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Release peace: the magazine

Release peace: the magazine

Analysis & Background Stories on International Affairs

Music of the North: The Sounds of Finland

Article by: Tatiana Sondej

The World-Class Music of Finland

Finland has been a notable figure in the music community for many centuries, with great success in folk music and classical compositions. The strength of Finnish music lies in its originality: Unlike its neighbours Sweden and Norway, Finland never had a royal court that would have provided itself with musical entertainments or sponsored expensive opera productions. Instead, the roots of Finnish music go deep down into a unique national heritage.

The Early Days

Finnish art music finds its origins in the arrival of Christian sacred music from both East and West in the 12th century. Latin chant was taught in monasteries and used at church services. During the 15th century, the Ducal courts had occasional musical performances, with documentation of itinerant musicians being recorded – although it is not known what instruments they played. In the 16th century, the musical influence of the Swedish court extended to Finland. At least when members of the Royal family travelled to Turku, their entourage included a musical ensemble with up to ten members. The first missal in Finnish was printed in the mid-16th century, and music was also distributed in hymnals (with or without printed music). And by the 17th century, there were efforts to standardise hymns and hymn tunes. However, developments in Lutheran church music did not properly reach Finland until the early 18th century, nearly two centuries after the Reformation.

Big Names in the Business

Finnish artists have been influential in many genres including rock and contemporary pop. In the world of classical music, Finland has strong roots as the home of leading composers such as Jean Sibelius. The country has created a foundation in classical music for some time with famous orchestras such as the Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra, founded in the 19th century. Today, Finland is renowned both in the country and internationally for its celebrated orchestral group, the Ostrobothnian Chamber Orchestra (OCO).

About the Orchestra

The OCO hosts many concerts and events in their hometown Kokkola, a small but cosy town located in the Central Ostrobothnian region. Since the 1990s, the group has significantly impacted Finland’s musical scene – many artists have dedicated their works to the orchestra, and pieces have been written specifically to be performed by the group. The OCO has been an acclaimed professional orchestra since 1989. The orchestra is famous for its congruent sound and group dynamic, gained from years of building the orchestral family and holding concerts together. It was founded in 1972 by Juha Kangas, a distinguished Finnish honorary conductor and fiddler. A number of awards have been won by the OCO, including the Nordic Council Music Prize in 1993. The OCO has had such a lasting impact that their CD of the Hamburg Symphonies was nominated by BBC Music Magazine as Record of the Year.

Global Reach

The OCO has hosted many concerts over the years – the events have mainly been based in Kokkola, but the group has toured Finland multiple times. International OCO concerts have also taken place, namely in New York, Japan and many European countries where the orchestra has a vast reputation. If you are interested in experiencing the OCO’s many talents for yourself, there are plenty upcoming events to keep an eye on. Many of the concerts planned for spring and summer are based in Kokkola, for example ‘50 years of the Kokkola Orchestra’ – this is a concert held to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the OCO, taking place on April 24th.

There will also be a number of exciting events featuring Malin Broman, the orchestral leader. Broman is a Swedish violinist and chamber musician with a very successful solo career. She has featured in many chamber groups, and has been Artistic Director for the OCO since 2019. Some upcoming events featuring Broman are ‘Old Meets New’, taking place at the end of March, and ‘Destination Würzburg’ in May, held at the Kokkola Conservatory Hall.

Classical Instruments with a Modern Touch: Jazz

If you are looking for a unique musical experience and enjoy going to festivals, HaparandaTornio is the place for you. Every year, Haparanda-Tornio hosts the Kalottijazz & Blues summer festival. The festival takes place at the end of June across three days (Thursday to Saturday). But why is this festival so interesting? The twenty concerts are held under a unique circumstance – they are spread across the border of Haparanda and Tornio, which means they are both in Sweden and in Finland. And they are therefore in two different time zones. It might be the only festival in the world where you can enjoy two acts at the same time, making most of your festival experience.

The summer festival offers the best music of both countries, featuring local bands and several international artists. Tickets have already been released for the 2023 Kalottijazz & Blues festival, running between June 26th and July 1st. Some of the concerts are even free – those visiting Haparanda-Tornio this summer should keep an eye out for this event, especially the Concert on the Move in the inner Tornio city.

The Arts Testers

Finland is home to the Arts Testers, a project which allows children to experience the arts without cost. Familiarising children with art -including music- is a core part of the Nordic curriculum and the countries’ view on how to raise children. The OCO is involved in the Arts Testers project, offering 8th grade students of Finnish schools a chance to gain valuable insight into the arts. With help from their sponsor Kokkola Karleby, the OCO is one of 121 destinations and participants in the project. Due to the pandemic the OCO was unable to participate in spring of 2020, however work was put towards the introduction of virtual content. Currently, Arts Testers and the OCO are working in collaboration to provide musical experiences for Finnish children.

Sweet Symphonies

Music has shaped the Finland that we know today. With a history dating all the way back to the 12th century, the music has evolved from intimate church settings to the global stage. From world renowned orchestras to being home to some of the most famous names in the industry, classical music is embedded into Finland’s culture.

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