Finland is the theme for the XIX Kokkola Winter Accordion festival – the same year we celebrate our fine nation’s 100th year of independence. This year, you can see this theme throughout our program, and really get a sense of how we’ve made a diligent effort to recognize this very special anniversary in as many events as possible.
I want to especially emphasize a very special listing in this year’s program, “A night in the company of Mannerheim.” This event will find theater, music and food culminating in a single and extremely special evening. Mannerheim is of central importance to our Finnish history. It’s no wonder that no one has made a proper movie about him: to profile Mannerheim would require at least a ten-hour series.
The premier performance of Kalevi Aho´s accordion concert is going to be a special event. The same can be said about our seminar, where our experts will discuss with the public what the accordion means both today and during our one hundred years of independence. Veli Kujala´s new work for accordion and string quintet is another much-awaited debut, while Digi and Beat will open the door to an electronic world.
In what way is the accordion, our national instrument, connected to the independence-era? It is very much so – and in many surprising ways. During the 1930s, musicians were the kings of their time. You heard music everywhere. There wasn’t another instrument during the war that had the same importance as the accordion, both at the front and in general entertainment. The accordion and opera music together provided consolation to us. The soprano Aulikki Rautawaara and Esa Pakarinen brought this music to the hospitals.
The only Scandinavian accordion manufacturer has been situated in Kouvola.The mighty Kouvola accordion was a breakthrough concept and because of it the Finnish accordion evolved through the years. The accordion went on to gain significance as an art-form in the 1970s. During this time, the education, the development of the instrument, and the versatility and knowledge of the musicians grew to a whole new level. As a result, the accordion works composed by Finns are countless. The accordion has been like a field from where we have been able to sow seeds for a distinctive harvest. The same goes for our rich folk and jazz heritage.
Finland may be a small country, but it is the best in the world. The theme for the jubilee year Together (Yhdessä/tilsammans) is accurate. The strength of this country is unity – you pull together.
Thanks to our sponsors, to our worker-ants and to our loyal public. The upcoming festival is to celebrate Finland. And then next comes another important year: the 20th anniversary of Winter Accordion.