Songbridge Choirs in the Tampere Vocal Music Festival © Markku Uusitalo

Tue 6 Jun 2017

Power of song across borders and cultures at the Tampere Vocal Music Festival

The Tampere Vocal Music Festival, Finland’s largest international festival celebrating the human voice, is here again, on 6 to 11 Jun 2017. Running from Tuesday to Sunday, the festival brings some 2,000 singers in 62 choirs and 14 vocal ensembles to Tampere along with a range of fascinating solo performers. The festival programme focuses on children and adolescents and on the theme of community. The artistic director this year is choir conductor Sanna Valvanne.

The top-level children’s and youth choirs invited to participate in the Songbridge project have already arrived – from Jakarta, New York and Jyväskylä. The festival programme begins with concerts given by these choirs simultaneously at Ylöjärvi Church, Nokia Church and Kangasala Hall. The Songbridge choirs rehearse together for a period of one week, culminating in the Songbridge Gala on Saturday that features premieres of commissioned works by Michael Gordon, Budi Susanto Yohanes and Pekka Kostiainen. The concert forms part of the Sananvapauden tarina (Story of the freedom of speech) project of the Tampere Region Festivals and of the official programme celebrating the centenary of Finland’s independence (Suomi100).

The concert of the Tampere Filharmonia conducted by Anna-Maria Helsing on Wednesday has a programme of Finnish music, including the world premiere of Keihäitä (Spears) by Paavo Korpijaakko, with the combined forces of the Tampere-based choirs Pirkanpojat and Sympaatti. The text is by poet Ville Hytönen, and the baritone soloist is Tommi Hakala.

The limitless potential of the human voice is well illustrated in the concert programme. The one-man show given by Topi Lehtipuu reviews the history of vocal music from Gregorian chant to gospel. Iva Bittová (CZ) and Maarja Nuut (EE) combine violin and voice in innovative ways in a programme of folk songs and stories. Nordic Voices (NO) are a group with a wide variety of skills, including Mongolian throat singing.

The Contest for Vocal Ensembles is held at Tampere Hall on Wednesday, with 11 ensembles from eight countries participating in the final round. The prizes will be handed out at the Gala on Thursday. The international jury is chaired by Jussi Chydenius. The Rajaton vocal ensemble, whose career was launched by their winning the Contest for Vocal Ensembles, celebrate their 20th anniversary at the festival.

The main event is the Chorus Review, with 54 choirs – eight of them from abroad – performing from Thursday to Saturday. The Grand Prix winner of the Chorus Review in 2015, Spira Ensemble from Helsinki, is giving a late-night concert at Tampere Cathedral on Friday.

Courses and workshops at the Tampere Vocal Music Festival provide both singers and listeners with new ideas, from improvisation to liberating the voice and from working with memory disorder patients to coaching vocal ensembles. For those who enjoy singing together, there are Morning Sings led by various choir conductors at Tampere Hall every morning and singalong sessions with familiar choral repertoire every afternoon.

In the free concert series Feel the Festival!, the festival choirs and vocal ensembles take their music across the city to reach as many people as possible, performing in nursing homes, churches and restaurants, and also in venues in the Finlayson area. This allows listeners to combine choral music with shopping, playground activities or a picnic lunch. See the programme of the free concert series.