Interview with Kajsa Dahlbäck
Musician interview 5.5.2021
Hearing Emma Kirkby sing was the experience that made Kajsa Dahlbäck forget her plans about becoming a medical doctor. And the change was worth it, Kajsa has been part of a large amount of projects!
Tell a bit about yourself.
During my whole childhood music was always present. I remember my grandmother Elvi’s warm voice and how naturally she always started to sing at home. I’ve also inherited choral books which have been very useful to me. People say that my voice resembles hers.
I played the violin at the music institute and sang in different choirs. I got to play all the big church music pieces, for instance Bach’s passions, with Korsholm’s chamber orchestra. For that I am forever grateful for the cantor Rainer Holmgård who let me be part of it all. How special and impactful isn’t it that leaders give these kinds of opportunities to young musicians.
How did you become a singer?
Before the matriculation examination I listened to the Christmas oratorio by Bach and I was totally sold! What an amazing sound the baroque orchestra had, I had never heard something similar before. One of the singers on that cd was Monica Groop, who I admire very much, and I think it’s amazing that I have got to sing with her in several concerts during the last years.
However, I started studying mathematics and physics at Helsinki university and my eyes were on the medical faculty. But oh! When I got the news that I had been accepted to med school in Uppsala, I figured that I didn’t want to leave. At that point, I had also heard Emma Kirkby sing, and that was it. I applied to the Sibelius Academy and the church music program and that was a fantastic and broad musical education. I recommend it for every singer!
What would you do if you didn’t work within music? Would it even be a possible option?
I am very interested in societal impact and financial strategies. I would become the minister of culture!
What other art forms are important to you?
I enjoy visual arts and literature very much. I always have at least two books on my night desk to minimize the risk that I would find myself in the situation of not having a book at all in the evening!
During travels and when I have weekends off, I like to visit exhibitions, and I take my children with me. Contemporary art fascinates me, and I have noticed that it is the same for my children.
What is your biggest dream when it comes to music?
I am a practical woman, so I try to make my dreams come true. Many dreams have therefore already become true, but I am working on my dreams that follow, but I am not going to spoil them yet! But the Vaasa Baroque Festival and the group Earthly Angels have something to do with my new dreams.
Where do you soul rest?
By the ocean during a warm summer morning.
Different to many other freelance musicians, you don’t live in the capital region. Has your choice been wondered upon?
Yes, it has sparkled some attention. In the beginning I thought it was a bit difficult, because if you are not seen at the café at Musiikkitalo, you are easily forgotten. However, I have not run out of gigs and I feel that my work here in Ostrobothnia is important. I have founded the Vaasa Baroque Festival and I teach at university level. In addition, I am the first musician in the Vaasa region holding a Ph.D. and this makes my work here impactful for the professional music activities here. I also feel that my family likes it here very much, the kids are more free to move around than in the capital area, and life is a bit more calm. But this of course means that I have to travel a lot – something both me and my family have had to get used to.
The pandemic has been difficult especially for musicians and other culture workers. What have been your own survival tricks? What do you want us to learn from the pandemic?
I have tried to constantly keep on practicing and planning future concert and festival content, but I’ve also been very worried about our industry and also been in contact with decision makers. I’ve also been interviewed a lot in Swedish speaking media about this matter. Through Vaasa Baroque I have tried to arrange work for musicians, and we have done concerts and recordings. That being said, we have to admit that the pandemic has shown how our society isn't prioritizing culture. We have to tackle this in the coming years, together with the whole industry.
During the Bach’s Collegium Musicum concert on May 7 we will hear music that has been played in the parlour of Café Zimmermann in Leipzig during Johann Sebastian Bach’s era. One of the pieces is Georg Friedrich Händels cantata Armida abbandonata. What is the piece about?
It is an emotionally strong and dramatic cantata and it is about Armida who has been left by Rinaldo. The cantata interprets her feelings after he left her, and the emotional interpretation is both string and rhythmic. Both love and nature are present in the cantata; Armida hopes from the bottom of her heart that Rinaldo won’t drown in the ocean he is now sailing on.
The cantata is wonderful to sing because Händel combines words and the music itself in a powerful way!
Do you have a secret talent?
I make very good princess cakes!