Monday, 28 November 2016

The Spanish Tour Schedule

The accordionist Janne Valkeajoki won the XXIII “Arrasate-Hiria” International Accordion Competition in 2015. A part of the prize is an organised solo concert tour in the North of Spain. For this tour he commissioned me with a solo piece with a maximal duration of 15 minutes. The commission received funding by the Madetoja-säätiö, was composed in spring 2016 and the piece "Shapes" will have it’s premiere next week on the 7th of December 2016 in San Sebastian, Spain. Janne has a beautiful programme consisting of three suits, one by Bach, one by me and one by Ravel. Janne is not only the first person to perform my solo suite Shapes, but as far as we know of, he is the first person to perform the whole “La tombeau de Couperin” on solo accordion. (The first performance of Ravel on accordion he gave on his previous tour in Serbia on the 7th of November 2016.)

The program for the Spanish tour is:

J.S.Bach - English Suite No. 5 (BWV 810)
Passepied I & II

C. Damström - Shapes Op.46
The Rhomb
The Ascending Line
Circles and Ellipses
The Pentagon Chaconne
The Icosahedron


Concert Schedule for Janne Valkeajoki:

Wednesday the 7th of December 2016 at 7:30 PM
At Tabakalera (4th floor) in San Sebastián 
(World Premiere of Shapes)

Thursday the 8th of December 2016 at 7 PM
At Teatro Mucipal of Alcañiz

Friday the 9th of December 2016 at 8 PM
At Casa de Cultura in Arrasate

Saturday the 10th of December 2016 at 7:30 PM
At Casa de Cultura in Aretxabaleta

Monday the 12th of December 2016 at 7 PM
At the Auditorio of Vandellós

Tuesday the 13th of December 2016 at 8 PM
At Auditorio “Pepita Sellés” in Barcelona

The Finnish premiere of Shapes will have to wait until March, when Janne will play his final diploma recital at the Sibelius Academy.

You are very welcome to any of the concerts!

Janne Valkeajoki and his accordion. Photo © Cecilia Damström

Sunday, 27 November 2016

Shapes for solo accordion

I have been very lazy with my blog the past two years but I have decided that I will start presenting my compositions and hope that will help me update at least a bit more often. So I will begin with Shapes that will have it’s premiere the 7th of December 2016 in San Sebastian, Spain.

Shapes Op.46 for solo accordion is a suite in six movements inspired by geometrical shapes. 

The first movement is a palindrome that goes from the middle register to the extreme registers (both high and low) and back again, therefor the name "The Rhomb".

The second movement is a slow ascending line beginning from the low register. 

The third movement is swelling circular movements in both hands and therefore is called "Circles and Ellipses".

The fourth movement is just as the name says, a “Pentagon Chaconne”, a Chaconne consisting of five chords that are repeated, and every chord consists of five notes, on top of which we have two independent melodies. 

The fifth movement “Dots” is a fast movement with dots flowing over and rushing everywhere. 

The last movement “The Icosahedron” is a three-dimensional shape, a polyhedron with twenty faces, or twenty equilateral triangles for being more specific. These twenty faces can be heard throughout the movement, as can the majestic slow turning of the Icosahedron.

The piece is commissioned by and dedicated to Janne Valkeajoki for his solo concert tour in the North of Spain 7 - 14 December 2016. The piece has received funding by the Madetoja-säätiö, Finland.

Saturday, 26 November 2016

Lied concert

This autumn I have taken part in the Lied seminar of Tampere University of Applied Sciences together with my lied partner, soprano Katarina Olkinuora. This seminar is part of my bachelor in piano. The theme of this autumn has been Nordic lied and we have all together had five 60 minute lessons together with the professors Ulla Raiskio and Risto Kyrö. Katarina and I have done lied by Grieg and it has been great fun! On Thursday the 24th of November 2016 we had the final concert for this course. We performed three songs in the Hiekka Art Museum (Hiekan taidemuseo). 

Singer Katarina Olkinuora and I before our lied concert 24.11.2016.

Sunday, 6 November 2016

Composition Master Classes

In the past years I have attended a few master classes of composition, so I thought I would share my experience about compositional masterclasses, both the ones I have attended and those that I maybe would like to attend.

