... just more, bigger and better!
Now that the year’s changed I’ve been lucky enough to have some time to just be. To take a deep breath before plunging into the next term and yes, also to plan ahead a bit. Logically, my updates to this work diary are lagging behind the more I actually do the stuff I’m supposed to be reporting about. So here are some of those things!
In the midst of all the piano playing and designing of last fall, I’ve been delighted to make a comeback to Sweden’s radio. This fall I made four new episodes of the culture talk show Koukku (Hook), recorded and edited by the radio’s very own Kirsi Blomberg. My role was to plan the contents of the episodes, choose the guests and the venues, do the interviewing and contribute to the conversation with my own insights. The subjects varied from the social value of board games and Ingress to Äänet, a magazine for, and by, Sweden- based Finns. In contrast to the programs I made back in 2016, this time I was well out of my comfort zone! I knew hardly anything about Ingress, had never heard of the magazine Äänet, and have limited experience in board games. In a way, this brought some clarity to the talk shows: for example, we got to learn terminology that every Ingress- player is familiar with, but outsiders have never heard of. All of the Koukku- talk shows can be found here.
Mid December I got invited back to the radio to record a Christmas episode of the bilingual program Popula, that’s familiar to me from last spring. The episode is recorded in a nice combo of Finnish and Swedish which is typical for Popula: its wonderful hosts Jasmin Lindberg and Erkki Kuronen are a 100% fluent in both languages. I myself of course mumble my Mumin-swedish in the mix. You can listen to our conversation and all of the earlier Popula programs here.
EPTA conference and Japan
Flashback to late September and the same weekend when me and my duo partner had our concert in Saltsjöbaden. One of the absolute highlights of the past year, and at the same time one of the most stressful days of my career, was when I got to give a lecture about Sonoko Kase’s cluster method at the EPTA conference in Eric Ericsonhallen. EPTA stands for European Piano Teacher Association, so obviously the audience consisted of some of the foremost experts of piano pedagogy.
Sonoko Kase is the founder of Östermalms Musik och Kulturskola and she has developed her own method for teaching the basics of piano technique, all demonstrated in her book Klang i klaveret, and in our presentation at the EPTA conference. The method is based on clusters, allowing the student to start from bigger movements and then move on to fine motor skills. Playing clusters may sound odd to the some people, but that takes away the added pressure of finding a specific key at a time. This way, unnecessary tension is avoided and the student can fully focus on technique.
I was honored to do the presentation with Sonoko in front of a very prestigious audience. Among others, I saw two professors from my alma mater, the Royal Music Academy of Stockholm. Our video footage will later be edited and uploaded to ÖMK’s website, I hear!
Not only that, but my work place also did a trip to Tokyo in November. I was mind-blown by the entire week-long stay and managed to see more than I thought I would’ve in as short a time as that in as big a place as Tokyo. The trick was to get up every morning at 05, which weirdly enough happened without any alarm clocks. The jet lag afterwards was totally worth it. Me and my colleagues took back to Sweden everything we’d learned about how japanese music universities function and what parts of the japanese culture we can implement in our own pedagogic endeavours at a swedish culture school.
Pianoaura organisation’s 15- year anniversary gala
November brought with it some more prestigious audience, when I got invited to play at my other alma mater, this time the Arts Academy of Turku in Finland. Pianoaura is a Turku- based organisation that supports the art of piano music by organising competitions, concerts, workshops and master classes. Pianoaura recently turned 15 and celebrated that with, of course, a piano concert in the wonderful, industrial style, architecture prize- winning hall Sigyn. It always gives an extra buzz when you know that experts of the field are watching and listening you play. So knowing that most of the audience consisted of professional pianists or other classical music connaisseurs made me feel like the stakes were extra high for this concert. Two other very special things about this one were that I haven’t played in Sigyn hall since my bachelor’s exam in 2014 and that my mentor of many years, and a great source of inspiration, Jukka Juvonen, played right before me. In a way it felt like coming home. I’m hoping to get my hands on the footage, which I’m 95% sure exists, at some point!
