Sunday, 1 June 2014

Two Composition Prizes at VocalEspoo!

Sunday the 1st of June 2014. Slept once again about 5 hours and up again for the final spring meeting of the composer’s association Korvat Auki. We checked through the finance of this year, went through what’s happening next year and who will be on the board of next year.

Checking the financial situation of this year at the Korvat auki!-meeting 1.6.2014.
Photo © Cecilia Damström

After the meeting I hurried home, because I had to get ready for the concert of the evening; the prize winners concert of the international choral composition competition at the VocalEspoo vocal festival!

In Januray I sent in my scores to the composition competition. I sent in my ready piece “Credo “ (for mixed choir) and wrote a new piece for children's choir in my 4 spare days of Christmas “holidays” called “El jardín de las morenas”. In composition competitions you very often have to participate with an emblem and I really enjoy inventing silly emblems. So this was the case also of this competition, where I decided to call my self “Hurri”, which is a racist word for Swedish speaking Finns in Finland. I love self irony and being a Swedish speaking Finn my self I feel I have the right to call my self this. (The same way some black people in the US talk about them selves as “nigga’s”  among them selves but don’t want to be called it by others, also I as a Swedish speaking Finn find it okay to call my self a “hurri”).

Usually how ever this emblem is only read by the jury, and as soon as the winner is elected the real name of the composer is announced. This time how ever it wasn’t so. Instead I was notified by the secretary of the competition that both my pieces had won some kind of prize in the competition, but she couldn’t say which prizes and they would be announced when the emblem’s were revealed at the end of the concert! And the concert is going to be broadcast on the national radio as well!

I arrived on good time to the welcoming ceremony an hour before the concert, where we were served salads, warm food and dessert and sparkling wine of course. I met again the music critique Mats Liljeroos, who was writing a review of the concert for the Swedish daily paper of Finland called Huvudstadsbladet. But I was surprised how few people I knew at the reception.

The general atmosphere was slightly nervous at the opening ceremony, because none of us composers had heard a single rehearsal of the pieces (of course) nor did we know exactly what to expect of the occasion. Also the arrangers (except the secretary) didn’t know who of us was who.

Opening ceremony of VocalEspoo 2014 on the 1st of June. I'm in the pink dress.
Photo © Maarit Kytöharju

I couldn’t publicly invite people on Facebook, as I normally would have done, because I wasn’t allowed yet to tell people I had won any prize, but I had invited my relatives, so my both grandmothers and two of my aunts came to listen, and of course my parents, which made me very happy.

When the Tapiola Choir started my piece “El jardín de las morenasI” a wave of shock ran through me. In the beginning of the piece I have written “smack your lips”, without further explanation, thinking of the kind of smacking sound when you eat food (with your mouth open). Now how ever they were making loud smacks like fish or horse hooves! But after the first 5 second’s when the feeling of bewilderment and chock slowly began to leave me, I noticed that it actually sounded really good the way they way they did it. (As a composer usually everything that is “different” from the way you imagined it is “wrong”, but when you get used to it you notice it isn’t that bad after all.) 

The Tapiola Choir conducted by Pasi Hyökki at VocalEspoo 1.6.2014.
Photo © Maarit Kytöharju
After the lip-smacking incidence when the youth choir began to sing everything sounded actually even better than I had imagined. The conductor Pasi Hyökki had chosen very fast tempos, so the piece was almost 1:30 minutes shorter than I had composed it, but it was fine like this as well. The teenagers sang with so much energy and dedication and pronounced the Spanish texts so well that it was touching. I was so happy!

The Tapiola Choir taking a selfie. VocalEspoo 2014 Photo © Maarit Kytöharju

In the intermission I went to the bathroom and in the bathroom one of the girls from the Tapiola Choir was singing a movement from my piece. It felt very absurd sitting on the toilet while hearing some one actually singing your song, just for fun, on the toilet! So while washing my hands I asked the four about 13 year old girls, who were mirroring them selves, what it had been like to be part of this project, in which they had to learn four new (and contemporary) pieces for the concert. They at once got a bit stiff, because they guessed I was one of the composers, but didn’t of course know which piece was mine. So they answered politically very correctly and told about the process. They also told it had been quite a tiresome project because they had just a few weeks earlier been on tour in Japan with a completely different repertoire and had been in quite a hurry to learn the new songs for this concert.

My piece Credo was the last piece in the concert. The commentator for the radio was enjoying to read out my emblem, on which there always came a small giggle in the audience. He always read out my emblem both before and after the piece (as next we have/you just heard Hurri’s piece …) and on the last time he added “This is probably the first time in Finnish radio history that this word has been used in a neutral context” on which the audience laughed.

My Credo was performed by the chamber choir Key Ensemble conducted by Teemu Honkanen. Honkanen kept the tempo’s very much like in my score and everything was exactly like I expected it to be, so I was very happy also with this performance!

Key Ensemble at VocalEspoo 2014. Photo © Maarit Kytöharju

After this performance it was time for the revelation of the emblems and prize winners. I got a third prize in the children's choir category with “El jardín de las morenas” and a joint second prize with my “Credo” in the mixed choir category! So I was very happy! My family had places at the very front, so they were happily taking pictures with their phones.

The prize winners of the international VocalEspoo choral composition competition.
Photo © Maarit Kytöhaju

After the concert, when finally all names had been revealed, there were so many people to talk to. (I wish people wouldn’t always be in such a hurry home, so that you would have time to speak to more people after concerts, before all disappear…) Both Pasi Hyökki and Teemu Honkanen came to thank me for the piece and asked if their version was “at all right”, and I told about the smacking incident, but that Hyökki's solution had been great as well. Both of them asked “But you are Swedish speaking, aren’t you?” on which I answered “Yes of course, otherwise I wouldn’t have had the right to call my self Hurri”.

I was flattered by all the nice comments I got to hear from so many people, but the most memorable comment I got from the four teenage girls I had spoken to in the bathroom in the intermission. They came running to me, extremely happy and started talking eagerly all at the same time “Congratulations! We thought your piece was the best! We are so sorry you didn’t win! We actually voted among us choir members, and we would have chosen your piece to be the winner. But congratulations anyway! And the text were so nice, we really the choice of your text. And the pieces were really nice as well, not too long and pleasant to sing and not too easy but not too difficult either. And we guessed you were one of the composers, but we didn’t want to say anything, as we didn’t know which of the pieces was yours. But we were so happy when you walked on stage and we saw it was your piece!  I was singing it in the batroom, you noticed it didn’t you? Oh I really liked it, especially that part I was singing. Oh but congratulations once more to your prizes! Bye!”

I think that was the nicest feed back I have ever got in my life, and it seemed to be one of the most honest ones as well, every word from the bottom of their sweet hearts, they truly made my day!

Me, a very happy composer! A third and a joint second prize at the
VocalEspoo International Choral Composition Competition 2014.
Photo © Damström

After this I was extremely tired, but of course I went to have a drink at the musicians stamping ground Urkki with a few friends. We of course ran in to other musicians there, a few pianists. At about midnight I moved on to my composer friends Matei Gheorghiu’s and Sebastian Dumitrescu'sbirthday party at Clavis, from where I walked home at dawn and finally at 4 AM went to bed.

The sun is rising at 4 AM over Huopalahti (in Helsinki).
Photo © Cecilia Damström

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