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When a French church tried to host ‘doom metal’ concert, young Catholics said ‘non’

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Église Notre-Dame-de-Bon-Port, Nantes.

John Burger - published on 12/09/21

The controversial Swedish singer Anna von Hausswolff was to perform in Nantes' Church of Notre Dame de bon Port the evening before the Immaculate Conception.

Swedish singer Anna von Hausswolff’s style has been described as a mix of “post-rock, prog, doom metal, modern classical and high church music.” Among her songs is one with lyrics that go, “I’m on the floor constantly, intensively, Making love. … I made love With the devil.”

Von Hausswolff’s primary instrument is the pipe organ, and although the King of Instruments can be found in concert halls, it’s more often found in churches.

So 35-year-old von Hausswolff and her team made arrangements to perform parts of her current tour in a few churches throughout Europe.

But when she was slated to perform at Notre Dame de bon Port in the French city of Nantes — on the eve of the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception — a group of Catholics took matters into their own hands.

A short video tweeted by a website called Catholic Arena showed what apparently was a group of concertgoers trying to get into the church Wednesday evening — and a group of mostly young people blocking the entrance. 

The Guardian reported that the group blocked the entrance to the church, saying von Hausswolff’s music is “satanist.” 

The newspaper said the concert was organized “in accordance with the Nantes diocese.”

The self-appointed guardians of the church were singing a French hymn, which the Guardian interpreted as “Saint Mary, mother of God, pray for us poor sinners.”

Von Hausswolff posted on Instagram that “far-right Catholic integralism won over art, but not over love.” With the post, she showed a photo of herself sitting in the empty church “while listening to about 50-100 integralists chanting and screaming outside the church’s doors, blocking the way for almost 400 people.”

She described it as a “scary, tense and sad situation” and that “there was nothing for us to do but cancel – we had too little security.” She said she and the church were “working together and not against each other” and praised her fans for waiting “peacefully and patiently.”

Paris church cancels

But the Nantes incident also led her to a cancelation of another concert, planned for Thursday in Saint-Eustache church in Paris. Fr. Yves Trocheris, pastor, told the Guardian he decided to cancel Von Hausswolff’s concert “to ensure that public order was maintained at the gates of the church.”

Saint-Eustache, which is in Paris’ 1st arrondissement, was used for the Cathedral of Notre-Dame’s Easter liturgies after the devastating 2019 fire.

Much of von Hausswolff’s newest album, All Thoughts Fly, is performed on a pipe organ, and its style is minimalistic and meditative. There is no singing. In 2018, von Hausswolff released her fourth album, Dead Magic, which features the organ at Copenhagen’s Lutheran Marble Church. Hausswolff said she hoped the album would cause listeners to accept mystery and ambiguity in an “extremely materialistic society where everything needs to be explained.”

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