“PICTURES make the great Finnish composer, Jean Sibelius, appear still as a powerful, sturdy man. The bald shiny head is ivory white. His aquiline features are drawn and purposeful. The clear eyes sharp and penetrating. His voice too, is firm and sonorous, belying his 90th birthday last Thursday”. …
“It was not always easy, with five daughters and little money, ” Aino sighs, “but now, it is quiet, the children have flown to their own nests. Now I have only Jean to look after…”
“Now I am the only child left in the house,” he smiled, looking tenderly at his wife.
This description and anecdote seem to come from Sibelius’s time – and indeed they do. They come from an article published in the Dec 12, 1955 edition of The Deseret News, the oldest and longest-running newspaper published in Salt Lake City, Utah, United States. Thanks to the internet and Google, it is now possible to find and read a wealth of newspaper archives online – and even better, you can search by keyword. However, as it turns out, it’s not as simple as going to Google and just making a search. You need to specify a search in its newspaper archives in order to find Sibelius newspaper articles. You need to enter this phrase into a Google Search bar and press search:
site:google.com/newspapers sibelius – this phrase will also work.
But let me save you the trouble: just click on this link: Google newspapers archive search for “sibelius”
And be prepared to spend some time if you’re a Sibelius fan. The collection is extensive and colourful, many articles from the time when Sibelius was still alive. Numerous anecdotes, quotations and remarks by writers and journalists are available. Among the articles, this one – with the anecdote that I opened this article with – comes from Jean Sibelius At 90 Is The National Hero Of Finland And A Musical Giant Who Towers As Creative Master, written by Michael Salzer of the London Observer Foreign News Service (link). It is a particular favourite of mine so far:
“I am proud to be a Finn,” he said, his dreamy eyes now flashing. “We have a 600-year-old tradition of fighting for freedom behind us. Freedom, what a strange gift from heaven – and so much abused. Like health, most appreciated only when it is amiss.”
And I’ve barely scratched the surface of this immense archive. Will we miss newspapers in the future? Maybe. But for now, do enjoy this gift of history from the internet – and do help single out those articles worth reading and post a comment here!