Monday, 30 June 2014


Monday the 30th of June. My friend Natalja stayed the night and we spent the next day mainly for sightseeing. She also ate sushi for the first time in her life, at Zen Sushi, although it wasn’t “real” sushi, it was vegetarian sushi because she is vegetarian.

Symmetry at Sanomatalo, Helsinki.
Photo © C.Damström

Cute signs for sale at Hakaniemen kauppahalli. Photo © C.Damström 

Having sushi at Zen Sushi Bar in Helsinki.

Natalja at the Rock Church of Helsinki. Photo © C.Damström

Natalja at Kaivopuisto in Helsinki. Photo © C.Damström

Sunday, 29 June 2014

Our Graduation Party

Sunday the 29th of June my sister Jacintha and I celebrated our graduation! Both of us are now Bachelors of Music, she (in flute) after 3 years at the Sibelius Academy with 184 ECTS credits and I (in composition) after 6 years at Tampere University of Applied Sciences with 315 ECTS credits… Quite funny, isn’t it?

My sister Jacintha got her Bachelor of Music on the 18th of June, I'm so proud of her!
Photo © Cecilia Damström 

We had invited both friends and relatives, altogether over 100 people were invited and about 50 were able to come (but scattered all over the day). Our mother had baked lovely strawberry cakes and made lots of salad and other food for the guests. It was a really nice party, and I enjoyed both seeing lots of relatives whom I meet too seldom, as well as old school friends and getting to know Jacintha’s friends. The first guests arrived at about 3 PM (while I still was blow-drying my hair…) and the last guests left at about 4 or 5 AM. So once again a great party!

At our gradution party
Mum had baked lovely strawberry cakes.
Getting ready to serve sparking wine! Photo © C.Damström
Happy and proud parents! Thank you for all your support throughout the years!
Photo © Cecilia Damström

Grandmother with her newly graduated grandchildren, all in green!

Friday, 27 June 2014


On the 26th of June I went by bus to Porvoo for listening to a concert of the “Summer Sounds-Avantti!” Festival. The festival always also has a composition masterclass and workshop called “Sävellyspaja” (which more or less means “composition workshop”), nowadays lead by Jouni Kaipainen, Jukka Tiensuu and Tomi Räisänen. The students (from all around the globe) who are elected to the course are asked to compose a work for some constellation of the Avantti! chamber orchestra. The works are rehearsed during the course and performed at an official concert at the end of the course. All students get two private sessions each with every teacher, where they usually use one lesson for talking about the work that they have composed for this project and one lesson usually showing other compositions. I attended this course in 2011 and have to say it was a marvelous experience!

This year my friends Matilda Seppälä and Henri Sokka, both from Tampere, were attending the course, Sauli Zinovjev (from the Sibelius Academy in Helsinki) and more peculiarly, my friend Bin Li from Indiana University (United States, originally born in China). I met Bin in 2012 at a composition course in Berlin held by Doctor Samuel Adler, and last winter I mailed all my former colleagues about this master class, so he applied and came! It was great seeing Bin again after two years!  

Composers Bin Li, Kosmas Giannoutakis, Pang Chun-Ting and Reuben Jelleyman
at the Summer Sounds Festival in Porvoo! Photo © C.Damström

The programme of the concert by the composition masterclass 2014 was:

Instructors: Jouni Kaipainen and Jukka Tiensuu
Jaakko Kuusisto, conductor
Essi Luttinen, mezzo soprano

Bin Li: Lighted Fools
Henri Sokka: Dusty Tales
Sauli Zinovjev: Jum

The task of this year was to compose for a singer as a part of the orchestra, but the participants were given three texts to chose from. As the previous years Jouni Kaipainen was moderating the concert and was also interviewing the participants about their piece, which always is very interesting. The concert was really nice and I especially liked Matilda’s piece “and the vines with their tender grape and Komas Giannoutakis “The Vanishing.

Léo Collin and Jouni Kaipainen at Summer Sounds 2014

Bin Li and Jouni Kaipainen at Summer Sounds 2014

The concert of the young composers was quite early (at 5 PM), so it was followed by an other concert by Avantti!, including the chamber version of Stravinsky’s  A solider's tale. There was also a orchestra piece by the composer in residence Gerald Barry. But the absolutely most memorably number was when the festivals artistic director Barbara Hannigan sang AND conducted the famous coloratura aria from Ligeti’s Le Grande Macabre while dressed in black latex, a black wig and high heels! She was absolutely outstanding!

Barbara Hannigan after the concert at Summer Sounds 2014.
Photo © C.Damström 

After the concerts I hang out with Matilda and the other masterclass members until the late morning hours, and the next day I and a few others got a ride back to Helsinki by Sauli.

