Tarja Turunen hasn’t been seen as much as her fans might like in Finland ever since her split with Nightwish. However, nearly every year she does a church tour of joulukonsertit (Christmas concerts) throughout her home country. Musicalypse went to Sibeliustalo in Lahti on December 4th to have a look at what Christmas music is like in Finland.
Full disclosure: I hate Christmas music. If I’m being perfectly honest, it was my naïvety that brought me to this show – I was hoping for her own band performing music from What Lies Beneath. It’s not an album that I consider groundbreaking by any means, but I do enjoy it. And since I never saw her with Nightwish, it just seemed like a good idea to go see one of her shows the first opportunity I could get.
As such, I was surprised to see Tarja accompanied by a percussionist, a guitarist, and an organist when they all took the stage. Right off the bat, I knew that in spite of being at a Christmas concert, I was going to enjoy myself. For starters, the Finnish Christmas songs were a breath of fresh air. It could have something to do with the fact that I don’t actually know any of them, but the music was brilliant and the songs didn’t annoy me the way North American Christmas music is bound to. And Tarja was just unreal. Her voice was crisp and perfectly pitched. It was actually cool to see her without a full band backing her so her voice could be experienced on a new level, as it was focused on emphasizing her sound, not mixing with it.
The accompanying musicians were great too – the guitarist looked like he might be a rocker at heart but was holding back for the sanctity of the event, or whatever. He was clearly having a great time and was really into the music, having fun, smiling, and even being a bit silly at times. The percussionist was in complete control of his full range of instruments, from the drums to the chimes, and appeared so practiced and confident. And of course, the guy on the organ was fantastically Phantom of the Opera, in the best sort of way. It was in his cool control and sort of epic playing. Hard to explain, but he was great too. It was nice that they each had their own solo segments to play as well – I would have expected some sort of festive music, but apparently Finnish Christmas music is dark and ambient, weird as hell, but totally brilliant. I was shocked and thrilled by it.
And to top things off, Tarja did a Finnish rendition of “Silent Night” as an encore, naturally improved by its Finnish lyrics that I could not understand, and “Walking in the Air” (which I was not aware was from a Christmas movie, The Snowman), complete with ‘snow’ falling around her while she sang – so cool!
Ultimately, the show was kind of short and just a bit expensive if I’m being honest, but it was a worthwhile experience and I would consider going again someday. It was great to get the opportunity to hear Tarja’s classical best, and I would recommend seeing her perform to anyone. She is quite phenomenal.
1. Heinillä härkien
2. Ave Maria Op. 80 (Luigi Luzzi)
3. Varpunen jouluaamuna (Zacharias Topelius)
4. Maa on niin kaunis
5. Concert Etude
6. En etsi valtaa loistoa (Jean Sibelius)
7. Arkihuolesi kaikki heitä
8. Improvisations on Christmas Themes
9. Ave Maria (Franz Schubert)
10. You Would Have Loved This (Cori Connors)
11. Astral Bells
12. Ave Maria (Francesco Paolo Tosti)
13. Walking in the Air (Howard Blake)
14. Jouluyö, Juhlayö (Silent Night) (Joseph Mohr & Franz Gruber)