Wäinö Aaltonen museum of arts
My father did indeed give his farewell- concert at the Wäinö Aaltonen museum of arts. The museum got so full there weren’t enough seats for everyone and the atmosphere was fantastic! Luckily my part was at the beginning so I could sneak into the audience and listen to rest. The now retired Visa Turunen will hopefully join me for some concerts in Stockholm as well. A nice bonus was that this is the kind of concert pictures you get when you play at a museum:
Start of the year 2019
My new year started out slowly but that's about to change. In fact, a goal for 2019 will be to start a calendar- section on this website to update my concert history and notify about upcoming gigs. Another goal is to get professional pictures of my creations in the fashion front. All too often I resort to just a few snap shots with my cell phone camera before the outfit goes to its owner. Here is a sneak peak of one new look I made out of used denim during the holidays. And this time the client was me, so I’ll still have the coat for future photoshoots!
Grünewaldvillan and the Wäinö Aaltonen Museum of Art
I’m happy to announce that me and my duo partner, the cellist Vincent Wistrand, got funding for a concert in Saltsjöbaden! We chose the beautiful Grünewaldvillan as the venue to be able to bring classical music to an inspirational and historical environment. It seemed natural to have the concert in a place that was built around the same time as some of the pieces in our program were composed, and also a place where classical concerts aren’t that common. Thanks to the scholarship from Nacka municipality, we played in the villa on September the 30th. The audience loved our program and that we showcased music from different eras and our skills as both chamber musicians and soloists. I’m looking forward to seeing the footage and having it edited to be published here. We played amongst others Schumann, Debussy, Kuula, Albeniz, Bach and Elgar.
Another exciting event this fall will take place on Tuesday the 23rd of October in Wäinö Aaltonen museum of art in Turku. The museum is very familiar to me from my times as a student in Turku and the last time I played there was in March 2016 in the museum’s Tuesday- series. This time the event is an important milestone in a musician’s career: the soloist of the evening will be my very own father, the flutist and flute pedagog Visa Turunen! He’s retiring from his position at Turun Seudun Musiikkiopisto and organises this concert together with some of the musicians he’s worked together with in his decades-long career. In the program are excerpts from Visa’s vast repertoire that includes blues and jazz alongside with classical music. Funnily enough, although this is his goodbye- gig, it’s also the first time we’ve publicly played as a duo! That’s something we should’ve done ages ago. Retiring from the teaching position at the Music Academy allows more time for concert- planning, so we’ll probably get more chances in the future!
In my previous post, I mentioned my visit to Konstfack to help out the artists Pavel Matveyev and Ricardo Atienza test drive their revolutionary way of investigating the role of old keyboard instruments in a modern context. The project is called Player Piano, and this is what the artists have to say about it:
”We are trying to grant access to the instruments that are not playable. By sampling them and using this material in an interactive environment we allow people to play the instruments that are broken or not tuned (and perhaps cannot be tuned anymore).”
The artists are also trying to make keyboard instruments more accessible to the non-musician. To master an instrument like the piano it takes years of practise and even professionals can have difficulties with certain pieces. Matveyev and Atienza want to ”shift a perspective slightly and look at a piano and other analogue key instruments as a source of sound that can be activated by anyone, regardless of their age, training and experience.”
Mänttä music festival
Then a flashback to the summer, to the 20th annual Mänttä music festival! This was my fifth year working at the festival, and my work assignments just keep getting better. I started in 2014 as a master class student and the crew’s helping hand, and this year I got the wonderful opportunity of combining my amateur reporter skills, my pianism and my love of haute couture in an exciting new project. A little bit surprisingly, I also got to design and execute the layout of the festival’s 20th anniversary photo exhibition! All the material for the exhibition had been carefully handpicked by the festival’s artistic director and founding member, Niklas Pokki. Me and my colleague, pianist Saula Baski, tried to do justice to the material we were working with and set up the exhibition in record time.