Composition Master Class with Doctor Samuel Adler, Berlin
In 2012 I attended the six week long (!) master class with Doctor Samuel Adler (born 1928 in Germany) at the Freie Universität Berlin (Germany). We were 14 students whom Doctor Adler taught 45 minutes twice a week and once a week we also had a group lesson with him. In addition you could also take a conducting class (as a group lesson) with his wife Emily Freeman Brown. The course fee of around 2000 euros only included the lessons, so housing and living expenses came in addition to that. During the first two weeks we composed a 4 minute piece for a given ensemble, which was performed at the end of the course, and we also got a recording of the performance. During the next four weeks you could work on what ever you wanted to, so I wrote a small piece for orchestra. The course was the best master class I have ever attended, partly because it happened to come to a time when I had a “writers block” and Doctor Adler managed to open this writers block, which was a wonderful feeling! Also I still use some of the compositional techniques he taught me during the course. Berlin is also a wonderful and inspiring city to live in, and I went to concerts or to one of the three (!) opera houses around five times a week during the six weeks I stayed there. But recently I googled and noticed that this course doesn’t seem to be available anymore, so it seems like Doctor has retired (after retiring from Juilliard at the age of 85), therefore I won’t write too much about this course here although it was the best course I have attended!

Sävellyspaja is part of the festival Summer Sounds in Porvoo, Finland. It takes place one week after midsummer (around the last week of June) and the composition master class is about 5 days. You apply in December to the workshop and are informed a few month later if you are elected or not. The elected participants are given a specific task, writing for a ensemble from the Avanti! orchestra. The task/piece has to be ready by March or April. The task varies form year to year, when I participated they gave us a beginning and an ending that we were supposed to incorporate into our piece, and I wrote my piece “Outlandish Excursion”. The teachers at Sävellyspaja are the Finnish composers Tomi Räisänen and Jukka Tiensuu (who is one of my favourite composers!). You usually get two classes with each teacher and then you also have master classes where each student presents works they have composed. You get a few rehearsals with the ensemble and all  compositions are performed at a concert at the festival. When I attended in 2011 also Jouni Kaipainen was my teacher. He is one of the founders of the course and has taught at Sannäs for about 25 years. But sadly he passed away in November 2015. He will always be missed and remembered for his enthusiasm, energy and warm spirit.

In short:
-Takes place last week of June
-In Sannäs, Porvoo, Finland
-You apply in December
-You write the piece before the master class
-You get rehearsals and a performance by professionals at the Porvoo Summer Sounds Festival
-You get all together four lessons with composers Jukka Tiensuu and Tomi Räisänen
-You get free tickets and have the opportunity to hear many of the Summer Sounds concerts
-The course fee is around 300 euros and includes everything (lessons, living, breakfast, tickets) except lunch and dinner. (This price may vary from year to year depending on how much funding Sävellyspaja receives.)
-The course location is a gorgeous manor basically in the middle of beautiful fields (in the middle of nowhere) and it also has a swimming pool and a sauna.
-The food is served at the extraordinary restaurant of the manor (and costs around 15 euro per meal).

Time of Music is a contemporary music festival taking place in Viitasaari, a small city between great lakes and forests. The master class teachers in composition vary very much from year to year. When I attended Time of Music in 2014 the course was held by Sandeep Bhagwati and was about Comprovisation. Also composers such as Beat Furrer (2012) and John Cage (1983) have been teachers & composers in residence for the festival.

In short:
-Takes place the second week of July
-In Viitasaari, Finland
-The master class is part of the avant-garde contemporary music festival
-You apply in the spring
-The teacher varies from year to year (as does the task)
-You get free tickets and have the opportunity to hear most of the Time of Music concerts
-The course fee of around 300 euros includes lessons and living, but no food. (This price may vary from year to year depending on how much funding the course receives.)
-The students live in very basic houses, but the nature is absolutely beautiful and you have the opportunity to go to sauna and/or swimming in the lake (almost) every day.
-Getting food can at times be a bit tricky (as there aren't so many restaurants in such a small town), often the students cook their own food in the evening and also eat it for lunch.

