March 29, 2005

Back to reality

Well, tomorrow it's back to the normal routine of a working day. However, I've always felt that calling it a routine is just wrong, because every day is different and although you're often doing the same things again and again it's never EXACTLY the same. For example, I'm going to be going to school again tomorrow, true, but, unlike on previous times, I am going to be looking forward to the approaching summer, to meeting my friends after not seeing them for two weeks, and lots of other things.
Today, I had a harp lesson at my teacher's home in Kilo. It took me an hour to get home from there, and most of the morning was spent like that. Lunch was at Museokatu, and in the afternoon I had a nice visit from Dea and Martin, who worked on some mathematics together while I tried to brush up my scales on the harp.
Tomorrow will actually be an exhausting day, so let's see whether I manage to write a blog entry. Have a nice day, everybody, and remember! The countdown to the summer has now OFFICIALLY begun!!!!
Piece of the day: Tchaikovsky's A minor piano trio
Book of the week: Agatha Christie's "Murder in Mesopotamia"

March 28, 2005

England: The Lowlights

Sure, the trip was all great and that, but now it's time to list some of the things which just didn't go as planned or were downright disappointing. Here they are. Please note that in the end, the lowlights were very few and definitely did nothing to damage the overall picture of the trip.
We start with
1. Dragging my luggage with me all day in Cambridge. I stopped in Cambridge on the way from Norwich to London. There weren't any luggage lockers in the station so I ended up taking my suitcase with me. The city centre was about a 30 minute walk from the station, and the weather was very cloudy and gloomy.
2. The English water system. "Water system" is hardly a correct term, but I don't understand the point of having a tap for boiling water and another one for the freezing water. It's like you have to decide whether to scorch your skin off or turn your fingers into icicles. The showers also felt more like light summer drizzles.
3. The cost of transport. I spent 6 pounds every day for travelling around in London, and about 50 pounds altogether for the train trips.
4. Experiencing the underground during rush hour. The underground trains are so loud in London I had to always hold a hand to my ear on the platforms. During rush hour, station assistans stood around, yelling into microphones for people to stand back while the train was approaching (I didn't have to be warned) and to MIND THE DOORS as people packed themselves onto trains which then left for the tunnels. Spooky. One time, chaos reigned because of a breakdown on one line - the reason was a man under a train.
5. The closing concert of Jugend Musiziert. Sure, the closing concerts are always nice rituals to be gone over again and again, but this year I couldn't help thinking how different the whole affair looked to me with friends missing who had always been there for the past seven years.
6. Heathrow Airport. I left home at six in the morning and arrived way too early at Heathrow Airport. Hanging around in the waiting area was definitely boring, and I didn't even have any money left to spend.
7. Lunch at Bury St. Edmunds. When I ordered a roast sandwich at a pub, I thought I'd get something more exciting than two pieces of bread with a big thick piece of meat between them. I used cider to wash it all down. In general, trying to find lunch in England at 3 o'clock was nearly impossible because of ridiculous opening times.
8. The Natural History Museum. Expectations were running high on this tourist magnet. The building is beautiful, but inside you only find screaming groups of school children and stuff you've seen before somewhere else. Of course I only saw a very small part of the exhibitions, but it all seemed rather boring to me. I headed off to the Victoria and Albert instead for a second visit.
9. Erith station at night-time. I was staying in Erith, a community about 35 minutes on train from Central London. The station was particularly shabby at night-times, and one night there was a woman walking infront of me who was obviously terrified of having someone walking behind her at that time. I crossed the street just to make her feel safer.
10. 6pm closing time in Norwich. You can't help but wonder what people in Norwich do in the evenings, when they're coming home from work, hoping to do some window-shopping and perhaps grab a cup of coffee (more likely tea) at Starbucks, only to find everything closed. A seven o'clock walk in central Norwich resembled a stroll through the graveyard.

Good night.

