The first half of 2021 was mostly digital, the second not so much. It's been a roller coaster ride of multiple collaborators and huge amounts of repertoir, but mostly within the greater Stockholm area. I've played at Svenska Akademien, started a new quartet, collaborated with 2020 Solistpriset -winner, flutist Laura Michelin, we're back planning the North-American tour with the soprano Tessan-Maria Lehmussaari and I've finally started an Instagram account, to mention a few things. Read on for more details! A while ago I finished off the gig year by a few Xmas song concerts and now it's time to prepare for the new year and reminisce.
Duo Finstrument in Örebro
Duo Finstrument is a multi-instrument duo I started with the church musician Terhi Aho back in 2018 when by chance we ended up doing a concert together on Värmdö. We were brought together because Terhi needed a pianist, and we were pleasantly surprised when we found out we're both Finnish. Terhi's main instrument is the organ, but she's also an accomplished cellist and soprano. Moreover, she took up Finland's national instrument kantele a while ago. So whenever we have a gig with Duo Finstrument, it looks like a whole band is going on tour.
We finally got together again in August, this time in Örebro. The fantastic thing about playing with Terhi is that it always feels like we only met yesterday even if, as in this case, we hadn't even seen each other for over a year. There was a nice newspaper article about our concert in the nationwide newspaper Ruotsinsuomalainen ("Swede-Finn") and we already have plans for the coming February.
Arts Promotion Center
Apart from my fifth cultural grant from Nacka municipality, I also received a covid stipend from the Arts Promotion Center Finland, the same way as last year. This was the second summer with very limited number of events and work opportunities for many freelancers. The Arts Promotion Center stipends enable artists to have continuity in their work despite cancelled concerts and exhibitions, and at the same time prepare for future events.
Tour of the US, Canada and Sweden
Speaking of the future, the tour that was supposed to be behind us long ago is now ahead, again. I'm talking of course about the Jenny Lind -tour in North America and Sweden with the soprano Tessan-Maria Lehmussaari. Now our Canadian and US tour is set for June 2022 and mid July-mid August we'll be touring Sweden. We had an interview with SVT the other day about it, you can watch the entire interview (in Finnish, with Swedish subs) here. Not sure how long the link will be valid, but to summarize, we talk about the upcoming tour and say we're ready for it (as we have been since 2020), and that we're keeping our fingers crossed that it'll actually happen this time.
Golden wedding anniversary
Tessan and I had an exciting gig in the fall at the golden wedding anniversary of an important Swedish culture figure. With us we had the super star flute virtuoso Laura Michelin, who has won the prestigious Solistpriset. Her level of craftsmanship and talent was a true pleasure to work with! Everything felt very effortless despite our limited rehearsal time together. Laura has been touring all over Sweden this fall and has been selected as one of the very few participants of the international Kobe flute competition in Japan. I wish her the best of luck and hope we can play together again soon!
Järfälla culture center
One of my old duo partners Pauliina Sairanen won the tryouts to the Gothenburg Opera where she's now working. She put me in touch with a colleague of hers, Tiina Markkanen, an alumn of the Metropolia Music Academy of Helsinki and the music department of Lund's University in Malmö. Tiina needed a pianist for a concert in Järfälla near Stockholm and I was happy to say yes. It felt like we've been collaborating for years despite having just met a few times before the concert!
On the same day as our Järfälla concert we also had the maiden voyage of what is probably the only Finnish quartet working in Sweden right now, Skratt. We chose the name Skratt because all four of us have loud and infectious laughters. Skratt-quartet consists of my old partners in crime Katariina Kolehmainen and Lila Arha and the violinist-conductor-composer multitalent extraordinaire Elisar Riddelin, fresh from the Sibelius Academy and currently doing his M.A. at - naturally - KMH Stockholm. It's been over 5 years since I've played with this big an ensemble. It was also wonderful to be back at my old school for the rehearsals. We played two movements of my favourite quartet, Brahms g-minor opus 25 and the plan is to do the entire piece in the spring.
