January 05, 2010

Steady as usual

I’ve just finished an impressive novel by one of Britain’s newest writers, Sarah Waters. I’d heard of her before, but now that her latest book “The Little Stranger” was shorlisted for the Booker Prize last year, I decided it was time to find out whether she was any good. As it turned out, the book was a great read – an old-fashioned haunted house –story with doors slamming shut, scribbles appearing on walls and telephones ringing in the middle of the night. Some of the scenes were so creepy I woke up after a restless night, calling out “what was that sound!??!” instead of a more usual “thank God for the snooze button”.

While on vacation in snowy Iisalmi, one of the books I brought along was “Wuthering Heights” by Emily Brontë. Loyal to my new reading strategy (don’t read the book description on the back before you’ve finished the novel), I began the book without the faintest clue what it was about. Heights – that’s a geographical term for a sort of mountainous region, isn’t it? But wuthering? Use that in a sentence! So, with only vague conceptions of some sweeping love story to guide me, I found Wuthering Heights (which, by the way, is the name of the house in which the story is set. Sorry if I spoiled it for you!) a truly shocking and even disturbing read, featuring physical and psychological violence, cruel characters, necrophilia (ew) and even a hint at incest. While Northern Savonia slept, I scratched my eyes, turned page after page and wondered whether the front door was properly locked.

Had we stayed any longer away from Helsinki, I would probably have started even speaking English with a touch of Savonian dialect – (“how ooware you? I’m so gleeyad to ssee you!”). Down here, things have been proceeding steadily as usual. Well... we had a couple of train cars go wild and crash themselves into the railway station, passengers on the Silja Europa ferry from Stockholm to Turku didn’t quite get what they paid for when they realised the ship had been going in circles all night because of a faulty rudder, and oh did I mention the mysterious flooding at the main metro station which still hasn’t been opened up to traffic again? Otherwise we’re fine, so touch wood.

Musically speaking, 2010 promises to be an action-packed year, possibly even outdoing the adrenalin and euphoria of last year’s international competitions, beautiful a cappella concerts and one big chunk of workload carrying the title: Mozart’s Requiem. Kaamos will begin rehearsing new a cappella repertoire next week, including Bruckner, Purcell, Poulenc and contemporary Finnish works. The ladies of Diafonia, no doubt still ecstatic about the success of their first traditional Christmas concert (pun intended), will get working on – among others – a very special hymn which was composed at a prison camp in Indonesia during the second world war. (I just need to find the music first). A very important event will take place on next week’s Thursday, when I will conduct my first rehearsal with the student choir Savolaisen Osakunnan Laulajat.

In addition to these three choirs, I will be visiting conductor at the Tampere Philharmonic Choir, preparing them for a performance of Beethoven’s larger-than-life Missa Solemnis. I’m expecting lots of high notes, an army of red faces, frantic waving about with my arms and some breathless train rides back home to Helsinki. Rehearsals with the Lahti opera chorus are over, but there are still stage rehearsals left before the premiere, which is in two weeks. I will be in Lahti at the end of the week to see how rehearsals are getting along. In addition, I have been asked to conduct the Slovenian Chamber Choir and the Chamber Choir Ave in Ljubljana this year. Stay tuned for updates on how work will progress with these two fantastic ensembles!

So as not to finish off too boastfully, let me assure you my life is (still) full of embarassing moments. One of them happened while I was visiting this year’s first Bodypump session. Needless to say, my performance at the lesson itself was top class, but after the session, I couldn’t find my underpants upon leaving the shower. I went through the contents of my locker several times. I’ve lost towels, shampoo and a lock before, but considering the temperature outside, this was one thing I didn’t want to lose - I just had to find those pants! The university fitness staff had recently warned against a thief who was breaking into the lockers, which is why I left my phone and money at the counter during the lesson – this, however seemed highly unexpected. I was just contemplating the possibility of a secret admirer when the pants revealed themselves from inside my work-out bag (so sorry, not much of a story after all, although I can see from your faces you were expecting more - maybe next time). Upon leaving, I said good-bye to my fellow bodypumpers – nobody replied.


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