ISAM is a two week long master class in the Landesakademie Ochsenhausen, Germany. You can participate with piano, composition or organ. The teachers in composition are Ofer Ben Amots and Jan Jirásek and you get around three private lessons with each teacher. You can also require a few more sessions if you feel you need it. In composition you have a given ensemble (usually a trio) to write for during the first 10 days, and in the end of the course all pieces are performed by professional musicians. The curious thing is that when the newly written pieces are performed, they automatically are part of the International Josef Dorfman Composition Competition. The most amazing thing about this course is probably the location: an enormous former monastery that was seculized, with original frescos from the 17-hundreds.
In short:
-Takes place the last week July and first week of July
-In the Landesmusikakademie Ochsenhausen, Baden-Wüttenberg, Germany
-You apply during the spring and are informed in June if you are accepted
-ISAM is also a master class you can do if you haven't composed much before but have studied some instrument, know how to write notes and have a background in music
-You usually write the piece during the first10 days of the master class
-You get rehearsals and a performance by professional musicians and take part in the International Josef Dorfman Composition Competition
-You get all together six lessons with composers Ofer Ben Amots and Jan Jirasek
-You get free tickets and have the opportunity to hear all ISAM concerts and matinees (in total around 8 concerts and 3 matinees)
-The course fee around 1000 euros includes everything (lessons, living, breakfast, lunch, dinner, tickets, but NOT travels to and from the location). (This price may vary from year to year depending on how much funding ISAM receives.)
-The course location is a gorgeous castle basically in the middle of beautiful fields in the small village of Ochsenhausen and it also has a lake close by.
-There is a bar just beside the castle where you usually spend a lot of time and a ice-cream parlour that you usually also visit a few times.

The course takes place in the same beautiful location as ISAM, Landesmusikakademie Ochsenhausen, an enormous former monastery that was seculized, with original frescos from the 17-hundreds. The teacher and conductor of the course change every time, in 2016 when I attended we had Danish composer John Høybye as our teacher and Michael Alber conducting and instructing the Orfeus Vocal Ensemble. (In earlier years I heard that the composers also conducted them selves the ensemble, I was very happy not having to do that because Alber is a great conductor and did a perfect job with my difficult piece which I could never have achieved.) The course emphasises on listening to the professional choir rehearse our pieces three hours a day and learning by watching what things are and are not hard, what things work and don’t work. For being honest, this method really beat my expectations! Even though I have sung several years in a semi-professional choir (Näsin ääni), watching a group of professional singers work very fast showed what worked easy and what is hard. Note that although the focus of the course is on new written choral music, the choir is not very used to avant garde music, so keep that in mind when you apply. But if you are interested in writing music like Whitacre, Mäntyjärvi, Pärt or Høybye, this is a perfect course for you! 

In short:
-Takes place in the middle of September all even years (next time in 2018)
-In Landesakademie Ochsenhausen, Baden-Wüttenberg, Germany
-You apply before June and are informed in June or July if you are accepted
-The course can also be attended by for instance choral composers or music teachers who compose.
-You usually bring one ready piece to the course but also can try out excerpts during the course.
-You get rehearsals and a performance by the professional Orpheus Vocal Ensemble
-You have about one private lesson with the teacher and around 5-8 hours masterclass
-You get to listen to the professional choir rehearse all the students pieces for three hours a day.
-If your are elected to the course it is for FREE and includes everything (lessons, living, breakfast, lunch, dinner and dinner). You have to book and pay your own travels to and from the course.

These are all courses I have attended, so now I will go on with other composer masterclasses and summer courses I would like to attend in the future. Obviously I don’t know so much about them as I haven’t been there, but just for some more ideas what’s out there! 

Courses I would like to attend:

The legendary summer course for contemporary music at Darmstadt takes place all evan years (next time 2018). It is both for performers and composers and a meeting point for all people interested in contemporary and avant garde music. It was founded in 1946 and if you read biographies of famous living composers, most of them have attended this course at least once.

I hope on continuing this list, so maybe I will edit it in the future, but enough for now! Good luck applying!

Sunday, 23 October 2016

Short update about me

Sunday October 23rd 2016.

Short update about me: I decided to take an other gap year from my master studies (in composition) at Malmö Academy of Music. I'm living in Helsinki and working as a freelance composer. At the moment I have five commissions: three choral pieces, one opera for children and one accordion concerto. I'm also studying my last year piano pedagogy of my second bachelor at Tampere University of Applied Sciences. Moreover I have started a new "hobby": musicology at Helsinki University. (And bought a gym card to Unisport as well, after an 8 years break of no sports! So proud of myself!) I'm also planning a super cool contemporary music festival for August 2017 with my friends from Tampering

My parents are now starting their "putkiremontti" (plumbing service) and are emptying their flat (with loads of my stuff in it). And soon (in November) I’ll also get a “putkiremontti” as well. Then (in January) I will move to a new flat (within Helsinki) and in September 2017 I will move back to Malmö to complete my masters in composition!

