Studying Sibelius at Salolampi

The snowy woods and authentic architecture of Salolampi, the Finnish Language Village, became an idyllic setting for a weekend workshop by The Concordia Orchestra.

The orchestra retreated to Salolampi, on Turtle River Lake near Bemidji, Minn., to study the life and perform the works of Finland’s most beloved composer, Jean Sibelius.

The retreat was centered on five aspects of Finnish life – Sibelius, SalolampiSuomi, sauna and sisu, says Amy Tervola Hultberg, dean of the Finnish Village. Suomi is the Finnish name for Finland, sauna is a national passion and sisu is the uniquely Finnish spirit of persevering against all odds.

In Finland, Hultberg says people enjoy spending time away from their jobs by staying in rustic cabins, hiking in the woods and taking sauna baths to relax.

“It’s all about establishing a sense of balance in their lives,” says Hultberg. “I think using the Village in this way really fits from a physical and cultural perspective.”

A weekend at Salolampi, where all buildings have a distinct Finnish design, gave the orchestra time to concentrate on Sibelius’ music while experiencing typical Finnish culture and inspiration from the landscape.

Salolampi is such an amazing place, the whole experience fits our needs perfectly,” says Foster Beyers, conductor of the orchestra.

The orchestra’s rigorous on-campus rehearsal schedule doesn’t allow much time for in-depth study of a composer’s life and work, Beyers says. But at Salolampi, the ensemble had ample time to concentrate on Sibelius and his music. The orchestra also heard a lecture on Sibelius’ career and watched a movie about his life.

“The life of the composer is found in his music,” says Beyers. “So it’s important to get together and experience the music and explore it in some depth. Being here gives us a chance to step back and do that.”

Beyers says Sibelius was a landscape composer, and much of what is in nature is reflected in his music.

“The Finnish people relate to Sibelius so well because his music is so closely connected with nature,” says Beyers. “When you walk in the woods here you’ll start to connect many of the sounds you’ll hear in his music. The sound of a branch falling is recreated by the timpani, or the sound of the wind whipping through the trees is much like the first movement of his fifth symphony.”

After two days of concentrated rehearsal on two of Sibelius’ pieces, the orchestra performed a mini concert for Language Village employees.

The orchestra performed Sibelius’ most famous work, “Finlandia,” on Feb. 2 at Concordia. They will perform his fifth symphony on Feb. 15 in Minneapolis for the Minnesota Music Educators Association Midwinter Clinic.

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