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Personal life

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A musical family

Else Brems was born in 1908 into musical family. Her father was the famed clarinet player, concert singer and singing teacher Anders Brems ( 1877 – 1974) and her mother was the pianist Gerda Emilie Brems ( 1880 – 1967). Her siblings were the twin brothers Mogens who became a singer and Erik Brems who became a clarinet player. In her childhood home many artists visited. Among them the famous Danish composer Carl Nielsen who played with her brothers and had inspiring conversations about music with her parents. Her childhood was filled with conversations with many personalities from the world of theatre and music which inspired her greatly.
It thus came naturally that it would be Else´s father who first gave her singing lessons. His understanding of her talent paved the way for her future career. During a trip in Europe Else´s father introduced her to the world famous Italian lyric baritone Mattia Battistini in Rome. Battistini was impressed by Else´s talent and the meeting greatly encouraged her. Her future travels were also aimed at meeting important artists who could teach her and she studied with George Cunelli and the Dane Povla Frijsh.
Her family stayed important to Else throughout her life. Her brothers were a fixture at her parties and summer dinners and the three Brems siblings would follow each other’s careers closely.

Her marriage to Stefan Islandi

In 1940 Else married the Icelandic – Danish Royal Opera singer Stefan Islandi ( 1907 – 1994). Stefan Islandi was employed at the Royal Theatre for a number of years during which he sang many important tenor roles. He also had a career abroad which included performances in Milan in the 1930´s. Together the couple sang at concerts throughout Denmark and worked together on stage in Carmen in 1944 and Rigoletto in 1949. They were married for nine years and had a son; Eyvind Brems Islandi ( 1940 – 1974). Their son dreamed of a life in the arts since he was little. He started out becoming an Art Designer but also showed signs of possessing a very beautiful tenor´s voice. After some years as an Art Director at the women’s magazine “ Tidens Kvinder” he changed his path and started studying to become a singer at the Music Conservatory of Jutland. He showed promise and made an impression both as a concert and opera singer. In 1971 he sang the role of Prince Sou Wong in the play “Land of Smiles” with which he toured the whole of Denmark. He had talent, a vibrant personality and was close to his mother so his untimely death in 1974 was a great tragedy for Else.

An Artist´s getaway

During an interview Else expressed that she sometimes wished that she owned a chicken farm. When she was asked about this during filming of the TV portrait about her in 1979 she smiled and said that that comment had probably been meant as a joke. The comment was more a nod to the reality that for an artist it can be important to have a sort of getaway; a place where the world of music and theatre is far away.

She found such a getaway in the small country cottage she bought in the village of Højby in the north of Zeeland. Here she would often gather family and friends from the world of the arts to musical evenings, a game of table tennis and long walks by the beach.
But Højby was not so far away that Else could not jump into her wadding boots, pull on a thick sweater and drive into Copenhagen when the Danish broadcasting company called her and asked to come in haste as Queen Alexandrine had died and they wanted her to sing the remembrance song after the announcement. The song was the Danish ballad “Her vil ties, her vil bies. She performed it so movingly that the author Frederik Dessau professed “she can make even the most unholy among us holy”. It was an recording that was in demand on the radio for many years after.
Else died in 1995. She was buried in her grandfather’s, the organ player and composer, Peter Rasmussen’s family lot at Garnisons cemetery in Copenhagen. In 1999 the double CD with her was released and was an immediate success and received rave reviews. It is still on the market today.