrote several signature melodies for radio and TV programmes, most notably for SR’s news bulletin ‘Rapport’.
In 1977, Monica published the book ‘Vi spelar tillsammans!’, teaching the basics of improvisation; it was also translated into Danish and Norwegian. Around the same time, Monica and Carl-Axel composed the musical ‘Sagan om hästen’, based on the eponymous satirical allegory by Olof von Dalin from 1740. This production, with Tommy Körberg playing one of the leading roles, was premiered in Uppsala’s City Theatre. Meanwhile, Monica occasionally wrote arrangements for pop songs, such as ‘In the shade of the purple moon’ for Ralph Lundsten in ’77. In 1979, she composed ‘En värld av vänner’ (A world of friends) for Lill-Babs and Lars Edihn; they performed it with the Christer Wickman Orchestra for a charity show broadcast by Swedish television. In 1979, Dominique made her debut as a film actress in Lasse Åberg’s comedy ‘Repmånad’. Other movies she played a role in include ‘Höjdarhoppar’n’ (1981), ‘Gräsänklingar’ (1982), ‘Macken-Roy’s & Roger’s Bilservice’ (1990), and ‘Monopol’ (1996). In 1980, she played one of the characters in the televised satirical play ‘Räkan från Maxim’. Two years later, Monica was back in the theatre, being one of the actors in the musical ‘Spök’.
In 1980, Dominique made her first LP in her own right, ‘Tillägnan’, an album with jazz compositions. Dominique: “When I was in Solar Plexus, our producer kept on begging me to do a solo recording with jazz pieces, but there was never enough time to finish my ideas. Although the eventual album ‘Tillägnan’ did not sell brilliantly, it has always felt as a milestone in my career. We recorded it as a trio, with Leroy Lowe on drums, my little brother Palle Danielsson playing the double-bass, and me on the piano. When Monica Zetterlund heard the title track, she urged me to ask poet Lars Forssell to write suitable lyrics to it – which he did.” The song ‘Tillägnan’ has become an evergreen in Sweden and was recorded by many singers, including Carola Häggkvist in 2005. As a jazz musician, Monica Dominique played the electric piano and celesta on George Russell’s experimental LP ‘Vertical form VI’ (1981), while she released two solo big band albums: ‘Swedish love in the Southern Bronx’ (1986) and ‘Inside the rainbow’ (1988). In 1997, jazz singer Carol Rogers and Monica recorded an album as a duo, ‘So nice’, with Monica writing the arrangements and playing the piano. Six years later, Dominique teamed up with four jazz instrumentalists to record the album ‘Bird woman’. In 2009, surprisingly, a record company from Tokyo decided to give her 1980 album ‘Tillägnan’ a release on the Japanese market.
From the early 1980s onwards, Monica and Carl-Axel Dominique have expressed their political views in several cabarets and musicals, raising awareness about the environment and the dangers of nuclear energy; these include the 1985 production ‘KENT – En musical för folk i farten’ as well as pieces such as ‘Nix’ (featuring Anders Linder), and ‘Pengarna eller livet’ (with, amongst others, Tommy Körberg). Later, Monica and Carl-Axel composed the musical ‘Sopoperan underbarnet’, which is about a baby who does not want to be born until certain environmental conditions have been fulfilled. This musical, played by professional actors with the help of the pupils of the Södertälje Culture School, was performed on Tvetatippen, a dump outside Södertälje, in 1996 and 1998. Monica Dominique also composed musicals with non-political subjects, most importantly ‘Oda! – Saatans kvinna!!’ and ‘Christian! – Jävla Karl!!’, based on the lives of the Norwegian painter Christian Krogh and his wife Oda. Especially the first-mentioned work has enjoyed considerable success, having been performed in Sweden, Norway, Denmark, and England. In 2000, she tried her hand at composing a youth musical, ‘Anna och Herr Gud’, which was followed by her first opera, ‘Silosång’, in 2008.
In the 1980s, Monica Dominique was a familiar face on Swedish television. Between 1984 and 1989, she was team captain in three seasons of the popular charades game show ‘Gäster med gester’. In the children’s programme ‘Med på noterna’, she was Mrs. Music, explaining different aspects of music in an entertaining way; for this series, she composed and arranged all songs herself. She also was the musical director of three seasons of ‘Mitt i strömmen’, a serious talk show with musical intermezzos, in which Monica performed with guests she chose herself, including Karin Krogh, Cornelis Vreeswijk, and Monica Zetterlund. In the 1980s, she also worked as a teacher in the jazz department of the Royal Academy of Music for some years.
Monica and Carl-Axel set up their own record company, Dominique Records, which they have mainly used to publish their own work: Monica’s jazz recordings and Carl-Axel’s renditions of classical pieces on the piano, most notably Olivier Messiaen’s song cycle ‘Harawi’. Another notable album was ‘Säg vad ni vill’ (2003), with Monica Nielsen and Monica Dominique interpreting songs with lyrics by Lars Forsell and Bertolt Brecht. In 2010, Monica composed one piece for classical guitarist Mats Bergström’s album ‘Sånger utan ord’, which was nominated for a Swedish Grammy in ’11. Still in 2010, Monica and Carl-Axel wrote a song on the occasion of the marriage of Swedish crown princess Victoria and Daniel Westling: ‘Mit livs gemål’, a duet recorded by Charlotte Perrelli and Magnus Carlsson.
