Sibelius 150th anniversary


The above is part of a poster about a wonderful event we attended on Sunday (Feb.8th) at the Scandinavian Centre in Burnaby. It was organized and presented by members of our local chapter of The Canadian Friends of Finland. Most interesting and educational was the talk and slide show about Sibelius’ early life, which is generally less well-known. Bob Poutt told us about Glenda Goss, an American musicologist who went to Finland to research Sibelius’ life and music, eventually publishing Sibelius: A Composer’s Life and the Awakening of Finland. She learned Finnish and became a professor at the Sibelius Academy in Helsinki. Somehow I had missed a lecture by Ms.Goss at the Centre in March, 2013.

Mr. Poutt’s young grandsons acted out delightful scenes of a young Sibelius being interviewed by a reporter, set against a slide show. The audience was charmed.

The Centre’s excellent long-running Runeberg Chorus performed many songs by Sibelius, in English, Finnish and Swedish (Sibelius’ first language). Two wonderful solos were the highlights, Diamond on the March Snow sung by tenor Yasushi Ishimura and Luonnotar by Kaoru Henry, each with glorious visuals on the background screen. Our favourite was the latter thanks to the singer’s professional operatic voice. Luonnotar is based on Finnish mythology, the words coming from the Kalevala. The text is from the first part of the Kalevala and deals with the creation of the world, Luonnotar is the Spirit of Nature and Mother of the Seas.

It was a moving program and a wonderful afternoon of friendship as we were surprised by how many friends were there. Congratulations to all the organizers and performers! I wonder who did the superb visuals for the slide show?

I am so inspired that I hope to get my hands on the book, in fact I put in a purchase request for it at our library. Jean Sibelius was part of a group of many artists, poets and writers who are all Finland’s greatest creators. This 150th Anniversary is being widely celebrated in Finland and beyond with numerous concerts, but only one that we know of here in Vancouver – we must request more.

Of course there are many recordings available for purchase as well as online listening available, such as at Finland’s YLE Radio, where I’ve been slowly enjoying his seven symphonies. The first three highlighted on the page are performances by the Radio Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Sakari Oramo and presented in 2006 in Bergen, Norway. Just below these is a link to Symphonies 4 to 7, also by the above except for No. 5 performed in Helsinki. Enjoy!

Yle also has a site Sibelius 150 mostly in Finnish but with some pages in English (scroll down). Even further down is also an audio interview of Glenda Goss in English. (I wish the individual articles were hyperlinked.) I’ve only just discovered this so will be busy reading these articles!

I must also mention an excellent blog which I’ve been enjoying reading for some time. Dust of Hue is devoted entirely to Sibelius, written by a serious and knowledgeable fan who lives in Singapore I think. He has even visited Sibelius’ home Ainola.

Finally, two related posts from my archives: Saariaho and Sibelius (with a photo of Ainola) and Sibelius…the Last Swan.

on the feast of Stephen


photo: 4:30 pm Christmas Day 2014

Good King Wenceslas looked out on the feast of Stephen… I wrote at the start of a post on this feast day in 2008. Please visit that favourite page of mine for an interesting story about the Finnish source of this well-known song. Also check out the comment from Kate Laity!

Note all the snow we had that Christmas. It’s a green one this year. How is yours?

Have a great day! The two of us are having a quiet morning while some of the family are out visiting friends and one is out at a Boxing Day sale.

the Canuck version

Here’s a bit of fun and truly delighful art work for those of us in need of a light-hearted break in the midst of decorating, letter writing, poring over recipes and food shopping lists:

A Moose in a Maple Tree – The All Canadian 12 Days of Christmas

Screen shot 2014-12-17 at 11.32.50 AM

The song is written by Troy Townsin, illustrated by Jennifer Harrington and performed by Canadian Ska legend Chris Murray. More here.

music, friends, art…


It has been quiet here on the blog while life has been exciting some days, sometimes leaving me too tired for words (partly due to a cold as well). So just a list as to what has been going on:

• MUSIC: we were gifted at Christmas with tickets to a Vancouver Symphony concert on the 16th, featuring pianist Freddy Kempf. It was marvelous, we really enjoyed his powerful rendition of Tchaikovsky. Beethoven is always a favourite and was well done but we were not so impressed with the new-to-us Polish composer Górecki’s work (especially the third part that sounded like a lot of noise to me).

• FRIENDS: A wonderful visit from old friends we’ve not seen in well over a decade, who live in Ontario. The guys have known each other since they were seven year old tykes and all of us were former Winnipegers, educated at the same university and married there. So much to catch up on and to reconnect.

