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Concordia Language Villages: Weekend at Salolampi gives orchestra time to concentrate on Sibelius’ music

The Concordia Orchestra of Concordia College spent last weekend at Concordia Language Villages studying the life and performing the works of Finland’s most beloved composer, Jean Sibelius. Submitted Photo

By Sheldon Green

Special to the Pioneer

BEMIDJI – The snowy woods and authentic architecture of Salolampi, the Finnish Language Village, became an idyllic setting for a weekend workshop by The Concordia Orchestra of Concordia College, Moorhead.

The orchestra retreated last weekend to Salolampi, on Turtle River Lake near Bemidji, to study the life and perform the works of Finland’s most beloved composer, Jean Sibelius.

Concordia Language Villages, which provides language and cultural immersion programming in 15 languages, is a program of Concordia College.

The retreat was centered on five aspects of Finnish life – Sibelius, Salolampi, Suomi, sauna and sisu, said Amy Tervola Hultberg, dean of the Finnish Village. Suomi is the Finnish name for Finland, sauna is a national passion and sisu is the uniquely Finnish spirit of persevering against all odds.

A weekend at Salolampi gave the orchestra time to concentrate on Sibelius’ music while experiencing typical Finnish culture and inspiration from the landscape.

“Salolampi is such an amazing place, the whole experience fits our needs perfectly,” said Foster Beyers, conductor of the orchestra.

The orchestra’s rigorous on-campus rehearsal schedule doesn’t allow much time for in-depth study of a composer’s life and work, Beyers said. But at Salolampi, the ensemble had ample time to concentrate on Sebelius and his music. The orchestra also heard a lecture on Sibelius’ career and watched a movie about his life.

“The life of the composer is found in his music,” Beyers said. “So it’s important to get together and experience the music and explore it in some depth. Being here gives us a chance to step back and do that.”

Beyers said Sibelius was a landscape composer, and much of what is in nature is reflected in his music.

“The Finnish people relate to Sibelius so well because his music is so closely connected with nature,” Beyers said. “When you walk in the woods here you’ll start to connect many of the sounds you’ll hear in his music. The sound of a branch falling is recreated by the tympani, or the sound of the wind whipping through the trees is much like the first movement of his fifth symphony.”

The orchestra will perform Sibelius’ most famous work, “Finlandia,” Feb. 2 in Moorhead on, and the fifth symphony Feb. 15 in Minneapolis for the Minnesota Music Educators Association Midwinter Clinic.

At Salolampi the orchestra performed both works in a mini-concert for Language Villages employees after two days of concentrated rehearsal.