Finland or bust

Representatives from the Marquette Area Sister Cities Partnership, Marquette City Band and Marquette Choral Society gather for a recent press conference announcing upcoming July performances of both the band and choral society in Finland. The groups will offer a joint concert in Kajaani, Finland, a sister city of Marquette. Fundraising efforts for travel expenses are under way. (Photo by Jackie Stark)

Representatives from the Marquette Area Sister Cities Partnership, Marquette City Band and Marquette Choral Society gather for a recent press conference announcing upcoming July performances of both the band and choral society in Finland. The groups will offer a joint concert in Kajaani, Finland, a sister city of Marquette. Fundraising efforts for travel expenses are under way. (Photo by Jackie Stark)

by Jackie Stark

Marquette City Band and Marquette Choral Society to perform abroad

Come July, a number of local musicians and singers will trade in the familiar Marquette lakeshore for the scenic vistas offered by Kajaani, Finland.

They’ll do so as part of the Marquette Choral Society and Marquette City Band, as the groups are staging a combined trip to Marquette’s Finnish sister city with plans to perform in various locations around the country, including a joint performance in Kajaani.

“It’s so exciting that our two groups are able to do this, and we’re looking forward to it,” said Stephen Grugin, director of the Marquette City Band. “Mark you calendar. It’s coming up in July.”

The band and choral society will be in Finland at the same time in July, though their tours will take them different places, as different venues compliment their two styles of performance.

The Marquette City Band will perform at Rock Church in Helsinki, as part of the Lieksa Brass Festival in Lieksa, in the market place of the city of Kuopio and on the lawn at the Maritime Museum in Turku.

Performances for the Marquette Choral Society will be in the Sigyn Hall of the Turku Conservatory of Music in Turku, in Trinity Church in Vaasa, in the cathedral at Oulu and at Rock Church in Helsinki.

The old town hall building in Kajaani, Finland is pictured. The Marquette City Band and Marquette Choral Society are travelling to Finland in July, planning several performances around the country, including one joint performance in Kajaani, a sister city of Marquette.

The band and choral society will also give a joint performance in Kajaani at the Kaukametsa auditorium in Kajaani’s cultural center.

With a contingent of roughly 80 people, this will be the largest single trip from Marquette to its Finnish sister city since the relationship was established 20 years ago. And the trip has already garnered interest from other people who may want to go along at the same time as the band and choral society.

“It will be quite a compliment to our city to have more people becoming part of the sister city program,” said Paulette Lindberg, vice chairwoman of the Marquette Sister City Partnership. “It’s a growing and viable city over there, as we are here in Marquette … Kajaani is a lovely, lovely town.”

Erin Colwitz, director of the choral society, said the trip will likely forge lasting bonds among choral society members who are able to go.

“All performances for choruses that are abroad are really red-letter events for any choral member when you sing with an ensemble,” Colwitz said. “They change you forever. They bond you together forever, so I’m really looking forward to performing with this ensemble, bringing some of our American music to Finland.”

Colwitz said the group is planning to sing mostly American-composed music, though it is also rehearsing a set of Finnish-composed music. Both sets will be sung during the choral society’s spring concert. The Marquette City Band will also perform its set for the Finland trip during a June concert in Marquette.

Colwitz said a portion of the Kalevala is also being translated for the trip. The Kalevala is a 19th-century work of epic poetry, regarded as a national epic of Finland and one which played an instrumental role in forming the national identity of Finland.

“This will become a friendship moment with our Finnish audiences,” Colwitz said.

The Marquette City Band performs in the bandshell in Presque Isle Park. (Photo courtesy of the Marquette City Band).

During the 20-year sister city relationship, a number of contingents have made the trek across the ocean, both from Kajaani to Marquette and vice versa.

Fred and Kathy Maynard will take the trip as part of the Marquette Choral Society. Kathy sings alto and Fred sings tenor. However, Fred is also a member of the Marquette City Band, playing first clarinet. He will perform with both groups in Finland.

“When we get to Kajaani, I can play in both concerts. They’ll have to fight over me,” he joked.

Kathy, though, is the Finn in the family, with her roots stretching back to Finland in areas near the eastern Russian border. The trip with the music groups offered the couple a chance to finally make the visit.

“We’ve never been and we always wanted to go, so what a great opportunity,” Fred said.

The pair is also hoping to catch up with a family from Kajaani they hosted during a previous Finn Fest.

“We’re going to write to them. We still get Christmas cards from them, so this year, we’re going to say, ‘We’re coming to see you, finally.’ They’ve been inviting us,” Fred said, with both he and Kathy adding they were “thrilled” to be going.

Both Colwitz and Bruce Larson, president of the Marquette Choral Society, said the trip would make a large impact on those that are able to be part of it.

“For those of you who have traveled abroad, particularly those that have traveled abroad when you were young, it can be a life-changing experience. I know it was in my life,” said Bruce Larson, president of the Marquette Choral Society. “We’re talking about some life-changing experiences here … some real cultural giving and taking, receiving and sharing.”

The band and choral society are currently raising funds to help cover the travel costs of taking such a large group abroad. About half of the $50,000 fundraising goal has already been met. Those interested in donating to the trip, thereby allowing members of the city band and choral society who may not otherwise be able to afford to go the chance to, can mail checks made out to “Marquette City Band Finland Tour” to the Marquette City Band and Choral Society, Box 777, Marquette, MI 49855.

“The music will be wonderful and I think anyone who is going to participate in going or learning more about this will only add greater enjoyment in their lives,” Lindberg said.

Visit www.marquettecityband.com for more information on the Marquette City Band, and the Facebook pages of both the Marquette Choral Society and Marquette Area Sister Cities Partnership for more information on either of those organizations.

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