Back to the project consisting of everything I love doing the most. At the same venue as the music festival anniversary exhibition, the fashion artist Anne-Mari Pahkala had a collection of works to celebrate her 10-year career. Some of the breathtaking unique outfits had been seen at the annual independence day gala in the presidential castle. We held 4 public dialogues about the elements that Anne-Mari’s gowns and their design processes have in common with classical piano music and its performance. I got the honor of being the host, pianist and interviewer of the events, with a fabulous Steinway Spirio as my instrument. I’m very grateful to the Mänttä music festival board for trusting me with this responsibility and giving me the rare opportunity of mixing up all my favorite subjects into four events.
As for the honorary guest, Anne-Mari is a truly inspirational designer who represents the very top of finnish fashion art. Her work is frequently seen on musicians, politicians, and now also in the collection of The National Museum of Finland. To see her works close-up and hear the stories behind them was a unique experience. The four dialogues between fashion art and piano music were a great initiative from the festival producer and head of master classes, Anni Pokki. It’s very refreshing when a music festival brings together different art forms like this and I can’t wait to do something similar in the future!
My 8th year at the Naantali music festival will hopefully not be my last! In 8 years I've worked with a lot of the little components that make a music festival run: I've been a driver, concert program layout designer, page turner and sheet music go-to-person. The same goes for many of my coworkers, we're all parts of a multi-tasking machinery. When everyone in the crew knows what they're doing, loves making the festival happen and can anticipate just about everything, the days go by "smooth as silk", as one of the festival artists pointed out, despite the hectic schedule. We as a crew have grown together during these 8 years (many of us have actually been around longer than that): often things get taken care of before anyone's had to ask. It'll be my pleasure to continue next year, stay tuned for the festival program and go check the website HERE. Oh, and did I mention the main venue is a pittoresque church in the Naantali harbor, that looks like this?
Next up is the Mänttä music festival. This year it's an honor for me to act as both presenter and pianist at a high fashion exhibition where some of the fashion artist Anne-Mari Pahkala's works are on display. I'll be interviewing the designer at four public events where music meets design - in short, bringing together the two things I love the most! My artist picture (taken of course by the wonderful Justyna Krzyzanowska) and a presentation can be read on the festvial website. Needless to say, I'm in good company...
The whole summer's been unusually warm here in the Nordic countries. One of the best coping mechanisms for the heat for those of us who don't want to chop off our hair, is to braid it. Some new hairdos can now be found in my braid-gallery, go take a look!
Audio arts at Konstfack
Last fall I had the honour of playing one movement of Ravel's G major piano concerto and some of Philip Glass' minimalistic repertoire at a beautiful wedding at Klaverens hus. One of the grooms, Pavel Matveyev, is a true artistic visionary, who's studied at Stockholm's Konstfack and has now started a project together with Klaverens hus, a piano museum with about 500 keyboard instruments. He and his collaborator asked me for some professional feedback on their new revolutionary way of playing multiple keyboard instruments at the same time. I visited Konstfack's sound lab and got to see (and play with!) the work in progress. Earlier this year we did an interview, which is also going to be a part of the artwork that merges modern digital technology with the sounds of acoustic keyboard instruments recorded at Klaverens hus. The instruments in question can be anything from spinets to harpsichords and eventually grand pianos. Going to be very interesting to see and hear the results!
Spring is finally in Stockholm! During the dark winter months I’ve kept myself busy with my piano students, concerts and clothing projects.