Independence day at Finlandsinstitutet
The year came full circle when I played at Finlandsinstitutet on Finland's independence day: last year I had the flutist Miia Roiko-Jokela with me, this time I was with cello-Katariina. Last year they streamed the event so it was only us and the camera crew present. This time the place was packed with audience. Finland's institute's social media gurus got great footage for their Instagram account. Here are two screenshots of the evening's event:
Lecture concert at Svenska Akademien
If you go to the front page of my website you'll see I've changed my background image. The new background is from November when me and Tessan-Maria played at a lecture concert at Svenska Akademien. The theme of the evening was musical salon life in Europe in the 1800s, spoken about by musicologist and professor emerita Eva Öhrström (more information about her here), Swedish literary historian Horace Engdahl (Wikipedia) and actor Hannes Meidal (IMDb). Much in a similar way as in 2020 when we had a lecture concert at Stockholm's concert hall (which you can view on YouTube), we took turns with the lecturers and played our program one or a few pieces at a time. This time I also had solo pieces, I in fact learned Fanny Mendelssohn Hensel's January and February from her great work Das Jahr for this event. It's amazing music, maybe some day I'll play all twelve movements! You can read the Swedish description of the event here.
Last but not least, I finally set up a public Instagram-account! Find me there @siljalevander (Instagram) to see what I'm up to. It's a great addition to my biannual ramblings here on my blog and the threshold for new posts is much lower.
Happy new year everyone!
As we were feeling hopeful entering a new year, we soon realised things weren't going back to normal just yet. That's why my first projects this year have been digital. I'm writing this during what feels like the longest heatwave I've seen in the Nordics in my lifetime and it's been getting warmer in the gig-front too: I'm happy to say I've played in front of a live audience 4 times this month! But now I'll summarize the highlights of the year so far in chronological order.
Three new pieces with David Engellau
As a late xmas present I got an email from the amazing composer David Engellau, who I've worked with on his album Inbetween (which can be found here on Spotify). He was working on some new material and wanted me to give the pieces a pianistic touch. What followed was three intense sessions at the studio and the completion of three pieces of different character. I can't wait to see where the music will end up, as it's at this point still unclear what the fate of the tracks will be. Things can run slowly because of the pandemic, and some of my projects are still up in the air. One of those is my tour with the soprano Tessan-Maria Lehmussaari.
North-American tour moved to 2022
As you know, we were supposed to tour the USA and Canada this time last year. The tour got postponed to 2021 and now with yet another year to 2022. The organisers are optimistic about next year and we musicians keep our fingers crossed! The plan for 2020 looked fabulous and our hope is that as much of that can be "copy-pasted" to 2022 as possible. In the meantime we've recorded more material with Tessan-Maria and she's had her hands full at Folkoperan. You can read more about Tessan-Maria here.
The Finnish department of Stockholm University turned 90
As a Finn living in Sweden I'm part of a big minority, in fact the biggest national minority in Sweden. Stockholm is a huge city by North European standards, but for us "sverigefinnar" ("Swede-Finns") it's easy to find each other either through school or social media. After finishing my master's at the Royal Music Academy of Stockholm, I've stayed in touch with other Finns who study there now or are alumni. One of those is the talented violist Lila Arha. Me and Lila were invited to play Finnish music at a digital celebration of the 90-year-old Finnish department of Stockholm University. Our concert was streamed on Zoom from the festival hall of the Sweden-Finnish School on Kungsholmen. I never saw the results, but we got praise from students and professors alike. This was the first time I've played with Lila, and in fact the first time I've performed in a piano-viola duo. We will definitely keep collaborating.
Cultural sustainability - a new course at Hanken school of economics in Helsinki
Another alumn of the Royal Music Academy of Stockholm is Anni Pokki (pictured above), who went on to study at the prestigious Hanken school of economics after completing her master's in music. Her knowledge of culture, music and economics is a killer combination, which she has constantly shown in her work. She's the executive director of the Mänttä Music Festival, works as an external relations specialist and foundation officer at University of the Arts Helsinki, and has been part of a groundbreaking new course at her alma mater, Hanken, this spring. In the picture with Anni is a my new acquaintance, Maria Gajitos, who designed the contents of this pioneer course about cultural sustainability, with Annis help. Me and the concert pianist Ossi Tanner (see his website here) were invited as guest assessors to evaluate the works of the students. This spring, for me, collaboration with a Helsinki-based university would've been impossible if it wasn't done digitally. We used Teams and it was very exciting to be part of history in the making while sitting in my own kitchen. I'm looking forward to similar projects in the future. Read the full article about the cultural sustainability course in Swedish here.