Nowadays, Monica and Carl-Axel Dominique regularly perform in theatres and concert halls across Sweden, playing four-handed piano; amongst many other jazz and classical pieces, they played Stravinsky’s ‘Le Sacre du Printemps’ with the accompaniment of dancers of the Royal Swedish Ballet. They also did five performances of this programme in Musée d’Orsay, Paris. In 2011, Monica was one of the participants in the celebrity game show ‘Stjärnorna på slottet’. Later that year, she and Carl-Axel received the King’s Gold Medal of the Seraphim Order in recognition for their particular achievements in Swedish music. In 2012, Monica released a CD called ‘Togetherness’ with her brother, jazz musician Palle Danielsson.
Monica Dominique in the Eurovision Song Contest
In 1973, Carl-Axel and Monica entered the Swedish Eurovision heats with a composition called ‘Sommar’n som aldrig säger nej’. Its performers were a male duo called Malta, consisting of Göran Fristorp and Claes Olof af Geijerstam. Quite surprisingly, this quirky and very uncommercial love song, arranged and conducted by Monica, managed to beat all competitors, including ABBA’s ‘Ring ring’. For the international final in Luxembourg, the Swedish group was renamed The Nova to avoid confusion with the Mediterranean island state of Malta; lyricist Lars Forssell (1928-2007) translated his poem in English, ‘You’re summer’. The international jurors favoured this original Swedish effort, awarding it with a fifth place in the final score.
Why did Monica and Carl-Axel, who were both members of the progressive pop group Solar Plexus at that time, decide to compete with a song in the Swedish Eurovision pre-selection at all? Carl-Axel explains: “Originally, it was an idea of the director of our record company EMI, Sven-Olof Bagge. It was the first year when record companies rather than composers submitted songs for the Swedish final. He wanted us to write something. We were certainly interested… I for one had tried before to enter the competition with some of my songs, but these had never been chosen. Perhaps they were a little too avant-garde for the selection committee! In ’73, we initially lacked the inspiration to write something good, until Monica saw those two guys, Malta, in a club in Stockholm. She said: we should write a song for them! Claes and Göran liked the idea. We invited both of them over to our house to hear their suggestions before we actually composed the song.”
Monica adds: “Carl-Axel and I thought: why not send in something we like ourselves – a song without any commercial thought behind it. We wanted to test if it was possible to succeed in a competition like that with such a song. Now we really had to hurry, because the submission deadline was only a couple of days away. Luckily, the inspiration came quite fast and we both rather liked the result of our work. Next, we called the poet Lars Forssell, a good friend of ours, and asked him to write the lyrics to it. He agreed and the next morning we found ourselves in Lars’ house. We played the song for him several times at the piano, whilst he sat down and wrote the lyrics. Now, Lars was a serious poet – an artist, not somebody who was expected to participate in the Eurovision Song Contest. He even was a member of the Royal Swedish Academy! When we were on the brink of leaving, he said: ‘Wait a minute… as a poet, I have to add something special to those lyrics.’ And then he wrote that line, ‘Dina bröst är som svalor som häckar’ (‘Your breasts are like swallows a-nesting’). That was a line which made headlines in Sweden; people talked about it… and they still do! Subsequently, I arranged and conducted the song myself. To our enormous surprise, we won the pre-selection in Stockholm. We always thought ABBA and ‘Ring ring’ were the obvious winners… and we could not believe our luck!”
The 1973 Eurovision Song Contest was held in the Nouveau Theâtre in Luxembourg. Sweden was one of seventeen competing countries; for the first time, the rule which obliged all countries to present a song in one of the native languages, had been dropped and the Swedish delegation decided to present their entry in English: ‘You’re summer’. In Luxembourg, Monica found out she was not the only female conductor, as the musical director of the Israeli delegation was Nurit Hirsh. “So I thought: ‘Damn, I am not alone!’”, Monica laughs, “I was fully aware I was making some sort of history as a woman conducting a Eurovision song. I thought it was important to stand up for women in music… usually, when I wrote an arrangement, people asked Carl-Axel if it was his work. That made me really angry! Not many girls played the piano and even fewer could be found who were composing, arranging, or conducting… I was fairly alone in those days. I must admit I had hoped to be the only female conductor in Luxembourg, but I was the first anyway, as we were drawn before the Israeli entry!”
“The rehearsals were most pleasant”, Monica Dominique continues. “The orchestra gave me all due respect. I had to stop at certain points to ask them to change some details, but that was not a problem at all. The atmosphere among the artists of different countries was very relaxed and friendly, whereas I had expected more ‘elbows’ and more competitiveness. However, as Israel was participating for the first time, there were lots of security people around. The Israeli delegation stayed in a special flat, away from the other participants, and was guarded by men armed with rifles. During the entire television broadcast, there were two guys with machine guns on either side of the stage, turned to the audience! That was a little bit frustrating, because we were there to make music, whereas they gave you the impression to be in some sort of war situation.”
“After our success in Sweden”, Monica concludes, “we hoped to do well in Luxembourg, too. What was most interesting for us, however, was to have people outside the borders of Sweden listen to our music. The voting in Luxembourg was rather exciting, as we were doing very well, scoring high marks all through. When it turned out we had finished fifth, we were thoroughly satisfied!”
Göran Fristorp and Claes Olof af Geijerstam broke up their collaboration as a duo soon after the Eurovision Song Contest, continuing their careers separately. That has not impeded the song ‘Sommar’n som aldrig säger nej – You’re summer’ reaching the status of Eurovision classic in Sweden. In 2009, Monica and Carl-Axel wrote a new arrangement to the song and re-recorded it with Magnus Carlsson and Wille Crafoord; the new version was performed at that year’s edition of the mega popular outdoor sing-along event ‘Allsång på Skansen’.
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