March 27, 2005

Back home

First, my post-trip feelings:
I had a great trip. I really got to meet some lovely people again, some of whom I got to know when I was a baby and have only seen one short time since. London is fantastic (I think all my readers got that already) and it was also very nice to experience life in another English city. I feel satisfied, not at all disappointed about something I didn't manage to do or something that just didn't work out as I thuoght. The search for ancestors was almost more than worth it (after all, I was afraid I'd come back with nothing but a British flag to add to my ancestral corner behind the computer).
Now, however, it is time to look forward to the days ahead: first, the Easter weekend, and then some hectic days with exams, lots of harp playing (practising for the exam 7.4. and for the musical Kauniiden lasten saari, which will premiere 9.4.) and catching up with all the school-work.
I'm not really up to writing a full-fledged account of what I was doing every minute, so I decided to sum it up with some lists instead. I think this will be even more interesting to my readers and it gives me the chance to remember what was just great on the trip, and what wasn't! So here goes.
TOP 10 HIGHLIGHTS (in no particular order)
1. Visiting the Victoria & Albert Museum of decorative arts
Now this was really an experience - so much to see of practically everything man can make with his hands! I actually went twice.
2. Seeing the original record of baptism of Cecil Robert Everett, my great-grandfather, in the church where the ceremony was performed. Obviously, the whole race for the ancestors was an adventure which would make Dan Brown's Da Vinci Code resemble Aesop's fables, but this was something which felt wonderful, because I really went through trouble to get to the place, contact the church warden etc... and getting away wasn't such a piece of cake, either!
3. Experiencing Madama Butterfly at Covent Garden. I got a ticket to the first night for only 7 pounds (I only sat through half of the opera when a seat got free). The singers were great, the production deliciously dramatic and the setting ever so classy. Puccini at its best!!
4. Jugend Musiziert Landeswettbewerb 2005 It was the first time I didn't actually participate in the competition, but teetering on the edge of a nervous breakdown along with the students of DSH was just as fun as ever. The jury wasn't particularly generous this year, but everyone had a great time and that's what counts.
5. Having a sandwich at the base of Nelson's column at Trafalgar Square - the sun was setting, Big Ben was in the background and you could feel spring was on its way.
6. Visiting harp retailer Holywell Music Company, practising on two of their harps and being treated like a professional who was seriously considering purchasing one of the instruments. (I only bought a book of etudes).
7. Meeting Sonja again, with whom I played when I was two years old in Jyväskylä. Sonja lives in Norwich with five roommates, so I also cought a glimpse of student life. Perhaps it wasn't the best time to make observations, since all they did was party because spring had come :D
8. Pretending I was a real Londoner, which involved mastering the underground system, changing the way I talk English and always being prepared for rain. The only thing missing was the Tesco card. (Equivalent of S-etukortti).
9. English breakfast on Prince of Wales street, Norwich. Sure, the toast was over-buttered, the baked beans nothing special and the bacon a bit too greasy, but after having eaten nothing all day, this megapackage of calories at 12.30 in the morning was just what I needed. I couldn't quite swallow the second sausage, though.
10. Experiencing spiritual upheaval at Westminster Abbey. I originally visited the abbey because I knew the boys' choir was going to sing at the service, but just attending the service was a nice escape from the traffic chaos on Parliament square.

Expect to find a top 10 LOWLIGHTS list in my next entry. Please enjoy the Easter holidays - they only come once a year!!

March 24, 2005

London Life

I know I haven't been writing any entries lately, and it's because I'm planning on a nice summarising newsflash when I get back home. However, when Mummy told me she has been checking at this website every day, the guilt just got too hard to bear and, so, it is now past midnight and I am recovering after yet another fabulous day in London while writing some lines about it.
The rainy Norfolk weather and the ancient scrolls of the Knettishall parish records are behind me now and I have spent these three last days in my favourite city in the world after Helsinki. I have visited two museums and attended THREE concerts/shows. Today I visited the Victoria and Albert museum, and it's certainly the most fascinating museum I've ever been in. Being the world's largest museum of decorative arts, it houses around four million items and I spent the time inspecting, among others, Japanese jewellery from the 1700s, Indian tapestries from the colonial times and ancient elaborate crosses. There was also a big collection of musical instruments and an exhibition of fashion. Museum fatigue usually sets in after two hours, so that's when I headed back downtown, after passing the Royal College of Music and the Albert Hall. I just came back from the theatre, where I saw Chicago.
One of the things I will still maybe do is visit the London Eye, which is the largest ferris wheel in the world. It was built for the millennium celebrations and is situated just opposite the Houses of Parliament. On a clear day, you can see beyond the London centre and the views are supposed to be the best in the city. The catch? IT COSTS 12,50!!!! So, if I have any money left, that's the last thing I'll do.
Another thing on the agenda tomorrow is visiting Westminster Abbey for the choral service at five. I queued outside the abbey today for half an hour, only to be told there wasn't any choral service today and admission to the abbey was 6 pounds. However, tomorrow when I go, there is a special entrance where I can get in free for the service.
It is now time to cast the look forward to the trip home and all the schoolwork and everything else waiting for me there. In particular, I am supposed to play the harp in a musical production - the first night is in two weeks and I still haven't got all the music. In the next entry, you can expect to read about my post-England feelings, a highlights/lowlights list of the trip and, of course, well, an exclusive... whatever.

