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Northland Music Association introduces Finnish Quartet

Concerts that span centuries and tug at the Northland's Finnish roots will become common in the years to come now that the Northland Nordic Music Association has formed.

Concerts that span centuries and tug at the Northland's Finnish roots will become common in the years to come now that the Northland Nordic Music Association has formed.
The Association's purpose is to enrich Northlanders with the sounds of Nordic music by inviting groups from Norway, Sweden, Finland and Denmark to perform here.
For the association's first concert on Tuesday, April 18, at 7:30 p.m., the Finnish Quartet Loituma will perform at Mitchell Auditorium. This will be the quartet's first performance in the United States. Loituma has performed in Germany, Belgium and Holland.
The group's primary instrument is the kantele (a 1,000-year-old Finnish version of a zither or lap harp), and harmonious vocals are likely to enchant the audience and restore a connection with Finnish culture, said association board members.
"This is what this is about in many ways, reviving roots," said Gerry Henkel, co-founder of the association and a kantele maker.
Board members said that bringing groups from various Nordic countries to perform here promotes Nordic history and contributes to the recent revival of Finnish Folk music and ancient instruments.
But Nordic music appeals to people beyond Nordic roots, Henkel said.
Last spring, the first Nordic Roots Festival in Minneapolis sold out. Seventy artists from Sweden, Finland and Norway performed for four days.
"In the Twin Cities, these are not only Nordic people who are going to this (festival), these are people who love music."
NorthSide Records of Minneapolis sponsored the festival, and earlier this year asked Henkel to produce a concert in Duluth. Henkel said he didn't want to do it alone, so a meeting was held and the association was formed.
The association's current goal is to gain community support and a membership base. Then it hopes to do three or four concerts a year, develop a radio program, build a Web site and have a newsletter.
"In order to do something really beautiful and neat and stimulating and fun, we need to spread it out," Henkel said.
Georganne Hunter, a board member who plays the Celtic harp and is in the band, Willowgreen, said Finnish Folk music predates the stereotypical "oom pah pah" born from the industrial revolution.
"This is more pagan and earthy music," she said.
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Henkel said Nordic music's revival in Duluth and surrounding areas began three or four years ago. In Finland, this revival started in the 1970s, said Hanni-Mari Turunen, who sings and plays fiddle, 5-string kantele, alto recorder, double bass and Lapin drum in Loituma.
Loituma was born in 1989 during a class at the Sibelius Academy Folk Music Department. The group was originally called Jaykka Leipa, or "Stiff Bread." Turunen said Loituma is a name of a lake near her family's summer cottage in Finland.
"We think that this name sounds very much better than the old name, and it describes our music better. It's a soft name," Turunen said, adding that it's also easier for foreigners to pronounce.
Turunen said she is looking forward to talking with people here, since this is the group's first trip to a place that has a strong Finnish heritage. Turunen and group members Sari Kauranen, Anita Lehtola and Timo Väänänen will have that opportunity during a workshop from 1:30 p.m. to 3 p.m. at Mitchell Auditorium the day of the show.
Those attending the workshop will learn how Loituma creates its music, and may even have a chance to sing and play one of Loituma's old songs as well as create a new one.
Preserving the Finnish heritage through its music is imperative to the Northland Nordic Music Association, but so is creativity. Today, the trend is for young musicians to take old music and make it new.
"You make it your own," said board member Arna Rennan. "You take influences from other places, but add your own flavor." Hunter said it's understanding the roots of the song, then adding to it without letting it become unrecognizable.
"Evolving doesn't mean you're losing the old," said board member Jan Salo Korby.
Loituma is one example of a modern Finnish Folk group. Both lyrics and music are based on tradition, Turunen said. The songs, however, were composed by the group and include influences from classical and pop music.
"We're not exactly traditional," Turunen said in her thick, Finnish accent. "But there are many things people who know about Finnish Folk music that he or she would recognize. It's traditional music arranged to today's language."
Henkel said Loituma's music is a softer, sweeter music that will appeal to all ages.

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