Singing Finland

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Finland, at Joensuu

We begin here a series of articles in the category « A sung World tour ». This series will include thematic articls, with every time, a capture of the choral singing in a country. Then, you are curious to know what is happening at our ground neighbor? Finland opens the ball!

Present in all the past or present populations and cultures, the singing is certainly one of things which we can consider as universal. The variations appear with the history and the culture of the country, the importance granted to the vocal expression, all these factors which creates a culture common to the country while being the sum of million unique expressions. The purpose of this article is to appreciate this at once unique and universal dimension of the singing, on the scale of a country, Finland. Let us look at first closer at this country, before approaching the question of the choral singing.


What do you know about Finland ?

When we think of Finland, it doubtless evokes snowy forests, wooden houses, fair persons, auroras borealis and sleigh pulled by dogs… Finland, it is at first this territory, in the North of Europe, size of half of France:

338 000 km2, that 5,27 inhabitants divide up, in other words there is for each, some place :). Finland includes several big cities of which the most known is naturally the capital Helsinki, situated everything in the South of the country. The territory extends on both sides of the polar circle (which passes at Rovaniemi), and its North constitutes a part of the Lapland.

We call it « The country of the thousand lakes », frozen in winter, carrying the small boats near cottages, in summer. We still call it the country of the sauna, and it is not few to say, because every house possesses one, for one or several sessions of sweating at 100°c in a week. And we can see sometimes then in front of our hallucinated eyes people diving into a hole dug in the ice-cold lake.

Crédits : http://www.finlandonline.or

Did you know that the phone operator Nokia is Finnish? Ah yes also! For Norman, sorry to say it but Finn do not come from Vikings and are not thus your cousins. Indeed Finland is not a part of Scandinavia in the strict sense of the word 😉 (Norway, Sweden, Denmark), even if it is included in a wider sense. This country with which the history fills its music.


History and Politic

A brief outline of the Finnish history, this country has for border neighbors Sweden and Russia (and Norway), and these two countries not only occupied Finland successively, but also led their quarrels on this territory – _-. Occupied by the Kingdom of Sweden during the Middle Ages and until XIXth century, it passes under the sovereignty of Russia in 1809. Finland obtains its independence, during the Russian revolutionary events, on December 6th, 1917, today the national holiday. Even under foreign dominion, it is a country which knew how to protect its identity, its language and its traditions.

But she is not got out of trouble with her Russian neighbor yet, who attacks(affects) him(it) in 1939,  » The winter war « , with for conclusion a peace treaty in 1940 at the price(prize) of important territorial losses. This fight(wrestling) against the Russians makes of Finland an ally a priori of Germany within the framework of the Second World War. Passer-by of the offensive in a new peace treaty, Finland will pay a high price for this war and will take(bring) out of it ruined and ravaged, but kept(preserved) its independence.

At the political level, Finland is a parliamentary democracy. The president has less importance than the government, and that Prime Minister thus. In Finland, women have the power, as much at the political level as in households. I introduce you Tarja Halonen, the current President:

But, will say to me, we have henceforth a brief outline of Finland, but we still have not spoken about the choral singing! Good you ask, we are now going to approach some Finnish music generally, then specifically the choral singing :).


Tradition musicale

Finn are quite silent people, who can seem distant but who are rather honest and pure people. And when you are their friend, it is for the life. They are very attached to the nature. It is necessary to say that even cities seem taken out of the forest (68 % of the territory), which is never very far. See the squirrels having a walk in the city center! And so the Finnish music is an ode in the Nature, the metaphors of which allow the expression of the feelings.

Et voici la traduction d’un chant traditionnel (chanté par le Tapiolan Kuoro dont nous parlerons plus tard ;)) :

And here is the translation of a traditional song (sung by Tapiolan Kuoro about which we shall speak later;)):

Pinkkulinnun ylistys

Pikkulintu riemuissaan
laulelevi onneaan.
Ei hän jouda kaivamaan
eikä suremaan.

Herättyään oksallaan
alkaa kohta laulella
vaikkei tiedä ruuastaan.
Laulaa sentään vaan.

Kuullos linnun laulua,
katso kohti taivasta !
Surut kulkee kulkuaan,
laula sinä vaan !

The eulogy of a small bird / A small excited bird / sang its happiness. / It does not have time to dig / nor having sorrow. / having woken up on its branch / it begins to sing / Without even knowing if it has something to eat. / Nevertheless it sings. / Listen to the singing of a bird, / Look towards the sky! / The sorrows take their roads, / Sing however!


The cornerstone of the national identity and the Finnish music, it is Kalevala, composed by Elias Lönnrot. It is an assembly of popular poems, telling the Finnish epic through legends and myths. Ce Kalevala influenced and influences the Finnish artists.

The band MeNaistet sings « Viinarattihin rakastuin », folkloric poem and song which follow Kalevala measure. Crédits : kantelar


The Finnish music, it is naturally the composer Jean Sibelius, who imposed his talent between XIXth and XXth century, with the big resentment of the other composers. He symbolizes the revival of the Finnish national identity, and wrote the very famous hymn  » Finlandia « .