So if my friends don't see me during the next year or two I am either composing, practising piano, travelling by train to Tampere, sitting in a lecture of musicology, writing an essay, preparing for some exam, writing a grant application, doing yoga, or cleaning up some flat. 
So please don't be offended if I'm super terrible at answering messages and emails or just generally am a lousy friend, I'm sorry already!

Hope to see all my friends at my graduation, either in 2017 (piano, Tampere/Helsinki) or in 2018 (Master of Music, Malmö)! Until then, take care! 

Yours sincerely,

Cecilia xx

P.S. Also have some sunny days in sight: In December I’m going to Spain, as my new suite for accordion solo commissioned by Janne Valkeajoki will be premiered on his tour in northern Spain, which is super exciting!

Saturday, 16 January 2016

A Dream came true: Unborn premiered!

Saturday the 16th of January 2016. This week was the premiere of my orchestra piece Unborn, and it was absolutely wonderful!

I went by train to Jyväskylä already on Monday 11 January in the afternoon, and to my surprise quite many trains were fully booked, but I managed to get there before the snow storm broke out. (It wasn’t such a bad storm, but for some reason the trains in Finland stop working when there is a slight increase of snow… Which happens every year!) 

Jyväskylä town orchestra aka Jyväskylä Sinfonia had booked a room for me at the four star hotel Yöpuu. In the hotel every room is different and I had a really pretty room with beautiful wood furniture from the 19th century. For breakfast I had a hard time choosing what to eat, so I ate basically everything for not missing out on anything. It was really nice being in such a nice hotel, the only downside was that I felt like I was going bankrupt every time I ate something (a Sandwich, lunch or even a cup of tea!) that wasn’t included and paid for by myself. 

Dinner at Hotel Yöpuu in Jyäskylä 11.1.2016

Being a composer is so paradoxical. Without composers there wouldn’t exist any music to be played, but still it seems like composers are the ones who earn the least all of their life, even if they some day may get famous… I guess that is why so many composers try to be conductors as well, for surviving. And some also very successfully do both, like Gustav Mahler or Esa-Pekka Salonen. But there seems to be about one of them in every century.

The first rehearsal that I came to listen to (which actually was the third rehearsal for the orchestra) on Tuesday morning on the 12th of January was already a really good rehearsal and my piece sounded almost as I wanted it to sound. The conductor Ville Matvejeff had done a great job with my piece during the first two rehearsals. With only a few comments like “at rehearsal marks E and I the emotion should be more “hysterically energetic” and the woodwinds should maybe play fortissimo instead of forte” everything fell at once much better into place. I also had to ask all my glissandi to be played more slowly. But I have to say I was so relieved when I heard how well the first clarinet Gocho Prakov played his solo and all glissandi, because most people commented on my score when they saw the clarinet part “Are you sure this can be played?” and I said “Well, Martin Fröst played a Sörensen concerto with almost only glissandi in both directions” on which everyone responded “Yes but Fröst is Fröst…!”. So I was really happy that Prakov didn’t seem to have any difficulties either. After the orchestra had rehearsed my piece I told them the underlying story to the piece, and the whole orchestra said in one sad voice “aaaw“ (like the audience of the tv-show Friends). After my rehearsal I stayed and listened to the rest of the rehearsal, Sibelius Violin Concerto played by Petteri Iivonen and Brahms Third Symphony, while following the scores from my laptop (gotta love IMSLP!).

Ville Matvejeff conducting my piece Unborn, while I follow in my score.
Photo by @jklsinfonia 12.1.2016

Ville Matvejeff conducting the rehearsal of Jyväskylä Sinfonia, January 2016. 

After the rehearsal I had lunch with Matvejeff and Iivonen at the hotel restaurant and the rest of the afternoon and evening I spent composing my Melodrama which should be ready as soon as possible, and after that I went early to bed.

Wednesday the 13th of January, the day of the concert it was about ten degrees below zero (Centigrades) and quite a snow storm. The final rehearsal took place at the concert venue, which actually isn’t a concert venue at all but the main stage of the town theatre. Jyväskylä Sinfonia is one of the few town orchestras (along side with Lappeenranta town orchestra) that doesn’t have an “own” venue. The main hall of the town theatre only fits about 550 people, which means that the concerts of Jyväskylä Sinfonia are always sold out. This despite that the acoustics in the venue are terribly bad for classical concerts.

Final rehearsal of Unborn 13.1.2016. Ville Matvejeff conducting Jyväskylä Sinfonia.

 Jyväskylä is quite far away from other cities, it’s about a four-hour train ride from Helsinki. So this was the reason that my boyfriend was the only close person and family-member who came to listen to my premiere.