Cultural grant from Nacka municipality, for the fifth time
In the past four of my projects have been funded by my home "town", Nacka. At the start of the year I widened my network of Finnish musicians based in Sweden and started planning a concert for the elderly with the cellist Katariina Kolehmainen, who I know through mutual friends and colleagues. We thought it'd be best if our concert took place in the summer when enough of the older population of Nacka have been vaccinated and the churches have reopened. As with my previous project "Animerad känslostorm" with a dancer and illustrator (more about that here), we chose Nacka church as the venue, due to its marvelous location near retirement homes, its great acoustics and its wonderful Yamaha grand. Our application went through just weeks before the planned date and luckily the church had an opening. We played our program twice in the same day to ensure that as many as possible could come and listen while still following the restrictions and keeping distance in the church. We streamed the concerts for those who couldn't come and Katariina edited her footage into this little teaser:
Four concerts within 8 days
It's been a while since I've been able to say that. Including our Nacka cultural grant concerts with Katariina, I also played in Stockholm's old town at two of the traditional lunch concerts at the Finnish church (which used to be the royal tennis hall, actually!), all within 8 days. The first lunch gig was with our cello-piano duo and the second was my own solo recital at which I tested some new material that I've never played before. I need to be well prepared for some big upcoming performances this fall (more about those by the end of the year) and a relaxed lunch concert was the perfect way to get used to having an audience once more after a long and mostly digital year. Needless to say that the lunch concerts were also streamed, which seems to be the new normal. It's a positive thing of course that my relatives in Switzerland, friends in Germany and family in Finland have been able to watch me play, but of course music is best experienced live...
Reading my blog posts from earlier this year I seemed to have a very optimistic view of the duration of the pandemic. I was proven wrong and the U.S. and Canadian tour (more about that here) with the soprano Tessan-Maria Lehmussaari is now postponed until 2022. But good things come to those who wait! Or...? Me and my fellow artists managed to make this a memorable year after all. We did what we could under the circumstances and, as one can guess, learned a lot about tech in the process.
I was one of the many that received a working grant from the Arts Promotion Center of Finland in the beginning of the summer. That allowed me to practise for future concerts in the peace and quiet of the Turku archipelago and made an almost gigless summer much better! My only regret is that I didn't spend more time designing when I had the opportunity. Luckily, I did manage to update my New out of old -gallery (link) with pictures taken by Tessan's sister, photographer Mirella Lehmussaari. When we were shooting our promotional tour photos, we used the studio time wisely which allowed Mirella to snap a few shots of a tablecloth-dress and a coat I've made out of reused denim, see below.
In October me and Tessan performed a handful of our tour pieces at the Stockholm Concert house. I haven't played there since I got the Royal Music Academy's scholarship in 2015 and it was fantastic to be back. Because of lighter restrictions around that time we also had a little live audience in addition to the streaming, which was very refreshing. The event was a lecture-concert dedicated to Jenny Lind's 200th birthday and we were joined on stage by Sweden's leading connoisseurs of song technique, history and the life of Jenny Lind. Watch the entire concert here:
In December, the Swedish Church did their part in making sure people have seasonal music around them despite having to cancel all the traditional yuletide singalongs. Their wonderful digital Xmas calendar (click here, then scroll down to see the "calendar doors" with dates) was recorded as a collaboration between different cities and congregations. Most songs were recorded in Finnish and Swedish and the performers are mostly freelance musicians or working for the church. My contributions to the Xmas calendar, which were recorded in the Finnish Church of Stockholm, were published on the 9th, 13th and 20th December. Here's a direct link to one of them, the others can be found on the website I mentioned above.
Another nice way of maintaining traditions in these crazy times was the annual independence day concert organized by the Finnish Institute of Stockholm. Playing in their concert hall, named after Finland's most famous composer of all time, Jean Sibelius, has been on my to-do -list for a few years now so it felt like a win even without a live audience. I was happy to play with the flute-virtuoso Miia Roiko-Jokela once again, exactly a year after our debut as a duo. Here's a few screencaps from the day:
Thanks to social media and common friends in the movie industry, I met the amazing composer and producer David Engellau in January when he was looking for a pianist to record some of his work. The results of that meeting are now immortalized on his beautiful album Inbetween, which can be found on Spotify. This year went full circle two days ago when I revisited David's studio, where we started working on new material. So I'm already one foot in 2021!
My only new year's resolution is to dedicate more time to the art of fashion, especially if the situation with Covid19 shouldn't improve as fast as we all hope it will.
We'd be on tour now
As I told in my previous blog post, right now I would be on the second stretch of a multinational tour with this year's Jenny Lind -prizewinner, soprano Tessan-Maria Lehmussaari. We would have visited Toronto, New York, Washington D.C., New Orleans and San Francisco in June, and would right now be touring in Sweden. As sad as it is to postpone or cancel most events this year, now we have something to look forward to in 2021! In the meantime we wanted the American friends of the Jenny Lind -tour to get a sneak peek at what's in store and recorded a few of the pieces we've been working on. This "teaser", that features music from Clara Schumann, Peter Heise and Benjamin Britten, was filmed in the Finnish Church here in Stockholm in the beginning of June by the singer herself.