March 18, 2005

Greetings from East Anglia!

Hello everybody, and greetings from Norwich. I am finally here, enjoying England, and tomorrow I will start the second half of my trip.
The days before leaving were very hectic, which is why I had to refrain from blogging for a while, but I'm here again!
The first five days of the trip were spent in Richmond, which is in Southwest London. Dea and I lived at the MacNabbs and were busy with the Jugend Musiziert-competition (or "festival", as the school so majestically called it). I have to admit the feeling was all a bit "been there, done that" since it was the seventh time I took part. This year, however, I didn't participate myself. I accompanied Annika and acted as a sort of phychological motivator for the girls, who did a great job singing. Yesterday, everybody left back to Finland and I took the train from Liverpool Street station to Norwich, where Sonja Vectomov came to meet me.
Sonja was my neighbour when I was about two, and I've seen her since only once very shortly. Still, it feels like we've been seeing each other every year and we're getting along very well. She lives with five art students, and yesterday I was taken straight from the station to the opening of an exhibition by Stef (short for Stefanie). Then, while Sonja had a haircut, I wandered the streets of this city, which has around 195 000 inhabitants. It was a bit of a disappointment, because everything closes here at six. When we got home, there was a sort of spring party going on.
Today, I visited the Norfolk Archive Centre, where I searched through countless parish records and census forms. The staff was very helpful and I got the records I wanted, but there wasn't any information on any ancestors of mine (although I can tell you I'm almost an expert already in the Halifax and Smith families after searching through their burials and marriages). In the end I found out I had been searching a wrong town, which is also called Hopton, but which is near LOWESTOFT, and not THETFORD, where my grandmother's family, the Everetts, came from. This means I am travelling to the Suffolk Records Office in Bury St Edmunds tomorrow. Hopefully my search will be more fruitful.
Lunch was enjoyed at Pizza Hut with Sonja. She was raving about the many Indian restaurants here, but they were all closed, so we had to do with a Super Supreme and Garlic Bread. After that, I spent some time in the shops and now I'm back at Neville Road.
Hope everyone is fine and see you all soon!

March 10, 2005

My day

It's much too late now for writing long stories about what actually is already yesterday, so I'll make it short. First, some of the things I did today.

- I got a cough attack in my first lesson, and when Mika Seppänen told me "that cough sounds really bad", I thought if he'd only said it in Italian, it would have been just like something from La Bohéme's third act.

- I got totally spooked when someone rang my doorbell and then started opening the door with a key. It was Daddy, of course, who came to take back the vacuum cleaner.

- I almost freaked out at my students, who apparently thought it's perfectly normal to take a stroll around the class-room during the lesson or to decorate their hand-outs with pictures of Donald Duck.

- I thought it would be nice to take a nap, and only ended up messing my bed and lying in it for fifteen minutes.

- I went to sit with friends after the Dominante performance, which went completely okay except for the Englund piece, which we barely managed. Next time we should have more time for practising pieces which consist almost only of small seconds and big sevenths (are those the correct terms in English?)

-I wrote this text and, after that, put off the computer and went straight to bed.