• ART: We visited the exhibition of the Audain Art collection at the Vancouver Art Gallery. Loved it all especially the older West Coast First Nations carvings, as well as their modern work, and all the well-known BC artists from Emily Carr to the present, plus some Mexican art. How ever does this amazing arts philanthropist fit all this work, many very large, in his home? Some good photos here, and Michael Audain in his own words and as The Philanthropist (interesting!).

• CONSTRUCTION ZONE: very distracted, fascinated and having mixed feelings by the demolition and excavation next door, and soon to begin construction of a new home.

• WILDLIFE: saw a coyote walking down our street – a nice reminder that we live on the edge of mountain wilderness. And, as I stood on our deck one day to look over the construction site next door, Crow joined me on the power line above me, quite calm when I turned my camera on him. Wonder what he was thinking.

• AURORA time: check out the latest comments at blue snow.

• OLD FINNISH JEWELRY – please visit the interesting update to that old post.

• MORE ART: last but not least – looking forward to our exhibition, opening next week! Welcome!

Figaro on the beach


Yesterday afternoon, a Labour Day holiday here in Canada, we had the pleasure of seeing and hearing a delightful and well-done performance of Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro on the mainstage of Bard on the Beach. The energetic young stars of the UBC Opera Ensemble, from University of British Columbia’s Music School impressed us with their professionalism, well-trained and beautiful voices, their acting skills and the lovely costumes on this small stage with minimal props, shared with the Vancouver Opera orchestra.

Over the years, we’ve attended some of the Shakespearean plays here. The mainstage tent has an opening behind the stage overlooking English Bay and the North Shore mountains and sky. The Bard on the Beach Shakespearean Festival has become a well-loved and attended Vancouver cultural site every summer since it’s founding in 1990, by the amazing actor and director Christopher Gaze. This time Gaze was the host for Figaro, stepping in between scenes with quick, entertaining and helpful synopses of each scene, as they were sung in Italian.

I’m only sorry we were not allowed to take photos inside to show you, though I sneaked the top one just as some of the orchestra players began the warmup. Below is a view of the Bard on the Beach site – what a beautiful day it was (though hot inside the tent!). If you are ever in Vancouver in the summer and you love Shakespeare, this is the place to enjoy the Bard, along with certain special events such as Figaro!




The other morning frost covered trees, shrubs, grass, even the glass on the skylights. Though not lovely frost ferns this time, its thawing looks like lace.


Outdoors I’m looking very closely at the frost on the deck railing.


and how it is thawing on the sunnier end….

Oh, I almost forgot Finland’s Independence Day today! Here’s the perfect music to honour it. Hyvää itsenäisyyspäivää!

thoughts on the day


Some days my body feels old from pain and insomnia though in my mind I’m still young and beautiful.
Some days melancholia may touch me like softly fluttering wings as I remember many loved ones no longer here.
On this day and still holding true are these birthday meditations from a couple of years ago,
while a certain song from my youth has been going round and round in my head:

When I get older losing my hair,
Many years from now,
Will you still be sending me a valentine
Birthday greetings bottle of wine?
If I’d been out till quarter to three
Would you lock the door,
Will you still need me, will you still feed me,
When I’m sixty-four?

When I’m Sixty-Four, lyrics by John Lennon and Paul McCartney

Such mixed feelings….



Just over a month ago, I wrote about how western media is taking notice of the phenomenon of complaints choirs. Just now I found another report, in Canada’s Globe & Mail, BC edition about the number of choirs in BC. It’s good therapy, I say! Enjoy the reading and listening!

I could have been complaining about our warm monsoons this week, with more rain in one day than we normally have in the already rainy month of January. A local ski hill even had to be shut down to conserve the snow for the Olympics. The best therapy for me has been to be busy in the print studio completing another series of prints.

I’ve complained a little about the dark days and rain stopping me from getting out to do more photography with our new lens. The above poor photo is one of the test images I did indoors in the solarium earlier this week. My struggles proved to me there was not enough light to get decent photos. Using a macro lens definitely requires more light than normal.

But today is brilliantly sunny so it’s not the time for sitting any longer at this box, I must get out and enjoy it while it lasts. Rain is back for next week, sigh. Hope to be back with some better photos…

sing your complaints


The Helsinki Complaints Choir at the stairs of the Lutheran Cathedral in Helsinki.
Photo taken from the complaints choirs website

The first time I heard of complaints choirs was over three years ago and later blogged about how amusing they were to me.

A few days ago, I read on a Finnish culture blog about an article in The New York Times by Phyllis Korkki (the last name sounds Finnish): Turning Complaints Into Art. Here’s a snippet:

The idea started in Finland, where there is a word for people who complain simultaneously, valituskuoro, which translates as complaints choir. About six years ago Oliver Kochta-Kalleinen and his wife, Tellervo Kalleinen, both visual artists living in Helsinki, began discussing the possibility of turning this metaphorical concept into something quite literal. People spend so much energy complaining, they reasoned, so why not harness all that energy into something positive?