Japanese film music meets street dance and manga
I collaborated with the manga artist/drawing teacher Elin Alskog Berglund and dancer/choreographer Sanda Tcacencu to plan a show that features piano music spiced up by a dance routine and live- drawing. As I mentioned in an earlier blogpost, the plan to combine different art forms in beautiful surroundings was there since I met Sanda at Våga Visa (read more about that here), but the project finally came into fruition in February this year after we found a venue and got sponsored by Nacka county.
Elin, Sanda and I all love Japanese anime-films and we wanted to bring their strong visual aspects and music together in the form of a live show in a familiar venue, the Nacka church. We got incredibly positive feedback from the audience, most of whom had never been to a piano concert before. I've often found that the relationship between music and visual arts is an area that needs to be explored more, in fact I even wrote my master's thesis about it. So this won't be the last time I let different art forms play together! Here is a little compilation of our performance:
In my latest blog post I mentioned a collaboration with the soprano Tessan-Maria Lehmussaari, but that I wasn't allowed to talk about the details yet.
Mid-January we finally went official with the news that Tessan-Maria is the recipient of this year's Jenny Lind- scholarship. "Soprano Tessan-Maria Lehmussari has been named this year's Jenny Lind Scholar of the Royal Swedish Music Academy and Folkets Hus & Parker in Sweden. With this, this large scholarship is re-launched in a new collaboration during the celebration of Jenny Lind's 200th anniversary in 2020." (Svanholm Artists website) As part of the scholarship, Tessan-Maria will be sent on two tours: a month in North-America and a month in Sweden. And the tour pianist is yours truly!
But as you know, things aren't really as they were not so long ago. Due to covid-19 much of the culture world is at a standstill right now, many of my projects included. We've had a dialogue with FHP and the Royal Music Academy and at least the first tour is now postponed. It remains to be seen if we're able to do the Swedish tour this summer of if that, too, needs to be postponed to either 2021 or indefinitely. We've worked hard at the program so whenever we do have our next concert or tour, it's going to be amazing!
Tessan-Maria's multitalented sister Mirella photographed us a couple of weeks ago when life was still close to normal and we were still fully planning our tour-summer. Some of the results of the photoshoot will be published in my gallery- section at a later time.
Right now I'm trying to stay one step ahead of the times and prepare for future concerts without a certainty of when they'll be possible again. Some of my gigs have been moved to the autumn term (including one that the king of Sweden might attend!) so it's going to be a very eventful end of the year if we first survive the pandemic.
Now that my life as a culture worker has certainly seen better days and I'm practising with a brighter future in mind, it's also time to reminisce. Here's a throwback to last fall when I visited the piano museum Klaverens Hus with Pavel Matveyev, one of the artists behind the Player piano- project I've mentioned before. This was my first visit to the piano museum after 2017 and it was wonderful to see the instruments again. During our visit my hands were photographed hundreds of times from various angles so that people who try the Player piano software will get visual feedback of what they're playing, along with the sound. I got to see the app in action at a Player piano- open house in Stockholm later last fall. You can read about the project at Nordiska Konstförbundet and Pavel Matveyev's own website.
Mänttä music festival
Last summer I had the honor of working at Mänttä music festival for the 6th time. We had a similar plan as in 2018, of collaborating with the great designer Anne-Mari Pahkala, a true fashion artist. This time she had a bridal wear exhibition at the luxurious Mänttä Club and I got to plan pop up- concerts that reflected its themes of love, companionship and joy. My duo-partner was the lovely Sarah Devoyon, a rare gem of a musician soon to graduate from the esteemed Sibelius Academy with cello as her main instrument. In addition to that she's also an established children's pedagog and singer.
This summer I sadly won't make it to Mänttä due to the Jenny Lind- tour. Whether the latter part of our two month tour works out or not, remains to be seen. For now I suppose all I can do is make the most of these uncertain times and do my part in flattening the curve.
It seems only logical that the more I work the less I have time to write about it, right? So I'll use pictures rather than words to summarize what's been up lately.
I started a new collaboration with Miia Roiko-Jokela, who did her M. A. at the Royal Music Academy of Stockholm shortly after me. Her instrument, the flute, is especially meaningful to me after spending my childhood in a household where both parents were professional flutists! We've so far played together only twice but have a few gigs booked for this spring. Our duo's theme is of course to bring out our Finnish roots: so far our program consists of only Finnish music, ranging from the classical era of Crusell, to the national romanticism of Sibelius, to more contemporary composers such as Jack Mattsson and Kaija Saariaho.
