“It’s my first time to perform in Canada and I’m really excited and looking forward to it so much,” Holmberg, also a musician and poet, told Eye on the Arctic in a phone interview.
“I hope we can give a special moment to [the audience].”
Luovus: Symphony for Yoik and Chamber Orchestra, by Finnish composer Roope Mäenpää, is one of three pieces of Finnish classical music to be performed by Canada’s National Arts Centre Orchestra, along with Symphony No. 3 in C major, Op. 52 by Jean Sibelius and Cantus Arcticus: Concerto for Birds and Orchestra by Einojuhani Rautavaara.
Joik (also sometimes written as ‘yoik’ in English) is a musical tradition from the Sami, an Arctic Indigenous people whose homeland stretches through Arctic Norway, Sweden and Finland and on to the Kola Peninsula in Russia.
“Joik is a very specific way of music and a very specific tradition that’s about more than singing, it’s about many other things including communication and expression,” Holmberg said. “People have personal joiks. Animals have joiks. Places have joiks.
“Musically, [Luovus] a celebration of joik, and is about the balance of creation and relinquishment, both in [art] and in life.”
‘An adventure for the listener’
Luovus was commissioned by Finnish conductor John Storgårds and had its premier in Finland with the Lapland Chamber Orchestra, where Storgårds was artistic director.“When Roope composed this piece I was enthusiastic,” Storgårds, now the principal guest conductor of the National Arts Centre Orchestra and chief conductor of the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra. said.
“Niillas is a very charismatic soloist and artist. The composition is quite a rare and special thing and an adventure for everyone, including the listener.”
Joik and symphony in conversation
Mäenpää and Holmberg know each other from high school and had previously collaborated on contemporary singing and songwriting projects.
Holmberg said that laid the groundwork for collaborating on the joik.
“I would not do this sort of collaboration with anyone,” he said.
“The reason I felt comfortable working with [Roope Mäenpää] was because we’d been working together for fifteen years before creating this piece. I knew that Roope, even though he’s not a Sami himself, was familiar with the joik tradition musically, so I knew this collaboration could work.”
Mäenpää said there’s great power in having classical music in conversation together with joik.
“In the joik, there is no beginning and no ending, it’s like the whole world in the joik singing,” he said. “And for me I feel that same way about the symphony, that it contains the whole universe.”
Write to Eilís Quinn at email@example.com
Related stories from around the North:
Canada: Short NFB film tells story of trailblazing Inuk teacher in Labrador, Eye on the Arctic
Finland: Project to educate Finnish students about Sami needs to be permanent: Youth Council, Eye on the Arctic
Norway: Sami-led project seeks to revitalize Indigenous education across Europe, Eye on the Arctic
Sweden: Award-winning novel set in Sapmi to get Netflix treatment, Eye on the Arctic
United States: How Inuit culture helped unlock power of classical score for Inupiaq violinist, Eye on the Arctic