I also did an interview at Sven Harry’s Art Museum with the supertalented journalist Jasmin Lindberg for Sveriges Radio. One and a half years ago I hosted four culture discussion programs for the same channel (SisuRadio) so talking on the radio felt like home. We were at a press viewing of the exhibition ”Secrets of Haute Couture”. Nothing inspires my own designs quite like being surrounded by beautiful works of art that also celebrate the technique and handcraft aspects of sewing and tailoring! Our interview is a part of the program ”Popula” and you can listen to it here. We talk about the exhibition, mainly in Finnish and partially in Swedish, and share our views on haute couture. I tell about my most challenging nightmare project, a dress with a simplistic design that I thought was going to be a breeze to make but was quite the opposite…
In the music circles things move at a quick pace now. I’ve started a duo with a long time chamber music partner, the amazing cellist Vincent Wistrand. Up until now we’ve only played together in bigger ensembles, so it’s both refreshingly new and at the same time reliable to play as a duo. We test-drove our program in Göteborg in February and more concerts are on the way, including the Finnish Church in Stockholm’s old town on the 24th of June.
Sadly, the musical that I was to do in collaboration with DramaKvarnen has been indefinitely postponed due to lack of resources. This is something culture workers often encounter, so as much of a disappointment it is, I’m hoping the musical will get funding in the near future. In the meantime I’ll keep my eyes open for similar projects, Stockholm is full of small independent theaters that produce high quality plays and musicals, it’s a world I’d like to explore and participate in in the future.
In the past I’ve often sent old concert snap shots to new collaborators when they ask if I have any artist pictures. I’m happy to finally have a better option for that! Thanks to my connections in the string quartet Rosa Kvartetten, I met the amazing harpist/photographer Justyna Krzyżanowska who took a few hundred pictures of me for personal and promotional use. Out of those, I’ve now uploaded a few to a new gallery section of my website.
I wanted the artist photos to reflect my personality so I chose a gorgeous industrial style café in Vasastan as the background. Instead of the shiny black Steinways we’re used to seeing in many pianists’ press photos, I relied on my Korg Tiny Piano as a prop. Of course, the shirt I’m wearing is designed and made by me. The materials are an old black college sweater and an oversized white shirt and the swan design is my take on Björk’s controversial dress worn at the Academy Awards in 2001. She ended up on the worst dressed- list, but I loved the look back then and apparently still do.
Year 2017 ended with a bang. The start of December was one of the most intense weeks of my post-master's degree career. Just when I'd hoped for more gigs, all of a sudden I had 6 within a 10-day period. When things start moving it usually goes very fast. More contacts lead to more contacts, with more piano gigs there will be more piano gigs. It's a self-perpetuating cycle, and I love it!
The first gig was a pre-xmas mingel at the old reliable NAV. NAV is a place buzzing with creativity, you just waltz in and within 10 minutes you will have met an impro theatre leader, a makeup artist, some of Nacka's brightest educators, environment activists, and a crazy artist who makes bar chair upholstery that looks like candy wrappers. They constantly organise events and the sky is the limit: doesn't matter if it's a climate change discussion, a concert or an art exhibition, within the walls of NAV anything is possible. Their piano sure isn't a Steinway grand, but the atmosphere and openness makes NAV a great venue even for classical music.
On December the 6th my home country Finland turned 100. To celebrate that, the Finnish church of Stockholm organised a bunch of events that were the main reason for my busy week. The first and biggest was a concert in Storkyrkan in the picturesque Old Town. I had the pleasure of working with big names, the established veterans, baritone Gabriel Suovanen and bass Esa Aapro, and the young talent from Operahögskolan, soprano Tessan Lehmussaari. Later the same day we had another gig with Tessan at Gustavsbergs Kyrka in Värmdö, where I'm also going to play on January the 27th.
The picture above is from Ljusets Kyrka where I had a solo piano concert on December the 8th. The church wanted a Finland- themed program for elderly locals with Finnish roots. The upcoming concert on January the 27th will also feature some of the same music, which makes it easier to prepare for it. I spent the rest of my busy week playing 2 background music gigs, one at an exclusive pre-xmas mingle and one at a retirement home.
More of this in 2018, please! I'm already well on the way there on the gig front. Now all I need is more sewing and design projects and I'm all set. Unfortunately a musical by Dramakvarnen I was supposed to do costumes for, got indefinitely postponed due to lack of resources, but we'll see what happens!