When I arrived at the concert venue I was happy to see one familiar face, the music critic Wilhelm Kvist from the newspaper Hufvudstadsbladet. He had come by train all the way from Helsinki for listening to this concert, which was very flattering!

My boyfriend and I had places on the third row at the end of the row, so that it was easy for me to go on stage and bow after the piece. I was very nervous during the premiere, but it went really well and I was so happy! I went up on stage and bowed once, the audience applauded politely long enough for me to bow and walk off stage.

My piece was followed by Sibelius Violin Concerto, which obviously was more in the taste of the audience, and Iivonen got to play two encores. In the break my boyfriend asked me “How do you feel now after the premiere??” and I honestly answered “…well, it feels a bit weird that I just had enough time to walk off stage before the applause ended…” and Janne answered “…well… you are a contemporary composer, you have to get used to it, that you aren’t as popular as Sibelius…” And I said “yeah, I guess my music has mainly been played at “contemporary concerts” and “contemporary festvals” where the audience likes contemporary music and even clap the composer back on stage, so I have just been living in my own little bubble”. With this said, it felt SO good when a random lady whom I walked by stopped me and told me that she really liked my piece, and her friends all agreed with her. While I was having a cup of tea a man was talking with his teen-age daughters and they were giggling and looking embarrassed and tried to stop the man, who also came up to me and thanked me for the piece. Maybe the daughters thought it was embarrassing to talk to a stranger? Maybe people think we composers “hear it all the time” that we compose well, that our music is good. But NO, WE DON’T! Too seldom people dare to come and give compliments to other people (at least in Finland), so dear readers; we composers for sure do need your encouragement! Because we are composing for YOU! I remember every one of the five people who came up to me after the concert and thanked me, every one of them warmed my heart and gave me one more reason to keep on composing.

After a nice second half with Brahms and a very short photo shoot, Iivonen, Mavejeff, Janne and I had a nice dinner at Restaurant Figaro. Even though Mavejeff has a career that is completely unbelievable for a conductor under the age of thirty, he is still a very humble and extremely nice person, so I’m not surprised that many like to work with him. Matvejeff was going to conduct an opera rehearsal the next morning in Turku, so he excused himself and didn’t join us for a drink at the bar but instead left, as he still had a 300-kilometre drive left to Turku in the snowstorm.

Petteri Iivonen, me and Ville Matvejeff after the concert in Jyväskylä 13.1.2016.
Photo by @jklsinfonia

I on the other hand had a good night’s sleep, went by train to Tampere, had lunch there and taught my pedagogical student, and then took a train back to Helsinki. (It was so much nicer to split up the four-hour train ride from Jyväskylä to Helsinki in two parts!) It feels funny that everything is already over, the premiere, it’s all over. Most of all I feel thankful and relieved everything went so well; that my scores were clear and the musicians were happy, the premiere went well, and I will have a review in Hufvudstadsbladet! What more could I wish for?

Tuesday, 5 January 2016

Autumn 2015

January 5th 2016. After a hectic spring and summer 2016 I have tried to do some downshifting and this laid back autumn has been exactly what I needed! 

So what have I been up to? I decided to take a gap-year from Malmö Academy of Music, because I couldn’t cope anymore with studying two degrees in two countries (a bachelor of piano in Finland and Masters in composition in Sweden). So this autumn I have pursued  my piano pedagogue degree in Tampere University of Applied Sciences while living in Helsinki at my parents place (for saving on living costs) and working on my freelance composition work. This autumn I have been working on my orchestra piece Unborn (2012-2015) that will be premiered by Jyväskylä Sinfonia on the 13th of January 2016 and also composing a melodrama commissioned by John Storgårds for the festival Sång och musikfesten 2016 to be premiered on the 11th of June 2016 in Kokkola. 

In the beginning of the autumn I also produced one concert for the festival Ung Nordisk Musik together with my friend and composer Dante Thelestam. And in November I was 12 days in Malmö for taking part of and helping to organise the contemporary music festival “Connect 2015 - The Apocalypse” organised by the composition department of Malmö Academy of Music. So I have been more or less in one place the whole autumn, which has been a really nice and welcome change. More over I have begun to sleep about 8h per night, which has correlated with feeling better and being a bit less ill, but also is a part reason to less blog posts.

Hoping to write more about all the events in separate blog posts, so once again being positive (or maybe just unrealistic?) about being back soon with my next post!