THUNDER BAY ON --- January 18, 2011 --- Living in Thunder Bay we often hear languages other than English spoken around town. In the past it might have been Ukrainian or Italian or a host of many European tongues. To-day we are hearing more native languages being spoken since the language is being taught in schools for natives, where they also become more conversant in English as well. This is all for the better since it takes a good two way conversation for the process of understanding one another to begin. In the early 1960’s a large number of Finnish people immigrated to Thunder Bay and have made their home in our city. Their presence contributes to the uniqueness of this city. Who has not passed by the famous Hoito restaurant for their pancake breakfast?
There is more to Finn culture than food and pancakes and in Thunder Bay there are a number of churches where services are still held in Finnish. On Friday Lakehead University voice instructor Tellie Kähärä presented a recital of religious music and Finnish folk music, at Salem Church on Walkover Street. This was more than a recital; it was also the CD launch of “Prophecies of Isaiah” named after the key work by the same name composed by George Selbst. (1917-1996). The orchestral part of this opening work was pre-recorded and played electronically. Tellie presented this piece Karaoke style. The vocal readings were done by the acting chair of Lakehead University’s Music department, Dean Jobin-Bevans. The work by Selbst was sung in English and is a formal recitation of the prophecies of Isaiah. This was followed by a contrasting change of violin works played by Keijo Uokkola with Evgueni Tchougounov playing the big Petrov piano in Salem Church. I now know what happened to the TSBO’s old piano!
After three selections for violin and piano, Tellie returned to the stage to sing some lighter works, mostly Finnish folk and religious songs. John Pajala played the piano for these while Keijo Uokkola played the violin obligato.
From left to right, Evgueni Tchougounov, Keijo Uokkola, John Pajala, Tellie Kähärä and Dean Jobin-Bevans.
Religious folk oriented music has a very large following amongst Finnish people, and it follows them just as sauna’s and the delicious pulla (sweet breads) wherever they settle. It is something that Finn musicians devote their life studying and performing and it is a unique art form. They do this simply because it is important to them. Tellie enjoyed the support of her peers from University, her many students past and present colleagues in song and from her own church.
Through sharing their food and their culture with the wider community Thunder Bay’s Finnish community has made our lives hear all the more richer and widened our perspective of what is good in life. Thanks Tellie for a good recital.
Arts Editor: LakeSuperiorNews.com