A bit over a month ago I had the pleasure of collaborating with the Stockholm burlesque festival, a glorious 2-day event at Södra Teater and Nalen. The festival was a truly magnificent experience with burlesque artists from all the corners of the world. Behind the festival, which took place for the 7th time, were the geniuses Fräulein Frauke and John Paul Bichard, true professionals who really know how to organise a show!
In my post last spring I described my meeting with Frauke. So the planning for the burlesque festival started way back, and they’ve already set the dates for next year’s event.
I was to create a uniform for the stage crew, something that would set them apart from the rest of the show while still allowing them to dress in their own style. The stage crew is a vital part of such a large-scale show, they basically make everything happen, much like the production crew of the music festivals where I work in the summer. My budget was 0 SEK, the outfits were to be wearable by anyone, and comfortable enough to work long days in. The burlesque festival was in the pink ribbon campaign (which went so well they raised over 14 000 SEK for the cause!), so of course the theme of the outfits was the pink ribbon.
Over the summer I looked for materials. With a zero budget my go-to hunting grounds for materials are my own fabric storage, warehouses in Turku where some of my colleagues get theater costumes, and of course the social media. My roller derby league Stockholm roller derby had leftover T-shirts for officials in different shades of pink, to my luck, since in roller derby the non-skating officials usually wear pink. Twelve of those and some used table cloths from a summer wedding, and voilà, I had my materials.
In order for everyone to feel comfortable in the outfits, we decided that I’d make harnesses that can be worn over whatever else the stage crew members wanted to wear. After getting their measurements I started out by making 20 meters of pink ribbon (see the pictures of my process above) using the table cloth fabric to stop the pink jersey from stretching. Everything needed to be super polished and sleek in the spirit of burlesque.
The amazing John Paul Bichard from Bichard Studios photographed the end results and some details, see pictures below. This little project was a great opportunity to meet new people and get to know the world of cabaret a bit better. There's a lot of love and devotion put into every show I've been at, and I'll definitely keep going. At the same time I'm looking forward to working with these amazing artists again!
Harness in the lower pictures on the burlesque artist Yemaya Storm, check out the website www.edenlostclips.ml
Now I'm putting down the scissors and fabrics for a bit over a week and will focus on the black and white keys instead. 10 days, 6 gigs ahead!
One of the most exciting, and at the same time challenging, things about being a pianist is that you don't always know what kind of an instrument you'll be working with at the next gig. That's why I was very pleasantly surprised to get to play at a wedding at the keyboard instrument museum Klaverens Hus! Having never been there myself, the museum packed with harpsichords, pianos and organs was interesting all on its own. In addition to that I got to experience the joy of the happy occasion and prepare some unusual wedding music: sections of Ravel's G major piano concerto and Philip Glass' "Glassworks"!
Unfortunately I had to rush to the Stockholm train very shortly after finishing my set so I didn't get the chance to explore the place, but one of the newlyweds was kind enough to send me these pictures afterwards. My background music set included movie soundtrack pieces, swedish, russian and finnish classics ranging from Pjotr Tchaikovsky and Oskar Merikanto to Björn J:son Lindh, and some carefully chosen minimalistic music in the style of Philip Glass. The instrument of the day? One of the two grand pianos me and the guests were allowed to touch, a Malmsjö grand from the 1800s.
One of my colleagues once played Liszt's infamously difficult Mefisto- waltz on a grand piano that had at least one broken string and the ebony surface of one of the keys came off during the piece. I've been lucky enough to work with functioning pianos and keyboards, some better, some worse, though I once did have a venue that went pitch black in the middle of my concert.
As far as the music is concerned, sometimes I get booked a year in advance and this time I got 2 weeks to learn sections of Ravel's piano concerto! So when I don't have concerts or gigs coming up, I love not knowing what's going to happen a week or two from now. At another wedding earlier this year I played Pachelbel's traditional Canon in D major, a true wedding favorite, and the theme of the HBO megahit Game of Thrones. Later in October, this time at a christening, I'll be playing music from the movie Amelie on yet another grand piano I've never seen before, in a church I've never been to. There are so many variables, from the venue's acoustics, lighting and temperature to the program and the time you have to prepare it. It's always different and always a fascinating process. Organising an event that needs music? Give me a shout!