Working with singers is always a pleasure. My wonderful soprano Pauliina Sairanen got a job at the Oslo Opera House so this time, when I was invited to do a Christmas concert with a singer, I contacted the lovely Tessan-Maria Lehmussaari, an alumn of the Stockholm Opera Academy. We did one intense day of two concerts in 2017, so it was long time no see and lovely to work with her again. There is more news on that front, but I'm not allowed to talk about it yet...
Me and my cellist Vincent Wistrand hosted our family friendly movie music concert in the lovely Grunewaldvillan. This was the second year that we've received a culture stipendium from Nacka County, and we intend to make an annual tradition of organising themed chamber music concerts with their support (if indeed we get it again in 2020). Vincent and I have a few concerts already booked for this spring, among others Karby Gård in Täby.
And apropos the Nacka county culture stipendiums! I received my third one in a row, this time for a collaboration with dancer Sanda Tcacencu and manga- artist Elin Alskog. We are the first trio to perform in Nacka church combining manga illustration, a dance choreography and piano music. The three of us have never worked together like this before. I know Sanda from Våga Visa (she's one of the observers) and Elin from Östermalms Musik och Kulturskola where we both teach. How the results will look and sound, can be witnessed on Sunday the 16th of February in Nacka church at 18:00, and more details about the project and my partners in crime will follow.
Unfortunately I never actually made it to Jämtland last summer to see the play Emil i Lönneberga, where some of the costumes were my creations. But almost all of the performances were sold out and Höglunda Teater was praised in the local news and by theater-goers. I'm still anxious to see some video footage and get much more pictures, but the few I've seen so far look very good and the production team remembered me with this wonderful card:
To be continued!
Emil i Lönneberga
The first third of 2019 has been exciting! This summer I’ll have the pleasure of collaborating with a new summer theater in Jämtland called Höglunda Teater. They're working on a production of Astrid Lindgren’s famous Emil of Lönneberga. I’ll be designing and manufacturing costumes for some of the main characters. The biggest challenge is getting the children’s sizes right and sewing headwear. Many of my classmates in design school had milliner’s experience but I sadly don’t, so, first time for everything I guess!
In other news, I’m soon about to finish my first term as an observer at Våga Visa. Våga Visa is a method and network for a unified quality evaluation of cultural education in the greater Stockholm area. The observers’ job is to write a report and evaluate whichever school they get sent to. All participating schools get an evaluation approximately once every third year and an observation period is a few weeks of intense lesson visits and report-writing.
For me, it was very educational to get to observe and evaluate a school I didn’t know much about before. Moreover, it's now been 3 years since I completed the written part of my master's thesis so my academic swedish was getting a bit rusty. From the observed schools' perspective, having fresh pairs of eyes scrutinize all aspects of their facility from an outsider’s perspective and then getting a report about it is very informative for their future progress. And last but not least, the reports and ratings are public to make comparisons between schools easier. You can read more about Våga Visa here.
Sound of music
In march I had the pleasure of collaborating with Opus Norden on their production of Sound of Music. Sound of Music has become their tradition and this was my second time as a one person orchestra for their choirs and soloists. They made local newspaper headlines with the musical and the venue was sold out. It was an honor and a great responsibility to accompany the entire musical. The music isn’t technically that challenging but I had over 200 pages to learn so it felt like a piano marathon! You can read Opus Norden’s (swedish) blog posts about the production on their website and Facebook.
My 6- handed arrangement of a famous waltz
This spring Östermalms Musik- och Kulturskola will have its annual Samklang- concert in Nacka Aula on May the 26th. For that, I’ve done my first 6- handed piano arrangement ever (how often do you get to do that?). The piece is Johann Strauss’ famous waltz ”The Blue Danube”, and I’m looking forward to seeing how it transforms in the hands of our talented piano students.
Upcoming mothers' day concert
On the 12th of May I’m playing a mothers’ day concert together with the super talented singer Pauliina Sairanen in Gustavsberg’s church, 2PM! Pauliina is the recipient of Kungliga Musikaliska Akademien’s scholarship and she’s been a soprano soloist with the Oulu symphony orchestra and recently also the KTH symphony orchestra in Stockholm. The concert is free of charge and we’re hoping to see a full church, despite the fact that the swedes celebrate mothers’ day a few weeks later.
... 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!
This blog is a work diary with updates about my life as a musician and designer.