March 09, 2005

It's not far from midnight now but I still don't feel sleepy in the least. Well, I suppose this is all just part of getting ready for the trip - I mean, in London, it's not even ten yet. Still, that means that I have to leave for my first lesson at seven London time, so that's not a very nice thought. I started packing today, in a suitcase which Dea claims is hers, only hers and bought supremely for her and used only by her on countless trips. Well, that's all very well, but the very same suitcase has also been used by me on several trips, and anyway, it's only right that she gets to take a smaller suitcase this time, because she's not going to be staying as long as me.

The days are really nice and sunny now. My bus in the morning just didn't arrive, which is exactly what happened yesterday. This is strange, because I haven't heard of line 14 going on any strike or anything. Just to clarify things: I always take the tram to my lessons, but sometimes (every Monday and Tuesday) my first lessons are in another place, and then I take the bus. Anyway, so after my first lesson, I spent half an hour practising two pages of the piano (my ambition of going to school an hour earlier didn't quite work out). Then I had three hours of choral conducting, which was fun because Tuesday is when we have our group lessons and Saara (the most advanced of us five who study choral conducting) presented to us some modern Finnish choral music which we tried out and listened to. Then the photographer of Sulasol magazine came to take some pictures because there's going to be a story about us some time soon. Is that the rustling of subscriptions to the magazine I can hear on the other side of the screen?

I like lists, so I thought it would be nice to make a list of some very nice things. The list is of course subject to change and is not to be taken too seriously.

1. Grapefruit Juice (the best thing for a bad morning)
2. The Love Duet in Madama Butterfly's first act (for losing yourself in utter abandonment)
3. London (with its six-floor bookstores and fascinating Underground system)
4. Our choral conducting class (which might change radically next year when Mikko goes to the army and if Saara is accepted to the Academy and Kati stays home to take care of her baby)
5. Filing your nails and the powder which then stays on your finger-tips (however, having to sit next to someone who is filing her/his nails is torture)
6. Taking tram number 8 home from Ruoholahti (perfect way to avoid the chaos of rush hour-Rautatientori)
7. Living in Finland
8. Travelling far far away
9. This video Antti just sent me via MSN ... Turn up the volume!

Okay, that's all I could think of just now :) Everyone, come to listen to Dominante tomorrow (Wednesday) at 21.30 in Tuomiokirkko. Free entrance, and a very nice program of Finnish choral music from Kuula to Kokkonen. See you there!
Good night!

March 08, 2005

Cio-cio San's decline and the Art of the Pedal

One of my favourite operas, "Madama Butterfly", is playing in the background as I write my first entry of the week. Today, I inaugurated the t-shirt I bought from the Metropolitan Opera House "opera shop". It's bright blue and says MAESTRO! with big letters on the front. It was a case of perfect timing, actually, because we had a Dominante rehearsal, and Seppo Murto, the conductor, had been telling me that he'd like to get himself a t-shirt where it says "Conductor" and me one where it says "Pianist", but now I got the better of him.

The pedal of the piano where Dominante rehearses is so high that after accompanying two hours of Bach's B minor mass my leg feels completely cramped. My friends told me that I should just stretch it against the direction the veins are stretching, but I can't tell in which direction the veins are stretching and I've tried every possible direction anyway, so I just have to hope I'll be able to walk tomorrow. This definitely means a break from any pedals (not very easy because of a certain instrument which has seven of them).

Tomorrow, I have a great ambition: as my first lesson is only at 11, I've planned to actually go an hour earlier to practise the piano. This is because my teacher came back from her trip to the Emirates and I've got a lesson on Thursday. Also, my singing teacher Johanna came back from Oulu (the Emirates isn't for everyone, after all) and I had a lesson today. She said a great thing today, which was: "Everyone should sing and play Mozart" and that's completely true. However, I'm now frantically searching Puccini's operas for at least a LITTLE aria which doesn't involve Pavarotti-like swellings to a high C. The composer is one of the biggest geniuses to have roamed the earth, but he wasn't especially easy on the rest of us who are not blessed with the art of the high tenor.

I also had a lesson of music analysis today. Usually, we're about three or four in the class, so picture my surprise when I arrived a bit late today (blame the Helsinki Transit System) to find almost every seat taken! Then I realised that it was the last lesson before an exam. I also gave a lesson today in CM, which was really fun! The boys always make me laugh with their crazy ideas and comments. Today, I had a hard time keeping them quiet because I myself was almost splitting with laughter at various points.

