Neighbourhood music exposure on streets and in chambers

Article 11.3.2020

If the meaning of art is to touch and refresh the soul and to increase human understanding and good spirits, then bringing the artists out of the concert halls gives both the new listeners and the artists some interesting experiences. The Finnish Baroque Orchestra's violist Laura Kajander writes about her experiences as a neighbourhood violist on the blog.

A menuet, please!

”A menuet, please”, said the Alepa customer when he met me and my viola in the fruit section. "Here you go", said I, and chose an interpretative mode that highlighted the dance rhythm of the menuet from Bach's solo cello suite. And so the mister grabbed his lady in his arms and they danced around while their friend was smiling on the side. 

Neighbourhood violist is a title that I made up for myself when I went out to get to know the residents and actors of the Kaarela neighbourhood. I was looking for a way to meet as many people as possible. The neighbourhood violist is part of the Finnish Baroque Orchestra's project Juurilla (At the Roots), which in turn is part of the project Helsinki Model. It increases the regional equality of the city and the versatility of cultural services. 

The first steps were exploring and experimental. In the spring and summer of 2019, I participated in numerous events organised by the residents, with music and information about the Baroque orchestra. We immediately joined together with the Finnish National Theatre's project Kaarella with theatre professionals, and through the cooperation we obtained new ways of expression for the orchestra musicians, and a new understanding for eg. the interpretation of gestures.   

Emission-free marathon tours

Through the smaller events, the idea of organising the neighbourhood violist's emission-free marathon tour grew. The main goal was to meet plenty of people who would not usually go to concerts. From morning to evening I drove around on my bike while stopping at various places to play. The route was decided beforehand, and on the way I found shops, flea markets, a library, a station square, a gym club and a few pubs! I ended up playing very differently in different places and I was confused by how many people, more than I expected, stopped to listen and even drop a few tears of emotion. Although the day was long, it was concentrated into a sort of pilgrimage experience marking the relativity of time in the rhythm of the light biking, music and breaks. It was necessary for me to maintain the relaxed focus and the openness to varying situations and encounters with people, in order to have the energy to do it. The journey culminated at the pub Kannel-krouvi: a light tiredness removed my last musical inhibitions and the energy flow was strengthened further when people, to my surprise, listened quietly or wanted to speak with me about the experience. 

Inspired by my first marathon tour, I now do them monthly. Every place is different, and every place requires its own atmosphere, its way of playing and its repertoire. For participants in a yoga or pilates class, I offer sounds that guide towards slow breathing, with pub customers I create a mellow relation through music, poetry and other nonsense, and at the grocery store, I like to surprise customers by playing while walking in the aisles. I have also had wonderful, open experiences of human interaction with children and parents at the daycare, school children, people spending summer at the station square, customers at the Station D meeting place, and people with memory disorders. But the top of my experiences so far has been the personnel and customers of the outdoors equipment store Varusteleka, with their friendly, happy, efficient and open-minded attitude. Getting familiar with very different companies and actors is educational also for the development of your own organisation. 

”An unbelievably tuneful sound, as if the whole orchestra had been present.”
”Just like a therapy session, the music took me away and emptied my mind of everything else.”
”Is this easy, how can one learn such long pieces of complicated music by heart?”
”I would never have thought that I would enjoy Bach while shopping for food at Alepa, the mood of the day rose above the ordinary life.”
"Simply amazing to go where the people already are. This will surely make many people notice how mellow and spellbinding older music can be. It has some fiddler spirit to it.”

Based on the comments I received and the experiences I had, I am even more convinced that touching music, like that of Bach, appeals to people's feelings and intellects regardless of whether they knew the music from before or not. I thank the city of Helsinki for this unique journey, which luckily will continue at least until the end of 2021. 

A neighbourhood violist's diary

The neighbourhood violist does much more than marathon tours. In the diary, I tell about the most varying encounters (in Finnish). 

Rapatitives and other concepts

More information about the versatile work that the Finnish Baroque Orchestra does beside traditional concerts can be found on the Più pages (in Finnish).

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