Suddenly it is February. For three months I have written posts for this blog in my head only. It is not because I had not attended cultural events, on the contrary.
But before tackling the concerts and exhibitions of this year, let me have a look back, to year 2014. It ended with Philip Glass. If you have ever attended his concerts you are able to appreciate my cultural endurance on New Year’s Eve: to make more space in the digibox we listened and watched “Einstein on the Beach”, recorded at the Théâtre du Châtelet, Paris, on January 7th, 2014 and shown live on Mezzo Tv Channel.
The opera, composed in 1976, lasts nearly five hours with no intermissions. The audience is invited to wander in and out at liberty during performances, which we did at home, too. In spite of its strangeness, the opera was a fine, even elevated way to end last year.
Veterans of blues and rock
Thinking of musical experiences of 2014, it seems it was a year of nostalgy. The list of veterans of rock and blues visiting Helsinki and Espoo includes John Mayall at Circus, Pat Metheny Unity Group at Finlandia Hall, Peter Gabriel at Hartwall Arena, Hugh Masekela at World Village, Stevie Wonder at Kaisaniemi Park.
In the beginning of June there was a unique chance to hear blues by living legends, when Billy Boy Arnold, John Primer, Billy Branch, Lurrie Bell and Carlos Johnson stood on the stage of Savoy Theatre. Chicago Blues: A Living History was an entertaining and moving review on the development of Chicago blues since the 1940’s up till now.
One of the most impressive elderly musicians was Pharoah Sanders in Pori Jazz Festival, where I also enjoyed hearing John Scofield and George Clinton. Bob Dylan, a dinosaur of his kind, too, had a good band and nicely selected repertoire.
It is always wonderful to see artists of older and younger generations work together appreciating each others’ skills. One sweet example could be seen at Kalkkiranta Jazz, when Panu Savolainen’s Herd featured the grand old lady of Finnish jazz-schlager, Vieno Kekkonen, who celebrated her 80th birthday in September.
If we measure the impact of an experience by emotional signs like tears or laughter, my most powerful moments took place at theatre. I cried seeing Kuningas kuolee (Le Roi se meurt by Eugene Ionesco) of the Finnish National Theatre FNT, whose Vanja-eno (Uncle Vanya by Anton Chekhov) also moved me deeply. The FNT surprised me pleasantly by giving its biggest stage to the unconventional, funny and provocative play on humans and animals Maaseudun tulevaisuus (”Future of Countryside”) by Leea Klemola.
Performances rarely make me laugh from the bottom of my heart, but Kaspar Hauser by Q-teatteri did. So did a mixture of mimic theatre and dance, Mutantants by Cabaret Rhizome from Estonia, which I saw at Tampere Theatre Festival in August.
Delightful surprises in visual arts
Throughout year 2014 I found myself standing in awe and admiration in front of paintings and other works of visual arts. Like thousands of others, I loved to see the extensive exhibitions of Hilma af Klint at Taidehalli and Tove Jansson at Ateneum. In July, Jyväskylän taidemuseo offered a lovely escape from the heat with dozens of large works by Kuutti Lavonen
But why should I limit my cultural excursions to Finland. In Paris I visited the first but hopefully not the last time the fabulous museum of Jacquemart-André, about which you can read on my earlier post. In December I could finally visit the completely renovated Moderna Museet in Stockholm. It was spacey and well organised – except for the cafeterias. The exhibition Sculpture after sculpture exceeded my expectations; it was funny and impressive.
Throughout the year 2014 we heard violent and tragic news from the world. The curves of many national economies still bent downwards, and Finns, among others, had to think more carefully where to invest. Fortunately, we were offered wonderful cultural experiences, which also drew audience. When humans stop producing and exploiting culture, they also lose their humanity.