[20 June 2014]
“This is not a folk music orchestra led from above,” writes one of the singers, “but a massive shared band.” How massive? Close to 50 people, claims the booklet, this plenitude of musicians explicable when you remember that the Sibelius-Akatemia is one of Europe’s larger music academies. (Is their three-letter abbreviation an in-joke aimed at those other Sibeliusians, JPP?) So you hear walls of sound, you have polskas whopping down on you like surf, you have groups of voices seething Finnish syllables together quickly till the surface of the singing sparkles with dozens of slightly different impressions landing in the same place. The collusive effect is not an anomaly in this part of the world, where people love to hear their traditional musicians together in harmonious masses, which is a difference between contemporary Finnish folk music and the contemporary folk of, say, Ireland, where you’re more likely to have one outstanding fiddler, one outstanding person on a mandolin, etc -Here you’ll have three or four fiddlers, all good, all rolling along together. But even with that taken into account, this is an unusually large collective. When the voices ring together it’s a communality fantasia or HOA’s magic joy-dream. The Orchestra delivers the kind of commanding performance that people like to imagine in the bathroom when they sing; the masterful echo off the tiles, the voice bouncing out and coming back sounding perfect.