Monday, October 24, 2005

finlandia

Tonight I'm going to a reception at the Finnish embassy for a choir called Ylioppilaskunnan Laulajat. Perhaps you are not surprised to learn that they abbreviate it as "YL." It's a group of about 60 men, associated with the Helsinki University; it's the choir that Sibelius wrote for, and they've commissioned a ton of new works. My Sibelius-obsessed church choir director was in the group for a few months several years ago while he was on a Fulbright in Finland, and he's singing with them this week.

I actually went to New York this weekend because I can't make it to the D.C. show on their east coast tour. The concert yesterday was wonderful. They did this one beautiful piece by Veljo Tormis, a contemporary Estonian composer, called "Incantatio maris aestuosi (Charm to Still the Waves)" - it had sections when several choir members were whistling in this continuous falling arc, like the sound of the wind during a storm. Incredible. Their last encore was "Finlandia" - I'd never heard it in Finnish. I cried all the way through.

The drawback to yesterday's concert was that it was in Avery Fisher Hall - I mean, that's totally cool, because it's a famous hall and everything, but it's not great for voice. The tenor soloist kept being drowned out by the choir. So I'm excited to hear the program again tonight at the beautiful, intimate Finnish embassy. Wednesday's show, the one I can't go to, is at a church on Capitol Hill. Ooh, but I might go to their Performance Today taping on Thursday, if I can sneak away from work for a few hours.

4 comments:

Sophist said...

Oh my god,it sounds like an amazing concert!!!! I love "Finlandia." I love Sibelius! I love Estonian music! (although I admit I have only heard a bit of Estonian folk music and that some of that ubiquitous Arvo Part). Isn't it great when a concert is so moving and transcendent? Doesn't happen often. I remember a few transcendent concerts. One was the opera Doctor Atomic, which I just saw. One was "Stabat Mater" by Dvorak. I cried the whole time. One was "Vespers of the Virgin Beatrice" by Monteverdi. I cried a lot during that one too.

I don't know if it's the concert itself, or something in me that's especially open or receptive that day, or the coinciding of both events, but it is really special when it all comes together.

towwas said...

Oh, golly, I've cried through parts of a lot of Chanticleer concerts. If you get a chance, you should definitely check out that one Veljo Tormis piece - it is craaazy.

The best concert I ever heard - I nearly leapt out of my seat shrieking - was actually Yo-Yo Ma and his silk road people, in a little theater in the basement of the Freer Gallery in D.C. It only holds about a hundred people. They did this one piece that everyone played, and it had this imitative percussion part that was one of the most thrilling things I've ever heard. I wish I could explain it. It was one Indian dude on drums, and then I think the other three were American, and they were going around - the Indian dude would play something, then the next guy would imitate, then the next guy, and the phrases got shorter and shorter and the pace got faster and faster and it was just like nothing I'd ever heard.

Spice said...

Hey, I'm seeing Yo-Yo Ma and the Silk Road Ensemble in March! Although in a much-less-initmate venue...

towwas said...

Ooh, fun! One of the things I really remember liking about it was that it wasn't, like, I Am Yo-Yo Ma And These Are My Silk Road Minions. He was one of the gang - it seemed like very casual, collaborative fun.