Feedback session of the composition masterclass Sävellyspaja 2014. Photo © C.Damström

Composer Henri Sokka Photo © C.Damström

Composers of the masterclass Sävellyspaja 2014 getting ready to go home.
Photo © C.Damström

Tuesday, 24 June 2014

Composing in Tampere

After midsummer I spent a few days in Tampere, trying to get my violin solo piece “Sydänlaulu” (Heartsong) ready for my friend Elisar Riddelin, as he will be performing it at our up-coming festival TampeRinging 2014 in August. But I am still quite exhausted from the spring so not much got done in the past days…

At the composition studio in Tampere... © C. Damström

Yet an other sunrise seen from the composition studio of Tampere. © C. Damström

Saturday, 21 June 2014

Midsummer Eve

After the 17h travel, finally getting home and having some warm food and a good night rest, it was already Friday the 21st of June, so midsummer’s eve. Midsummer is quite big in Finland, but every once celebrates it at their summer cottages, so there are “many small parties in the middle of nowhere” to put it frankly.

This year my family (and I) were invited to our friends midsummer party quite close to our summer cottage, so we went there by boat. (It rained and the waves splashed all the way so my eye make up had smeared it self all over my face and my “curls” all gone by the time we arrived…) We had a great dinner including salmon and mustard herring, “new potatoes” and ice cream with strawberries for dessert, Finnish summer delicatessen. My sister and I of course also performed some (pop) songs for the happy guests, and at 1 AM we drove home to a beautiful sunset.

Finnish New Potatoes, Midsummer 2014. © C.Damström
Not my plate but anyway; midsummer dinner 2014. © C.Damström
Strawberries and ice-cream for desert. Midsummer 2014. © C.Damström
Someone hoping on leftovers...
Midsummer 2014. © C.Damström
My sister Jacintha Damström and her friend Linda juggling while the neighbor dog watched.
Midsummer 21 June 2014. Photo © Cecilia Damström

Midsummer eve 21st June 2014. Photo © Cecilia Damström

Midsummer eve 21st June 2014. Photo © Cecilia Damström

Midsummer eve 21st June 2014. Photo © Cecilia Damström

Midsummer eve 21st June 2014. Photo © Cecilia Damström

Friday, 20 June 2014

The 17h travel

The trip back was a great 17h trip. While walking through Stockholm to the boat I noticed how many homeless people there were sleeping in the streets. Suddenly bumped in to a gathering of people and beggars. I asked some one, who looked like he was in charge of the gathering what was going on, and he told me he every day went around to some restaurants and cafés and gathered all their leftovers and handed it out to the homeless. Because it actually is illegal in Sweden to hand out leftover, he did it at 5.30 before the police “was awake”! When he heard I was a composer he told me I should participate in the “Eurovision for homeless people” that will take place in October 2014 in Stockholm! Eurovision for homeless people, can you believe it?! He was so nice and told me to take some food as well (which made me happy as I had about 20 euro on my account at the time in total). So I got a good salad for free, which was my only food the whole day!

A few of the homeless people on the streets of Stockholm.
20th of June 2014. Photo © Cecilia Damström

These two men were in charge of feeding the homeless of Stockholm.
20th of June 2014. Photo © Cecilia Damström

Bread for the homeless of Stockholm.
20th of June 2014. Photo © Cecilia Damström

Some homeless people in Stockholm gathered for getting some free bread.
20th of June 2014. Photo © Cecilia Damström
The sallad I was given for free in Stockholm.
20th of June 2014. Photo © Cecilia Damström

On the ferry back to Finland, Viking Grace, I met an Australian back-packer called  Joshua Boyle. The first 4 hours we both spent sleeping (in chairs on the common area of the boat), but then I asked him if he could watch my bag while I went to tax-free (for buying a small plate of dairy free chocolate, as I counted that it would have the most calories that you can get for 2 euros, which will keep my hunger away for the longest, in addition to the salad). After that I and Josh talked without a break for the next 8 hours until we arrived in Turku, Finland. We of course became Facebook friends and he even came later on and visited me with his friends while driving home from Mongolia through Sweden in September, but that’s a different story.

Walking to the Viking Line ferry in Stockholm.
20th of June 2014. Photo © Cecilia Damström

Walking to the Viking Line ferry in Stockholm.
20th of June 2014. Photo © Cecilia Damström

View from the ferry Viking Line Grace.
20th of June 2014. Photo © Cecilia Damström
Joshua Boyle, my new friend from Australia.
June 2014. Photo © Cecilia Damström

Thursday, 19 June 2014

Final Symphony Stockholm

On the 19th of June I flew to Stockholm for hearing the concert Final Symphony Stockholm. Two very close friends of mine, Jonne Valtonen and Roger Wanamo have written the arrangements of the Final Fantasy game music for symphony orchestra. The concept has become a hit among gamers all around the world, so they have had concerts with for instance London Symphony Orchestra, Tokyo Philharmonic , WDR Sinfonierchester and now for the third time The Royal Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra. (Ironically it hasn’t until now been performed in Finland yet, but it will come in September to Tampere and be performed by the Tampere Philharmonic, the very same concert, but I will be in Malmö by then.) Even though they are really good friends of mine I have never before attended a concert their game music arrangements, so I decided that the time had finally come to go and listen, as the concert was so close by (in Stockholm).

