At the age of 17, Fanny Söderström started her own orchestra.
Finns are music lovers. Says Lonely Planet, “Finland’s music scene is one of the world’s richest and the output of quality musicians per capita is amazingly high.” In my experience, it may be the world’s richest. I posted previously about Fennica.
Consider this. According to the World Bank, the population of Finland in 2011 was 5,387,000, and in the fall of that year the Helsinki Music Centre opened. Centrally located across the street from Parliament, it cost $240,000,000. HMC is now home to 2 symphony orchestras, Fuga Oy, a family owned (since 1960) CD, DVD, book, Blu-ray, etc. store, a cafe, a restaurant, the Sibelius Academy Library, and a full range of events.
With perfect acoustics by Yasuhisa Toyota, the main concert hall accommodates 1,704. There are 5 smaller venues ranging from 140 to 400 seats for eclectic performances, like jazz. Finns are huge jazz fans.
You won’t find much about the Music Centre in tourist literature partially because it’s so new, but it’s a 5 Compass attraction. Different from most big city concert halls that are only opened for performances, HMC is a lively community center opened from 8 am to 10 pm Monday-Friday and 9 am to 10 pm on weekends. Teens on skateboards abound outside. As HMC says, “We are a venue of rendezvous.” Indeed.
Ruth and I attended 3 performances, 2 in the main hall. The first was the unspooling of a 1922 silent film , Amor Omnia, for which composer Lotta Wennäkoski has written a new score. The 2nd was a concert by the Tampere Symphony. Finland’s 2nd largest city with a population slightly over 200,000, Tampere, the Manchester of Finland, supports a fine orchestra.
The third performance was by the Oma Orchestra (In English: Our Own Orchestra) with Fanny playing the piano. A very serious and competent group of student musicians ranging from 15 to 25 years, Oma performed Sibelius and Stravinsky as well as any professional adult orchestra.
Fanny’s Dad, Eric-Olaf Söderström, conducted. A very accomplished, modest man, he conducts the city of Mikkeli’s orchestra and is chorus master of the Finnish National Opera and Savonlinna, a wonderful summer opera festival in a real castle. I only learned this when he sent me a brief history of Oma. Many of Oma’s musicians have been seriously studying music in an academic setting since the age of 7. “The youngsters,” Eric-Olaf wrote to me, “have selected the programs and the people playing in the orchestra. They also do everything else concerning the management themselves.”
At the performance Ruth & I attended, Eetu Ranta-Aho played a piece he wrote for trombone. It was sensational. Eetu celebrated his 20th birthday in 2012. No wonder the future of music is in Finland.