General Notes for This Collection
- Why these tunes: A long time ago (I think in 1977), when I was living in the Washington DC area, I happened to go to a "Kalevala Festival" at the Lisner Auditorium at George Washington University. Among the various performances was a series of folk dances done to recorded music. Afterwards I went backstage to talk to the woman who obviously ran the dance group, and suggested that live music would be much more effective. Had I known who I was talking to, I might have said otherwise. Eira Mattsson was a force to be reckoned with, and I was in for a long stint of playing accordion for the performances of the Finlandia Foundation DC chapter's little band of folk dancers, as part of the "Kalevala Combo," along with Eira's husband Nils on mandolin and her son Erik (Erkki) on clarinet. She had arranged medleys of simple Finnish songs for the dancers, and I arranged others.
Later, I went on to more complex Finnish tunes under the influence of accordionist Fred Aalto when my folk dance band, The Peascods Gathering, began hosting a couple of decades of monthly Scandinavian folk dances. We even played for a few of the Finlandia Foundation's Johannes (Midsummer) dinner celebrations, and perhaps it was my yearly jumping over the kokko (the Midsummer bonfire) that cemented this music into my psyche.
The tunes on this page come from both of these experiences.
At the celebration of Trevor and Anu's marriage, attended by Anu's many colleagues, friends and relatives, I had the pleasure of playing three "classics" -- Metsäkukkia, Säkkijärven Polkka, and Heili Karjalasta, to a very enthusiastic and receptive audience. It was obvious that familiarity with any aspect of Finnish culture on the part of Americans (other than perhaps Marimekko) was considered unusual by these Finns.
- Words: A large proportion of these tunes are songs, some traditional and others modern compositions. However, the ABC protocol used to produce the music on this site has no way of showing words and music together, so words are shown on a separate song words page. So far, I have access to only a few sets of words, but will add more if and when I find them or people send them to me (atlee at dickatlee dot com).
- Sheet music vs. Sound file: The program used to generate the sound (midi) files has a few weaknesses, many of which can be "fixed" (see the technical page). However, one can't, and you'll notice the difference between the printed and played music -- two notes that are tied together to make a longer note are played as two separate notes. Not fatal, but it can make an otherwise smooth tune sound a bit jumpy.
- Tempo: The tempo at which each midi file is played is one at which I would feel comfortable dancing it. I am told that Finns like to dance polkkas fast, and that jenkkas are modern schottisches that are danced faster. I had to leave Helsinki on my one visit there before I could observe this firsthand, so (with apologies to the fast lane) I've tended here to fall back on my own preference for more leisurely tempos. If you want to create a midi played at a different speed, see the technical page, since sometimes a special version of the ABC code wss necessary to produce a danceable version of a midi.
- Chords: (not yet provided, except for Vileä Svengaa) Over the years I've encountered string rhythm players who have difficulty reading chords from plain sheet music when the chords aren't strictly one per measure, with every measure's chord written out. So I've developed a simple format with chord letters shown between measure lines. For more info, see the technical page.
The chords are available in two formats: Print format (PDF) and -- for those whose browsers don't immediately render PDF files -- a Screen format (PNG graphic).
- Extras: Occasionally it is useful to have a tune presented in another way. These are listed to the left of the titles. For example, the tune might be danced at a different speed. Or, Scandinavian tunes often have multiple repeats or repeats of long sections, which are unnecessary if you're just trying to get a sense of the tune; such tunes would be linked as "no-rpts."
- Online live performances: I have tried to find live performances of these tunes online, whether instrumental or vocal, and have linked them to the tunes' names, or to a "vocal" annotation. Where there are quite a few, I've chosen the one that most clearly illustrates the tune, or is just plain delightful. I've also provided links in the section headers to videos of Finns doing the dances. If you know of online renditions of tunes not linked here, please let me know (atlee at dickatlee dot com)
- Note on Finnish introspective standoffishness: Two views -- CBS and FreeHugs.
- Finlandia Foundation Capital Chapter: The organization's site -- http://finlandiafoundationdc.org -- has a Google warning saying it may contain malware to attack your computer. I'm not sure what's going on there, but for now, better safe than sorry. . . .