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Volume 34
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The Seattle Choral Company will reveal the musical riches of the Baltic Sea countries
The Seattle Choral Company will reveal the musical riches of the Baltic Sea countries
The Seattle Choral Company, under the direction of Fred Coleman, will close their 24th concert season with "Baltic Homeland: Folksong Heritage From the Baltic Shores" - a salute to the rich choral heritage of the Baltic countries, particularly, Estonia and Finland.

"Baltic Homeland: Folksong Heritage From the Baltic Shores" will be performed twice: on Saturday, June 3, at 8:00 pm, at St. Mark's Cathedral (1245 10th Ave East, Seattle) and on Sunday, June 4, at 3:00 pm, at St. Thomas Episcopal Church (8398 NE 12th St, Medina).

According to the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, "In Finland, music is practically the national language. Children are frequently taught to read musical notes before they can read words&and the result of all this national emphasis on music is clear: Finland, with a population comparable to the state of Minnesota, is dominating the international music scene."

In nearby Estonia, as in all three of the Baltic Republics, the choral heritage is centuries old. Unknown to most Americans, there are more choirs per capita in this region than anywhere else in the world. Communal singing and national song festivals play a significant role in the Baltic states, attracting thousands of participants. Here folk traditions and epic poems have been great sources for a vast choral repertory that is now being appreciated everywhere.

During the period of Soviet occupation, huge choir festivals were held in the Baltic nations, involving thousands of participants, that turned into defiant rallies against Soviet rule. These festivals were later called the "Singing Revolution."

"Baltic Homeland" will allow listeners to explore several composers who form the cornerstone of Finnish choral repertoire.

Jean Sibelius (1865-1957) is considered Finland's greatest composer. He grew to maturity at a time of growing Finnish nationalism, as the country broke away from its earlier Swedish and later Russian overlords. Brought up in a Swedish-speaking family, Sibelius acquired a knowledge of the Finnish language and traditional literature at school and the early Finnish sagas proved a strong influence on his subsequent work as a composer. The SCC will perform two characteristic works of Sibelius, representing both his Finnish and Swedish roots.

Toivo Kuula (1883-1918) was a deeply Romantic visionary. In the eyes of his contemporaries, Kuula was a somewhat eccentric artist. In Finnish musical history he is depicted as a tragic, romantic figure, for in addition to being of a tempestuous disposition, he met a violent death at the age of 35 in the aftermath of the Finnish Civil War.

Einojuhani Rautavaara (b. 1928) is a composer who succeeds in finding a universal musical language. He is the leading Finnish composer of his generation. His style combines modernism with mystical romanticism.

Finally, the young Jaakko Mäntyjärvi (b. 1963) has achieved overnight fame with the zany humor of his choral humoresque, "El Hambo." The instant success of this parody of Swedish folk dance (and its predecessor, "Pseudo-Yoik") has created the image of him being a composing comedian, but his musical output contains a wealth of first-rate compositions, many in the English language. Mäntyjärvi is a member of the Tapiola Chamber Choir and most of his works are indeed for choir. His skills as a professional linguist, combined with his biting wit, prompted him to satirize the stereotype of Scandanavian culture with "something of a tribute to those folk musicians whose enthusiasm much exceeds their sense of rhythm!"

Choral songs from the Finnish repertory that will be included are:

"Drömmarna" (Dreams) by Jean Sibelius

"Rakastava, Op. 14" (Beloved, the Lover) by Jean Sibelius

"Siell' on kauan jo kukkineet omenapuut, Op. 11, No. 2" (Yonder the apple trees are blooming) by Toivo Kuula

"Auringon noustessa, Op. 11. No. 3" (Sunrise) by Toivo Kuula

"Nuku" (Sleep ) by Toivo Kuula

"Och glädjen den dansar" (With joy we go dancing) by Einojuhani Rautavaara

"Sommarnatten" (Summer night) by Einojuhani Rautavaara

"El Hambo" by Jaakko Mäntyjärvi

The entire latter portion of the choral program will be devoted to the colorful vocal writing of Veljo Tormis, Estonia's master of ancient Baltic folk song. Tormis has spent his career exploiting the magic, primeval power of age-old, runic folk tunes, discovered among the surviving peoples of the Baltic shores. These are peoples whose languages and songs have all but disappeared. The Seattle Choral Company will include three groups of folk songs from Tormis' considerably large output: "Livonian Heritage," "Two Songs after Ernst Enno," and "Four Game Songs from Sangaste."

According to the noted choral conductor and musicologist, Paul Hillier, "The music of Veljo Tormis taps the most ancient of roots in a fluid, powerful idiom, and offers a fascinating counterpart to the work of another Estonian composer, Arvo Pärt."

Ticket Information: Non-reserved tickets are on sale for $22 (General), $17 (Senior), and $10 (Under 25). To purchase by phone, call Brown Paper Tickets at 1-800-838-3006. This ticket hotline is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. For on-line purchases, please go to the Seattle Choral Company's web site at www.seattlechoralcompany.org.

Special group rates are available for groups of 8 or more. Groups of 15 or more from schools and non-profit organizations may purchase tickets at 50% off regular prices.

Started in 1982 by its Founding Director, Fred Coleman, the Seattle Choral Company is the Pacific Northwest's leading symphonic chorus and one of Seattle's most accomplished and respected choral organizations.



A Seattle Choral Company press release

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