You know, it's actually quite scary to know my texts are just out there for virtually ANYONE to read. I'll soon have to be careful about what I write concerning different people. Maybe my entries will soon read something like: "Had lunch today, tasted really good. Cloudy weather."
Madama Butterfly's tragic death is in around 15 minutes and I have to get going now anyway. I'd just like to say thanks to all my devoted readers out there! I couldn't do it without you!

March 07, 2005

Nasty surprise and the end of the weekend

Surprises come in many forms, as I once again realised today when I was on my way to the Musica Nova performance, going through my plan over and over again ("Nobody will have a clue about what the piece is supposed to sound like, so I'll just keep really busy with the strings and hit the keyboard when the notes say so, and then it will be over"). When I arrived at the Conservatory, I was told the composer of the piece was just being picked up from the airport, so he'd just make it to the three-hour long marathon concert.
First, I panicked, picturing his expression when I got to the part in the piece where I had to actually play something. Then I got angry, because apparently, what was a surprise to me was yesterday's news for everyone else. "You didn't know he's coming to the concert? Oh, come on!" Then, I decided the performance would be a total knockout, and I think it was! I put all my theatricality into the glissandi of the bass strings, and made a real show of putting the scotch on the keys. The violinisit (Sebastian) really knew his microintervals and produced a very nice sound. The scotch was a real bore to get off the keys, actually. While all the other performers gave an elegant bow and got out of the stage, I stayed scraping scotch off the piano together with the violinist, who realised we weren't going anywhere in a while. But I coudln't just leave them there for the next pianist to deal with! I just hope her fingers didn't stick to the keys because of our performance.
The three-hour marathon of British new music scretched to a whole four hours, with the audience running out every now and then to empty their bladder or to take a break from all the cacophony going on inside. I have to say I admire the ones who sat through the whole concert. I myself listened to the first four or five performances, played a piece on the celesta, and then headed for lunch in Museokatu.
The evening was spent at the Richters' place, where almost all London-bound musicians performed their program. It's always nice to be invited to the Richters, with their healty attitude towards young musicians and fantastic home. As I know Martin will soon read this, I'm expecting to read a full report on my heavenly apartment in his next blog entry.
Four days left to the trip. My various to do-lists include entries like "Sort out paper: EVERYTHING unnecessary goes into the trash!" and "Dust". This is because I believe it's much nicer to be on a trip when you know your home sweet home is waiting for you in perfect shape. However, as I said, I still have four days, so I'll allow it to get as messy as it wants before Friday.

March 06, 2005

Dry skin is a real nuisance. You'd think the body can only take so much Jergens Soothing Aloe Relief moisturizer with cucumber extract (with WHAT??), but it never has enough. Another annoying thing is the timing of my creaming sessions. For example, while my skin is screaming for soothing relief from the elements (that's on the box) right NOW, I have to wait until I've brushed my teeth.

Martin was just asking me whether I already have a devoted reader base for my BLOG. He told me the key is in advertising, but I don't want to go any further than giving the address to a couple of friends and family members. It would be nice, though, to have one of those handy counter things somewhere on this page where it says, for example, "14502464213566231890 visitors since yesterday"!! Well, that might be overdoing it.

I just got a text message from Pasi who is all the way in Santa Monica, California right now with some other friends. It seems they got me the David Sedaris book I asked for (susceptibly titled "Naked") which is great, because I'm going to finish his "Me talk pretty one day" today. It's a hilarious collection of short stories and is also something I brought back from New York.

I will be so happy when tomorrow is over. Our school will be invaded by contemporary music when the citywide festival "Musica Nova" arrives in Ruoholahti. I'm performing, among others, a piece with a violinist where I'll have to march on stage with scotch tape and stick seven of the piano keys down (not one of my own ideas, it's right there in the performance notes) and then act like a six-year-old discovering his parents' grand piano by hammering away at the strings as the violinist warms the hearts of the audience by playing microintervals at an unnaturally high pitch. Sometimes I wonder why people compose pieces like this. Is it the fascination and ambition of doing something that's never done before? Or is it just to see whether anyone's crazy enough to say "Sure, I'll play this!" Honestly, I don't know. If you want to come and see for yourself, it'll be at 15.00 tomorrow in the Conservatory's concert hall.

