Besides writing music columns for the New World Finn, Oren has produced numerous recordings of Finnish American music. He also performs regularly on mandolin, guitar, and bass with various bands.
Sherry Merrick, a Vermont nurse who does volunteer work for the international good-will organization called Project Harmony, has acted as agent and US manager for the Myllarit band from Petrozavodsk, Karelia.
As it happens, she was also involved in the formation of one of the most delightful Finno-Karelian music groups to come along in quite some time. "Sattuma" is a quartet consisting of ex-Myllarit members, Arto Rinne, Dmitry (Dima) Demin, Arto's 13-year-old daughter, Eila, and Dmitry's 9-year-old son, Vladik.
Sherry tells the story like this: "I asked Arto & Dima if they could form a quartet with their kids and perform for students in US schools . They agreed and started practicing last spring (2003). "I saw an ad in a US Finnish newspaper about the New England FinnFunn in Burlington (November, 2003), called Kati Dana, got them a gig there, wrote a successful grant which helped with travel expenses, and booked a 2 1?2 week school performance tour around the November FinnFunn gig. Their tour was very successful! Sattuma will be returning this fall for more school performances and an in-school 6 day residency program.
"Amazing - Sattuma started playing together in the spring of 2003 and this was the first perfoming tour for the children. They performed concerts with standing ovations 6 months later. One example: the concert at Bates University in Lewiston, Maine was nearly sold out and the audience demanded an encore. At FinnFunn, a Finnish woman said to me after their dance concert, that this was the best Finnish dancing music she had ever danced to."
Having now listened to the Sattuma CD, I can understand the enthusiasm. Arto and Dima have shed the rock and roll trappings of their last band, and with the children have returned to their folk music roots. With the two youngsters playing fiddles, Dima on clarinet, Arto on accordion, and everyone singing, they make a fine traditional Finnish dance music ensemble. In addition, they all double or triple (or more) on jouhikkos, jaw harp, flutes, kantele, bouzouki, bagpipes, didgeridoo, guitar, and percussion.
Arto Rinne, who has been honored by an award from the Finnish Literature Society for his accomplishments in preserving and promoting Karelian folk culture, explains the meaning of the group's name this way: "How did our group appear?-- accidentally. Sattuma means 'happenstance', but this word has the second meaning--'to hit the mark'. It explains everything--we started playing by chance and we discovered that we enjoy playing together."
The recording is a wonderful mix of Karelian folk songs and Finnish pelimanni dance music. The first sounds heard are birds, chickens, and a dog barking in the distance, hinting that this is music from the countryside. Then the fiddles begin slowly sawing away at "Lato-Matin Polkka.." The impression of a couple of youngsters sitting on the front steps of a country cabin with their fiddles is so vivid that one can almost feel the sunshine and catch a tangy whiff of barnyard. As the accordion and Andrey Smolin's string bass join in, the tempo increases, and by the time the clarinet takes a solo, the music is ready for outdoor dancing--where's the nearest tanssilava or plank-surfaced bridge?
The music on the CD covers a lot of Finnish-Karelian territory. The Ostrobothnian fiddling tradition of western Finland is represented by a polska and a waltz that Konsta Jylha composed, and also by two Otto Hotakainen polkas. Deep Karelian forests are evoked by "Echoes of Koivisto," with minor-key fiddles in masurkka tempo, a resonant bouzouki, and deep drones from didgeridoo and bowed bass.
The singing on this recording gives it much of its character and charm. The voices of the children contrast winningly with those of their fathers. For instance, the song "Tirlirlittia," as far as I can follow it, consists of one of the kids singing "Tirlirlittia nattia tytto," and Arto responding with something like "Tuiturluttia komiata poikka," and then the two voices combining for a chorus that is all "tirlirlittia tuiturluttia," etc. As the tempo increases, it is great fun to hear this "pretty girl-handsome boy" tonguetwister in friendly competition-and harmony-between the generations. Just when it seems that the singers must stop for air, the instruments take off on my favorite Viola Turpeinen tune, "Ellin Polkka."
Great melodies and songs, creative arrangements, masterful playing by the fathers and the children rapidly catching up, the heart-tugging sound of children's voices and family singing-yes, this CD is a winner. Yet as Sherry Merrick remarked, it was recorded during just two weekends last autumn. As mentioned, Sattuma will return to New England in the fall of 2004 for more concerts, school appearances, and workshops. The good news for those of us in the Midwest is that Randy Seppala is working on booking the group for the 2005 Covington Fourth of July Finnish Festival and for the joint American-Canadian Finn Grand Fest in Marquette, MI in August, 2005.
I highly recommend "Sattuma", the CD. For ordering information, contact Sherry Merrick at 802-333-9004; P.O. Box 153, Post Mills, VT 05058; email: firstname.lastname@example.org
New World Finn
heinäkuu - elokuu - syyskuu 2004