As the heatwave hit Helsinki and our apartment building decided that it was an appropriate time to turn into a greenhouse due to facade renovations done to it, this lady packed her bags, charged the camera, hoisted the laptop in its satchel and took the direction far, far, far the hell away from all the racket and splendid cacophony resembling dubstep gone horribly wrong that occurs when the drill hits concrete. Murder was becoming a justified option to placate my eardrums. Not that yours truly is all foreign to the infernal odes of men and machinery as working in construction sights is familiar, but when not working at the sight one rarely wants to have anything to do with it. Hence the swift escape away from Helsinki.
The grand tour went via the exhibition of William Kentridge that's currently happening in EMMA, Espoo Museum of Modern Art (a gorgeous experience to re-acquaint myself with at some point) to Turku. There, beside writing the thesis, I found myself seeing the past capital in a different light. Wandering through the nature preservation areas, by the sea-sides, and seeing the old architecture that I haven't even considered to exist in that city, made the heart grow fonder towards the place. Not to mention strolling down the well-known river-side of the river Aura and watching the swallows fly above our heads while enjoying tea on the balcony were the perfect little cherries turned into jam and eaten on a toast with some good Woojeon on the side. In any case, if you haven't visited the small city yet, I dare you to.
But, as the title of this post tells, this text isn't about the wonders of Western Finland, but the festivities that happen in a tiny town with circular city plan in Eastern Finland. Namely Hamina, the town where this lady grew up to be what the legends tell nowadays and where just last summer I had a co-exhibition with a dear friend. Growing up in a town where the constant presence of the Finnish Defence Forces is part of everyday life gives its own impact on, say, how one carries herself, how one likes to dress up remarkably like an officer (and has the presence of one to boot) and, as it goes for this post, grows to enjoy military music.
Hamina Tattoo, as some could think, has nothing to do with having some ink put on the skin for creating an image of a busty pin-up holding a flag with written hommage to anyone deserving having their name associated with scantily dressed women, but with bands of men and women playing the march music, symphonies and their most popular music pieces under their country's flag while wearing uniforms under the hot sun. The event was started in 1990, when a few active members of the military, music circles and travelling agencies decided to put their heads together and create something that would bring life to the sleepy harbor city and at the sime time honor the history of Hamina, which is a town that was founded on active army working there. The only things that I can remember from those early days of this festival that came to be, is that the first times were held in a huge hall in the harbor and seeing the Chinese military band, the sight of their fire red uniforms and yellow accent colors being etched in the memory of the little girl sitting and staring at the soldiers in the audience.
|The Guards Band, Finland|
In any case, despite the time passing and the society changing around us, the tradition still holds its ground and has now grown into a full week of festivities celebrated throughout the town. During the years, certain nations have established their role as the backbone of the festival, namely the American, British, Russian and German bands that visit Hamina Tattoo when they have the opportunity to do so, as well it has become a custom to have a few other bands from different countries each time, not to mention presenting the bands of the Finnish Defence Forces, such as the bands from the Navy, the Air Forces and so on. Beside the actual marching shows that present all of the bands visiting Hamina, there have always been concerts held in parks and market squares, so that the inhabitants and the occasional tourists can enjoy the music whenever possible without it being limited only to those willing to pay for the symphonic delights.
This time we had the pleasure to hear music from the spectacular and talented musicians of Heeresmusikkorps Koblenz from Germany, Western Military District Headquarters Band from Russia, The Combined Bands of the Lancashire Artillery and the Duke of Lancaster's Regiment serving the British menu, His Majesty The King's Guard from Norway (not only playing good music, these fellows know how to twirl a rifle while moving in formation), The Japan Ground Self-Defence Force Central Band which is the elite ensemble that usually accompanies the emperor and therefore this was their first time performing in Europe, and, of course, the Finnish bands which were the Guards Band, The Air Force Band, The Conscript Band of the Finnish Defence Forces, The Navy Band, The Lapland Military Band and The Dragoon Band.
|Western Military District Headquarters Band, Russia|
|His Majesty The King's Guard, Norway|
|The Conscript Band of the Finnish Defence Forces, Finland|
|The Combined Bands of The Lancashire Artillery and the Duke of Lancaster's Regiment, Great Britain|
|Heeresmusikkorps Koblenz, Germany|
|The taiko drums belonging to the Japan Ground Self-Defence Force Central Band|
Furthermore, not only were there concerts in the park and the actual venue tent designed for the marching shows, this year the organizers surprised the public by managing to engage the old gardens of the old fortress town to the festival as well, giving an opportunity to both the bands to play in rather intimate atmospheres in different settings and the townspeople to visit and see the secret sides of the old houses that are part of the town's history. Like so many others, yours truly hopes that the experiment will continue to be developed further, as it was a splendid way to spend the day sitting in the gardens and listening to the music designed to make the sunlight and heat feel a bit more tolerable.
Also, to those doubting if they would like to spend a whole week dedicated to all kinds of marching music and stoic performances of mind-blowing accuracy with rifles and such without going slightly crazy and waking up with Karelia Suite III Alla Marcia ringing in their heads, it's a pleasure to assure that the music played in Hamina Tattoo is never restricted only to militarian aspects of notation and top notch drum solo. The bands are more than eager to show their skills with various ensembles diving into the diversity of both classical and popular music, as was seen and heard during the perfect performance of the japanese music corps conducted by colonel Akira Takeda and by some smaller ensembles of the said band. To the ones curious for what they played, search for the musician Taro Hakase and the song Jounetsu Tairiku. If an opportunity ever arises, do go and hear it for yourselves what it sounds like when eleven military bands are brought into one tiny town for a full week and then being told to go creative.
All being said, the escape tour from Helsinki continues when tomorrow morning in early dawn a certain little lady takes her route towards a certain little town that's located right between Germany and Denmark. But first off, the evening tea is in order.