Drawings by 6th Grade Children after listening to Sibelius

I came across this video while looking for Sibelius on YouTube. It is titled simply, “Sibelius Pictures” but the thumbnail gives a clue why it seems unusual. As you start the video, the video explains that these are “Drawings by 6th Grade Children After Listening to Sibelius”. The video is credited to Escola Frederic Godàs, a public school in Lleida, Spain.

Not entirely sure what is the context of this exercise, but what an interesting thing to see how kids would depict Sibelius’ music. It looks like the music used are standard warhorses, the “Intermezzo” from the Karelia Suite (as hinted by the many mentions of “Carelian” in some of the drawings), Finlandia (drawings of Finnish independence), and the “Valse triste” (“sad waltz”) from the music for Kuolema (“Death”). Not surprisingly, the children were probably clued in on the context, if you look at the many vivid (and sometimes amusing) drawings of the figure of Death come to claim its due.

Video and screen captures © Escola Frederic Godàs

I’ve been told more than once by fresh listeners to Sibelius that his music sounds like film music, particularly in the context of scenery expositions, such as sunrises. My standard answer is that it’s the other way around – generations of film music composers have copied Jean Sibelius. While Sibelius himself often wrote music with extremely pictorial leanings, his symphonic essays were the exact opposite – he denied any extra-musical intentions in them. Nevertheless, as listeners we are hard pressed not to hear nature in them.

As the composer himself once said, nature and life pervades everything he composes. I hope these children will find his artistic influence of lasting benefit in their lives. Now that they’ve tried their hand at Kuolema, I would’ve loved to see them draw Tapiola

Coronation and Conferment

I walk into HMV after a long absence, and I see not one but two Sibelius CDs classifiable under the “Unusual But Not Earthshaking (Semi-)World-Premiere Stuff from BIS/Ondine/Finlandia”. It didn’t take me long to decide to try them.

On this beautiful Ondine production is an amiable concert programme consisting of an “overture”, the Academic March, two large-scale cantatas, a short but heavenly interlude, and a rousing conclusion. The menu is unusual, and the pleasure derived great. Continue reading Coronation and Conferment

The Origin of Fire – Works for Male Chorus & Orchestra

Sibelius in 1920

Alongside Sibelius’ a capella choral output are the choral-orchestral works, both which still suffer much undeserved neglect. I mean, if you like Kullervo – you ought to try these as well. The most obvious thing to do for Sibelius was to incorporate the choral hymn of Finlandia into the orchestral tone poem – and yet, I only know of two recordings, one with a mixed choir on Ondine (Sibelius Cantatas ODE 754-2) and this committed performance with the Laulun Ystävät Male Choir, under Järvi’s very experienced Sibelian conducting. But more on that later… Continue reading The Origin of Fire – Works for Male Chorus & Orchestra

Your day has dawned – Works for Mixed Choir a cappella

Finland and the other cultures of the Scandinavian region have a rich choral tradition which I suspect not many realize. These countries can trace their history of song back through the ages in the form of, for example, the Finnish runic songs and the oral transmission of folk poetry. In addition, the composition of music for voice, especially of choral ensembles, remains extremely healthy and diverse today. Continue reading Your day has dawned – Works for Mixed Choir a cappella