Jean Sibelius

But what would be the singing without the language in which it is expressed? Finnish is a language to part, it is not an Indo-European language, but finnish-hungariansami , such as the Hungarian, the sami languages (Lapp peoples) or also the Estonian. Its r rolled and its accentuation make it as a « melodious language ».

Of tradition in modernity, how does Finland keep alive its music, and more particularly, what interests us today, its polyphonic singing?


Musical Education

The culture cannot exist without political will, and in Finland all the parties, from left to right, support music schools. It is necessary to say that during the process which led to its independence in 1917, the culture and the arts were seen as prerequisites for an autonomous nation. The right to education musical is recognized as a human being right.

Let us specify that the Finnish educational system is recognized as one of the best of the world even the best, then by logic the musical education is good also ;). It is in particular thanks to a principle of equality of opportunity, to a choice, a modularity in the studies, the more flexible schedules, the little filled classes, also by an interactivity between the professors and the pupils, a relative independence of establishments and new educational methods. It meets at the level of the musical studies.

The point to be memorize of this Finnish education, is that the pupils, from the primary school to the high school, benefit from 1 hour of choral singing a week, and of 1 to 2 hours of music.

There are 99 music schools in Finland. The instruction of the music has for objective to support the emotional development of the pupils, to strengthen their personality, and to stimulate their creativity and their social skills. The purpose is to guide them towards a long-lasting commitment with the music, towards a constructive activity produced by themselves, and as member of a group.

Here is an interview of Timo Klemettinen, director of the Association of the Finnish Music schools, which gives us an overview of the musical education in Finland.

Les vidéos Vodpod ne sont plus disponibles.La vidéo dure environ 7 min, et non 39 comme indiqué.

Well then in Finland, the education is good, the practice of music is encouraged, and the singing is here, shows « joululaulu » (= Christmas carols) that they sing with family before Christmas, or also this television program, Kuorosota, not really good in my point of niew ^^, where choirs are on competition And concretely, who makes the Finnish choral singing today?


Who makes the choral singing nowadays ?

I noticed with surprise the significant number of Finnish choirs which came to Polyfollia. It was then necessary to me to answer this question, was it by favoritism or par excellence? 😉 A false question naturally, and we can quote in the first one the group Rajaton, which came to Polyfollia 2004, very popular on the earth of the thousand lakes.

« Tonttu » ( Gnome of Christmas). Not been able to avoid put it there, it is my favorite song of them ^^
Crédits : missischerry94

Les Polyfollia’s lovers connaissent également Emo Ensemble,. Je vous laisse découvrir ou redécouvrir ces groupes par vous-mêmes, histoire que cet article ne soit pas plus long qu’il ne l’est déjà.

Of lovers Polyfollia also know Emo Ensemble, Club For Five, Philomela, and Talla. I let you discover or rediscover these groups by yourselves, so that this article will be not longer than it is it already.


But the Finnish choral singing nowadays, it is also Ylioppilaskunnan Laulajat, YL for the close friends, translate: men’s chorus of the university of Helsinki.


It is the oldest chorus which sings in Finnish language. Pioneer on the subject, and collaborating with the best orchestras and the leaders of chorus of the world. Only that! You will find more information on their official website. And Finlandia sung by them, here is what that gives:

Crédits : VitunNimimerkki

As for the singing by childish voice, the best of the genre in Finland is called Tapiolan Kuoro.

Ce chœur a été fondé il y a 47 ans, et est un des plus connus et meilleurs chœurs d’enfants au monde. Les critiques musicales parlent du « Son Tapiola », distinctif des autres. Les 70 membres sont âgés de 9 à 18 ans. Sur leur site officiel, on peut écouter/voir cette vidéo :

This choir was established 47 years ago, and is one of more known and children’s better choruses in the world. The musical criticisms speak about « Tapiola sound », distinctive from the others. 70 members are from 9 to 18 years old. On their official website, we can listen to / see this video:

Les vidéos Vodpod ne sont plus disponibles. Crédits : site officiel

And fortunate youngs benefited from a singing lesson during the passage of Tapiola in France!

Crédits : letransfo

I invite you to discover these Finnish choirs on YouTube:

Philomela …………………………………………………………Rajaton
Talla ……………………………………………………….Club For Five
Tapiola Choir ………………………………………….Emo Ensemble
Ylioppilaskunnan Laulajat


An information which I was not able to find, it is the number of choirs in Finland. But given that the children are in the bath since the primary school, given that it is not square to sing Christmas carols and given that there is numerous excellent choruses, I make the supposition there are a lot. Moreover my Finnish friend passed on to me this web page, of Sibelius Academy (unique music university in Finland and one of the biggest of Europe), which lists all the Finnish choirs which possesses a web site. So, it’s time to conclude the friends.


Finland, earth of choral singing

On this earth where it is difficult to live by the harshness of the winter and the rarity of plantations, Finn built up to themselves a temperament at once proud and quiet. Strong of a new independence, it is in their language hard and soft, with a heart filled with the history and with this snow which recovers everything, that the wonderful singing rises, to tell us what cannot be told.



Sources :, wikipedia,, moi, Tiina, sites officiels des groupes, france 3,,



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