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April 23 – rewards

The one great thing about this profession is that things start and they end in fairly quick succession. I mean that in comparison to other jobs I have done, like teaching, not to mention administration, where the long grind is punctuated by weekends and holidays. At times I wish there would an even stronger sense of closure followed by some completely free time. Most of the time there is a mini-closure (project done and after-concert dinner digested) and the next day, it is something else.

Today, that something is planning and studying a new score (Mahler VIII in which both Kampin Laulu and Spira will be involved in late August). And an Akademen rehearsal in the evening, for which I need to prepare a little.

Akademen sings every May 1 at about ten in the morning in Kaisaniemi park in Helsinki. This tradition is age-old and a favourite of mine. Literally, it goes by the name Akademen sings in the spring. The first song starts with the words: Winter has been defeated. It is a celebration of the new season and life, in which the present-day choir is joined by generations of alumni, many of whom have greeted the coming of summer in this way for decades. It is not exactly a serious artistic event, but it is broadcast nationally, so you do want it to sound reasonably fresh. This is not a given, as the previous evening is Walburgis’ eve, a notorious feast with plenty of alcohol consumed and the broadcast starts before ten… Fortunately, not only my own observations, but also studies show that young people drink much less than they used to!

The weather is actually very May 1 like today. It is sunny, but very cool, with temperatures under 10 celsius. I went for a jog last Thursday in shorts – no chance of that happening today.

***

I wrote a mail to Kampin Laulu today thanking them for the Saturday concert. I made the observation that when a (good) choir does something novel and ambitious, it somehow moves from the realm of amateur music onto the arts scene. It is taken seriously; it becomes visible. I feel this is extremely rewarding not only for me (after all, this is what I have chosen to do with my life…), but also for the singers. And this aim to give the singers something to be proud of drives me on.

I have long thought that there are two kinds of ambition: outer and inner ambition. Outer ambition is to be respected by peers, win critical acclaim and prizes, even achieve some sort of fame (although if that is what you primarily wish for, choose another line of work;). Inner ambition is the desire to do everything as well as possible, to continuously develop, to be something of a Mensch. Everyone needs the acceptance of peers, critics and the audience, but I have found that all that comes if you do your work well. It might take time, but it will come.

***

Akademen seems to have taken a leap forward thanks to the crazy amount of work we did before the big concert. It is incredibly rewarding to notice that the singers can carry what they learned into other material, even really traditional repertoire. I think of all the times I have in desperation thought that all the work I do is water off the duck’s back, and smile quietly. This is as good as it gets.

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