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...
This blog is a work diary with updates about my life as a musician and designer.