Alex Freeman, Candominon 50-vuotistilauksen säveltäjä
Sateen jälkeen is the fifth poem of Aaro Hellaakoski I have set for choir. I knew I would set his work again for this project, but I had begun with a vision of a small collection or cycle of poems that would echo a Suomi 100 theme more broadly, spanning from Kanteletar to at least one poem written in the last decade. Once I settled on Sateen jälkeen being the final text for the set, having an idea of an atmospheric, nature-centric, peaceful ending, I began trying to piece together a narrative or coherent set of poems that would logically end where this one does. This was challenging, owing partly to needing to spend a lot more time with a poem in Finnish than I might with one in my native language. On the one hand, I gained at least a passing knowledge of a much broader range of Finnish poetry than I had previously had; on the other hand, progress was very slow at first.
But I was sure about wanting Sateen jälkeen to be part of the piece and I knew I wanted it to end the set, so I kept chipping away at what kind of work would really translate my own connection to it. I think the questions that guide me in this process are always, “why am I drawn to this poem and, if someone gives me their attention long enough to listen to my music, how can I be as sure as possible that they will walk away with at least a piece of that?”
The combination of a slow realisation that four to five minutes at the end of a three or four song set was not going to be enough time to encompass that, along with a series of breathtaking, sun-drenched, rainbow-filled afternoons at my in-laws’ summer cottage, after unusually intense thunderstorms this past summer, finally lead me to understand what I was working with. This was not a last movement; this was the piece. I had more or less decided this even before I drove back from Kukkia-järvi, in the heart of Häme, to Espoo, leaving my mini-vacation behind to work on it. But I should add that chasing a double rainbow for about half of that trip home may have been the clincher.
When I encountered Hellaakoski’s poetry for the first time in winter of 2003, I had experienced just enough Finnish nature, just enough kaamosta, ulpukoita, korentoja, and koivun lehtiä, to compose my Neljä Laulua Aaro Hellaakosken Runoihin for Hämäläis-Osakunnan Laulajat (also conducted by Esko Kallio) and feel like I was saying something personal. A good friend in the choir, Reeta Holma, gave me a pile of poems she thought I would like, each with a brief English summary, to help me along; the Hellaakoski jumped right out at me. In 2017, I guess a couple of anomalously heavy thunderstorms and some rainbows were enough to tap back into that.
As I stepped out of Music Finland’s offices a few weeks ago with my first printed complete score of this piece, right there, in the middle of Helsinki on an October afternoon? A rainbow. Coincidence? Well, yeah. But it was kind of a nice moment.
Thank you, Candomino, for your 50-year role in the choral world that has opened innumerable doors for me in Finland as a composer and as a human being. I hope my contribution adds something memorable to your celebration!
Freemanin kappaleen kantaesitys 18.11.2017 klo 17 Espoon kulttuurikeskuksen Tapiolasalissa – Candomino 50 vuotta.
Alex Freeman (s. 1972) on Suomeen asettunut yhdysvaltalainen säveltäjä. Freeman on opiskellut Eastman School of Musicissa, Bostonin yliopistossa ja Juilliard School of Musicissa sekä Fullbright -stipendiaattina Sibelius-Akatemiassa. Sävellystä hän on opiskellut mm. Eero Hämeenniemen johdolla. Hänen kamarimusiikkiteoksiaan ja kuoromusiikkiaan esitetään säännöllisesti Yhdysvalloissa ja Suomessa. Freeman on työskennellyt viime vuodet Suomen Kulttuurirahaston, Svenska Kulturfondenin ja Taiken apurahojen turvin.