Testing new pianos for Opus Norden
In other news, I've been "test driving" new pianos to one of my work places, the music school Opus Norden. We went to the piano technician Lennart Hellgren's workshop where he tunes and fixes upright and grand pianos. The Royal Music Academy of Stockholm is one of his clients, and I have him to thank for the many wonderful hours I've spent practising there. Opus Norden ended up buying this amazing Steinway upright, in the picture next to the "skeleton" of a grand piano I just had to photograph at the workshop.
After the summer's weddings and music festivals it's time to start a new season. This fall will be full of exciting challenges, like the epic Stockholm Burlesque Festival. Looking forward to meeting some new piano students as well!
In July I had the pleasure of creating a wedding gown to a beautiful unconventional summer bride. Pictures will follow! The annual Mänttä Music Festival was amazing as always. My assignments this year varied from being a performing artist to working as a crew member and as a new feature I got to do interviews as a freelance reporter. Check the (finnish) interviews on Facebook by clicking here.
The end of the year will also be full of multitasking in all the fields of my expertise!
There hasn't really been time to write about everything I've done recently because I've been too busy doing it! The already hectic spring came to a close with a bunch of things happening at once.
My students' concert
With the help of some of my students' amazing parents we organised a concert in the beautiful Djursholm. Everybody rose to the occasion and played really well. I'm proud of the whole lot of my students and happy to continue with them in the fall!
My own concert
Last week I played my own concert at NAV where I also have a design studio, to test drive their new piano and to celebrate my home country Finland's 100th birthday as an independent nation. My program consisted of Finnish classics for solo piano and piano-violin duo and a PowerPoint presentation. The idea was to bring the music closer to the listener by telling a little bit about the pieces before performing them, a concept I've successfully used before at the Wäinö Aaltonen museum in Turku and at Stockholm's Konstakademien. With the help of the production team at NAV and my violinist partner in crime Zaida Ponthin, I gave my audience a sample of popular Finnish classics that might not all be so well-known abroad.
The concert was advertised by Opus Norden and NAV, the British International School of Stockholm wrote about it in their newsletter and I was interviewed by Sveriges Radio a few days before. Thanks for the publicity to all my networking channels! The event was a success and I have a future project going on with a similar theme... Here are some links related to the concert:
- event (in Swedish) at NAV
- concert calendar (in Swedish) at Opus Norden
- interview (in Finnish) at Sveriges Radio
In other news, I'm now designing some seriously awesome stuff for next fall's burlesque festival. In the meantime I'm a month away from the fittings of a golden unconventional wedding dress (looking forward to it!) and I've just finished the kimono (above) I was making for a client, colleague and friend, the soprano Saara Rauvala. I thoroughly enjoy making unique garments like this: it's actually a tailor-made one-of-a-kind copy of an existing garment. Sometimes a client has something they like, but they want something similar in a different color, or maybe the original's just seen better days. All they need to do is come and shop for fabrics or scavenge second hand shops with me, choose a material, lend me the original garment and I'll make a copy of it with possible alterations and always the feel of quality handcraft to the finished product. Saara will feel comfortable in this kimono and can focus entirely on her singing!
Naantali music festival, day 1
The beginning of summer marks of course the start of the annual Naantali music festival where I'm currently doing my 7th year as a member of the production crew. Two intense weeks of world class concerts are ahead! Get to know the program HERE and I'll see you in Naantali, Finland, the home of the Moomin World and one of the best chamber music festivals ever.
I've now updated the design-section of my website to give an idea of what kind of sewing and design- work I've done in the past. The pictures are in two categories: clothing I've made for clients and for myself from scratch, and reconstructed pieces or garments made out of recycled materials.
I can't wait to post pictures of my current projects, a kimono and a wedding dress. I still have time for a few more orders this spring so let's see what happens...