Me with Stockholm in the background 19th of June 2014. Photo © Mari Pakarinen

Delicious raw food desserts at Hermans, Stockholm 19th of June 2014.
Photo © Cecilia Damström

Lunch with Mari Pakarinen at Hermans restaurant.
Stockholm 19th of June 2014.
Photo © Cecilia Damström 
Stockholm 19th of June 2014.
Photo © Cecilia Damström

So I bought a cheap Norwegian airways flight to Stockholm, arrived on the 19th of June early in the morning, had lunch with my friend Mari Pakarinen at the vegetarian restaurant Hermans, spent the day with my friends, attended the fantastic concert that was received with standing ovations (and three encores), hang out with my friends and the musicians at the after party and caught at 6.30 AM the boat back to Finland. 

Roger Wanamo and Jonne Valtonen at the concert pre-talk,
Stockholm 19th of June 2014. Photo © Cecilia Damström

Jonne Valtonen, Roger Wanamo and Mari Pakarinen at the Final Fantasy concert
Stockholm 19th of June 2014. Photo © Cecilia Damström

Monday, 16 June 2014


In June I basically tried to have vacation, quite successfully. One friend from Helsinki visited me in Tampere, because he never had been to Tampere before even after living five years in Finland. We went to Pyynikinäkötorni, a observation tower on a hill in a small woods, from where you can see all of Tampere. And we also went to the Lenin museum, which is located in Tampereen Työväen Teatteri (“The Proletarian Theatre of Tampere”). In the very same building Stalin and Lenin actually met for the first time ever in 1905, and in the very same building we also have our composition classes! The Lenin museum was also very eye-opening; how visionarism can end very dangerously and very wrong, because humans love to follow a leader who is full of passion for an idea, almost independent on the idea it self.

Me on the top of Pyynikinnäkötorni June 2014.

In the middle of June I spent about a week at my parents summer cottage on the island, relaxing and also there a few friends came out and visited me, sometimes even just for lunch as it’s not far away from Helsinki.

A friend came for lunch to the island, June 2014. Photo © Cecilia Damström

The island. June 2014. Photo © Cecilia Damström

Thursday, 5 June 2014

Hitchhiking to Tampere

Thursday the 5th of June 2014. I have always wanted to try hitchhiking since I met my Polish friend Kasia Nowicka, who has hitchhiked around Iceland, through Finland to Lapland and back through Norway and Sweden, through Italy to Sicily and back through Greece and Macedonia to Poland! But when I told my parents that I wanted to go hitchhiking this summer they forbid me to do it, and because I respect my parents and understand how appalling it would be for them (and me) if something would happen I have given up that plan. Partly. I won’t hitchhike around Europe that is.

But now my friend and I are two moneyless students who wanted to come from Helsinki to Tampere on undetermined time on a sunny June morning, so we decided to try hitchhiking, as Finland is (quite) a safe country.

We chose the bus stop at the crossing where the Mannerheimintie ends and the motorway to Tampere begins. We had planned to meet as early as possible, but both of us were late, so we actually started hitchhiking first at about 9 AM, which is far to late because we had already missed all the people who were going to go to work in the morning from Helsinki to Tampere.

Preparing the sign... June 5th 2014.

We took turns at holding the sign and holding up the thumb. To both of our surprise it was actually quite straining to keep your thumb up for a long time, our right thumb and arm got quite sore from that. For about 45 minutes we waited and by the time that we were already getting a bit sunburnt FINALLY a car stopped! We at first didn’t even notice, before the driver honked at us.

Hitchhiking to Tampere 5th of June 2014.

The thing about hitchhiking that fascinates me so much is that you never know what kind of people you will meet. Also this time I was taken by surprise. The small car that had stopped for us was driven by a friendly woman in her late fifties, on her way to a garden party in Tampere. She had worked in a bank as a young girl, fallen in love with a taxi driver who often came to the bank, and then started working as a taxi driver her self. As a hobby she and her boyfriend (still the same one as when she was a young girl) had motorcycles and were going to drive through Germany during their vacation. And she was an absolutely excellent driver! She moreover was delighted to hear I spoke Swedish and asked if it was okay with me if she could practise her Swedish with me, and I was delighted by her enthusiasm. So all the two-hour drive we talked in Swedish about her travels and about motorcycles, because there were a lot of Harley-Davidsons driving in the opposite direction, which made her very excited. And we got a perfect ride all the way to the city centre of Tampere. A great experience!

