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...
Fräulein Frauke, one of the brightest stars of the European cabaret and burlesque world, visited me at my sewing and design studio last week! We brainstormed about both of our upcoming projects and thought about the different ways in which we could collaborate in the future.
Fräulein Frauke is a true artist and a multi-tasker. She tours the world performing, and at her hometurf in Stockholm she has started a nowadays well-established burlesque club from scratch. Her events bring the world's biggest cabaret and burlesque names together and are a truly inspiring way to spend an evening. Nothing to do this week's saturday (May the 6th)? It's time for Frauke's Bohemian Spring ball at Nalen, Stockholm!
Sometimes one evening of fabulousness isn't enough, and this year Stockholm is in for a treat when Frauke organises an epic 2-day event in October. I'm pleased to say my handprint will also be seen in the production! Can't wait to find out more and get started.
This week went by really fast. The biggest news is that I’m now officially represented by Opus Nordens artists, and I’m also going to be seen at their amazing music school in Danderyd on a more regular basis. Opus Norden is a small music school that specializes in classical music. Nowadays many culture schools and bigger music schools lay their main focus on pop and rock, but at Opus Norden they nurture the traditions and always aim for high quality.
In the past I’ve had the pleasure of working as a correpetitor for their choirs, conducted by the multi-talent Ragna Fagelund who’s also the founder of Opus Norden. The school offers among other things singing classes, choir classes, voice training and piano lessons, of which I’ll be running a course tailor-made for retired seniors. Working at Opus Norden as an artist and piano teacher is going to be an exciting addition to my ever-growing list of things I fill up my working weeks with.
This blog is a work diary with updates about my life as a musician and designer.