Today felt like a normal working day, with rehearsals for the musical "Kauniiden lasten saari" (more about that some other day) and tomorrow's performances. I made it to half of Dominante's all-day rehearsal, after which we had a gig at a 40th birthday party with CMS. Now it's time for me to make some arrangements for the trip to England and, then, to go to bed.

March 05, 2005

All set for the weekend

Why is it one really appreciates lying in bed with a fever only when one finds oneself juggling various appointments and obligations, glancing at the watch and realising there won't be any time for that relaxed and long-drawn lunch break? Actually, today wasn't at all one of the worst days, but still I would have liked to be home long before eight.

This Friday started with a proper vacuum cleaning of the floor. I still don't own a vacuum cleaner of my own, so I carried my parents' machine here last night. Finally I got rid of the last of those nasty pieces of glass which have been bothering me ever since I broke the glass lamp at my entrance a couple of weeks ago. It's nice to know I can now walk around my home without risk of tearing a sock.

I had lunch with Jorma, who's one of the many friends I've made during my 12 years in CM. He's going to substitute me as a teacher at CM when I leave for England in exactly a week. We ate at a student cafeteria, where students pay only 2,35€ for some meat sauce with noodles (in that order) and non-students have to dish out 5,80€ for a lousy salad. This is Finland, after all.

The afternoon and evening were spent with the harp, first at my own lesson and then at a group lesson. After that, I looked over the harp part of a musical in which I'm supposed to play in a month and, together with my teacher, recomposed the music so that it can actually be played on the harp (harpists do this all the time).

The day ended with a stroke of good luck. While paying for my groceries, I saw my tram passing the store on its way to the stop. I grabbed the bag and ran for the door, knocked the shopping against a wall and heard as one of the bottles I bought thudded ominously against a wall. The driver waited for me to enter the tram and I inspected the shopping, expecting to find my Heinz Curry Sauce all over the chocolate cookies. As it was, everything was intact and I could enjoy the ride home.

March 04, 2005

Dani's first Weblog entry

Well, this is my first blog and I'm actually quite interested in finding out whether this will be a passing phase and I'll end up writing a couple of these before they're left to rot in cyberspace OR whether I'll still be tipping these entries at the age of 129 (I have a long lifeline).

I fist heard the word BLOG last week while I was on holiday in New York, sitting on a sofa and surfing through "very exciting" TV advertisements. Suddenly I caught a news channel and this story on the newest fad on the internet. Almost right after that, my friend Martin told me to go and visit his weblog so I figured I had to join the madness before I was officially named as an outsider in cyberspace.

I think this seems like a nice way to keep my relatives around the world and all my friends posted on what's happening in my life! Seriously, isn't it incredible, how the internet has broadened the means of communication? I mean, I still write letters by hand and think it's a personal and, after all, not too slow way of keeping in touch (except in Greenland's northernmost town Qaanaaq, where mail arrives twice a week and you don't want to know all the places it has to travel to before reaching that place. It's a good thing I don't have any relatives there. Interested? Visit As I was saying, snail mail is all very well, but with all these modern gadgets and gizmos available, who HONESTLY wants to walk ALL THE WAY to the nearest post office, buy STAMPS and THEN put a letter in a mail box, and FURTHERMORE count the days before the mail is collected, flown to the other side of the world across vast oceans and ice-capped mountains, carried through exotic JUNGLES and scorching DESERTS, and THEN delivered to the recipient. I think we all agree that, as far as imagination is concerned, there's nothing that can beat email. One click and you're done.

A few words about my day before turning in. I'm finally recovering from my post-NYC fever spell which had me immobilised in bed with a temperature of 39 degrees. I could almost see my apartment untidying itself, and before I could say "Achoo!!", the dishes had really piled up in the sink.

After waking up (at 12.00!!!!!) I braved the winds and left the house for a couple of rehearsals and a conducting lesson, which was fun since all we did was analyse a video of myself conducting the chamber choir AUDITE and I didn't have to move a muscle. In the evening, I went to my family's place to watch Emergency Room, which was particularly tragic today. It's just about my bedtime and I'm signing off for today. Good night!