Wednesday, 4 June 2014

Eight songs for a Mad King

Wednesday June 4th. Today is a historical day; The piece Eight songs for a mad king by Peter Maxwell Davies will be performed in Finland for the first time since 1991. I came with two friends all the way from Tampere to Helsinki for seeing this! (Okay my friends also had other appointments in Helsinki, but I didn’t!) The performance was at Metropolia University of Applied Sciences and the main part was sung by the counter tenor David Hackston. The performance was absolutely fantastic, and I absolutely love this piece of music! If you don’t know it, please watch it from the youtube video below.

Recapitulation of Spring 2014

Spring 2014 has been absolutely the most crazy and amazing spring so far in my composer career. Well, already if you consider that I have written 104 blog posts about what happened from the end of February until the beginning of June (so approximately during three month time), I guess that gives you some kind of picture HOW much has been going on… But in case you don’t have time to read all 104 blog posts, I will summarize last spring in one post, partly for my own sake.

So in January I broke up after four years in a relationship, which contributed to my decision to apply for masters in Sweden. I also participated in Vocal Espoo’s choral composition competition.

In February I got to know that both I and also our composer association Tampering had been given grants by the Finnish cultural trust foundation, which was great news!

In February my piece “Expressionen” was performed in Helsinki to a enthusiastic audience.

In March I travelled Tampere-Helsinki-Stockholm-Malmö-Copenhagen-Gothenburg-Stockholm-Helsinki-Tampere for entrance exams at three universities in Sweden (and one day sightseeing in Copenhagen), and got full points in the entrance exam at Malmö.

On the 14th of March I also made my Canadian début with my piece Loco for solo viola, which according to my friend, Canadian composer Paolo Griffin, wasreceived with standing ovations.

In the middle of March I also started writing this blog, A Composers Diary!

In the end of March I both produced and played my own piece Piano Delirium in the “Korvat Auki Tampere” concert in Pietiläsali, in the main library Metso in Tampere.

In April the music theatre production Buss Number 13 including 5 of my pieces, had three performances (and one pre-premiere) at the Tampere Hall, and the last performance was part of the contemporary music festival Tampere Biennale 2014. More over my pieces got a great review in the local newspaper Aamulehti.

In April I also participated in a conducting course, in which I conducted the orchestrated version of my own song cycle Dagbok, and the piece was premiered at the final concert of the course.

In the rest of April I worked as a producer for my own concert. I put together an orchestra, handed out 800 flyers in front of the Tampere Hall, contacted the radio station and two newspapers (which all three made interviews with me about the up coming concert, which was great for getting audience!) and led many of the rehearsals.

Suomen Työväen Musiikkiliitto offered me a publishing contract for my choral piece Kielikurssi for children's’ choir this spring and it will come out next winter!

On the 14th of May I had myfirst composers recital, with over 200 people in the audience and a good review in the daily newspaper Aamulehti. It included premieres of my choral works Visheten and Min Gud.

Moreover in May my piano solo piece Psychedelic was premiered at the composers concert in Tampere and my solo viola piece Loco was performed at the RRR!! Festival in Helsinki.

In addition to all above named I also have written my thesis and defended it, AND written a 10 minute piece for symphony orchestra (while sleeping 2 night on the floor of my school) and have passed my final exams for becoming a composer.

Finally my choral works El jardín de las morenas and Credo have been premiered at the VocalEspoo choral festival, have been awarded third and joint second prize and have been broadcast by the National Finnish Radio Company Yle.

I think I can call it a day. Or a spring, that is to say.

Tuesday, 3 June 2014

Review in Huvudstadsbladet

Tuesday June 3rd. Today Mats Liljeroos review appeared in Huvudstadsbladet. In the review he tells generally about the VocalEspoo choral festival and it’s new format. It tells about how the festival was opened with the choral composition competition concert, in which more excitement was added by revealing the winners first at the end of the concert. He also writes about how surprisingly traditional or even conservative the general esthetics of the winning pieces were, and asks the open question if it is a matter of the jurys taste or a general trend at the moment. Among his favorites Liljeroos names Teemu Tommola’s Appamado (shared third place in mixed choir), Juuso Vanonen’s The Second Coming (shared first prize), Cecilia Damström’s Credo (shared second prize), Lauri Mäntysaari’s Sensemayá (first prize for chirldrens choir) and Andres Lemba’s Sanctus (prize for for male choir).
Liljeros also points out that improvement could be made by also admitting the women’s choir as a category in the competition and moreover also adding the second official language (Swedish) to the concert programme, because the concert is anyway taking place in Finland’s second biggest bilingual city.