In 2005, with help from arts-related organizations in England and Finland, the two organized their first complaints choir, in Birmingham, England.

The Tokyo choir, which performed last month, is the eighth that the couple have worked with. But others have formed choirs in other cities, and, Mr. Kochta-Kalleinen said, more than 60 performances have occurred worldwide — from Melbourne to Singapore to Philadelphia to Florence.

This is all a surprise to me! The interview of the Finnish artists who started it all was interesting and I enjoyed hearing that Finnish accent!. There’s even a website for complaints choirs worldwide along with videos of their performances that I’m slowly going through, looking and listening and smiling! I hope you will too.

home fires burning

Thanks to Erika for posting my video onto her Flickr account!

The past few days we’ve been without home heating, that is, a central heating system we take for granted in most homes in the developed world. Ours is a natural gas-fired hot water system, and one of the valves in the many metres of copper piping down in the crawl space has failed. I don’t fully understand its workings but husband has been chasing around for some parts that are now scarce for this almost 25 year old system that has been fairly energy efficient for us. Another example of technology leaving us behind, a recurring pet peeve of mine!

So, we are presently heating our home with a wood-burning fireplace, updated long ago with an insert with a glass door and an electric fan. Located in the living room at one end of the house, the further reaches barely get warm. A portable electric heater is handy for a quick warmup in the bathrooms when needed, and I prepare some oven cooked dishes to warm the kitchen. So we’re doing alright, better than during some storms with power outages, including two years ago.

But our carbon footprint has grown bigger this week! The fireplace insert really should be replaced with one that has a catalytic converter so what comes out of the chimney would be less polluting but normally we rarely use it. The wood is from trees we’ve cut down or pruned on our own property plus scrap lumber leftovers from renovations. It’s all a reminder of how much harder it used to be before modern technology – go out and chop trees into enough firewood to last the winter (we do live in Canada after all) and make sure you keep the fire burning with numerous trips to the woodpile.

Many homes, especially the older ones were not designed all that well to conserve heat. When we moved to Vancouver in the early 70’s, after living in Winnipeg and northeast BC, we were aghast to find homes in Vancouver with little insulation and single-glazed windows! Sure it’s milder here, but we still need heat indoors while not heating the outdoors! Fireplaces were, and many still are, open and drafty and not often centrally situated for heating the whole home. That was our home before we renovated but the fireplace is still not central.

I’m recalling my maternal grandparents’ farmhouse in Finland, built in the beginning of the 20th century I think. The central large multi use room, the tupa, had a huge brick wood burning oven in the very middle of the house so the heat it produced warmed all the rooms that would back its chimney. Grandmother would bake breads and casseroles and stews in it all day while the house was kept warm with the bricks retaining heat overnight.

‘Modern’ city homes, like my aunt’s, had ceramic tiled corner fireplaces or kaakeliuunit, based on the same principles. We saw these same kind, but of course more ornate, in the massive palaces in St. Petersburg.

Back to the present… and the future…

What will our future be like without relatively clean and easy to transport fuel like natural gas for home heating? That future is closer than we think while the immense tar sands operation in northern Alberta uses up our precious and finite natural gas plus water resources in the extraction process. Canada is blessed with natural gas but it is finite and needed in Canada, a cold northern nation. We are wasting this most precious resource on the most environmentally polluting industry on this earth! It makes me embarrassed to be Canadian, do you hear, Mr. Harper?

As I’m writing this, I’m also aware that it is Remembrance Day today. I acknowledge the losses of lives in the wars, with our grandfathers, fathers and uncles fighting too. Stephen Hume’s column today on also remembering the continuing suffering of those that did NOT die is well worth reading and remembering. As I’ve written here each year (search), I strongly prefer that this day be turned instead to a focus on ending wars and promoting peace. Our Canadian soldiers used to be peace keepers, not fighting other people’s wars and sending home the dead every week!

Now, you may wonder, how on earth did I get from the subject of home heating to the subject of war and peace? When I came up with the title for this post, the phrase sounded familiar so I looked up the source of this expression and found these answers:

keep the home fires burning:

Fig. to keep things going at one’s home or other central location. (From a World War I song.) [and] to keep your home pleasant and in good order while people who usually live with you are away, especially at war

And this: a You Tube video of old Canadian war posters set to the song Keep the Home Fires Burning.

A lovely song but many of the posters made my skin crawl! Will we ever learn the lessons of history and wars and the environmental damage we have been and are still doing? The connections are just too startling and scary. Peace — might it be good for the environment?!

P.S. Another reason for Canadians to be grateful on November 11th. I’d forgotten this event in our history.