Swedish and Norwegian tunes
The fact that Finland (Suomi) is a distinct culture from the Scandinavian countries show up starkly in its folk music traditions. To complicate matters further, Finland was first a dependency of Sweden (and has a Swedish-speaking minority around Turku which had picked up some Swedish musical traditions), then became a dependency of Russia, only winning independence when the Bolshevik revolution was stopped at its borders in a brutal civil war. There are a lot of echos of Russian folk music in 20th century Finnish folk. Many (maybe most) of the Swedish tunes we play date back to the 19th century, with compositions from Nyckelharpa players like Byss-Kalle, and many fiddlers. Finland has a deep tradition in folk music, but the pre-20th century music doesn't have much of a fiddle or string tradition. Kantele, a kind of harp, was the national instrument, and Sibelius drew much on that genre of music (rune singers) in his compositions. There is also a deep and centuries-old vocal tradition of joik sinking among the Sami people, much of which has been picked up by contemporary groups like Angelin Tyhttot. Not much of that lends it to session playing, and most of the Finnish tunes we play date from the first half of the 20th century, though (as in Sweden, with it's new tunes from groups like Väsen) there is a lot of new Finnish folk music being composed. A lot of that (e.g. Värtinnä) doesn't lend itself well to session playing, but the accordionist Maria Kalaniemi has contributed a deep body of new tunes. Finland has a lively and continuing dance-hall tradition, and many of the tunes are made for dances like jenkka (a lot like a schottis), humppa (a kind of fast polka) and a whole lot of valssi (waltzes). Out in the countryside, a visit to the tanssilava is a part of summer, and up in Äkäslompolo in the ski season the Riemuliiteri is hopping. There was also a very active Finnish musical cinema scene up through the 1960's, with many of the films directed by Reino Helismaa (Rovaniemen Markinoillä is one of the classics). Many of the tunes commonly played are movie music from these films. There was a great folk music revival beginning in the 1920's (shortly after Finland won its independence from Russia), with a lot of compositions from the great Finnish fiddler Konsta Jylhä, who remained active up to the 1980's. The Kaustinen festival, which he founded, continues to this day.
- Akuvalssi Another Konsta Jylhä piece. This version has a nice harmony part
- Konstan Paremppi Valssi From Konsta Jylhä.. The title means "Konsta's better waltz," but we don't know what his best (parasta) waltz is. Here it is, played by Konsta himself.
- Emma (valssi). This is the original Dm version as played back in the days when the Scandi Session was at the James St. Tavern. Apart from often being played in other keys, there are a lot of other variants out there, mainly differing in the amount of ornamentation. Emma has lyrics, and very mournful ones (if you know Finnish). Here it is, sung by Tapio Rautavaara, but it was already a hit when Ture Are sung it in 1929, as recorded here. It is a perennial session favorite, in all its forms.
- Metsäkukkia (valssi): in Am, in Em (better for G row melodeons)
- Aarne Tarvaisen Masurkka
- Someron Masurkka
- Säkkijärven Polkka Here it is performed with vocals by Eemili, accompanied by Esa Pakarinen on the accordion. The tune also makes an appearance in the finale of the Swedish accordion thriller flick Hundra Dragspel och en Flicka.
- Ellin Polkka Performed by the incomparable Kalaniemi here, or by Viola Turpeinen (queen of Finn-American accordion) here.
- Ievan polkka, of "leekspin" fame; there is also a version performed by vocaloid Hatsune Miku. It's an old tune, which went viral after the a capella scat-singing version by Loituma.
- Lapin Jenkka (Jenkka is very similar to Schottis)
- Severi Suhosen Jenkka Severi Suho is one of the characters played by Finnish actor/accordionist Esa Pakarinen in various Reino Helismaa lumberjack movies. The lyrics (loosely translated) imply "the girls are out to get you." Watching the ladies of the Helsingin Kaksirivisnaiset play this sort of gives you the picture.
- Finnish Tango
- Satumaa "Fairyland" -- Finland's favorite tango.
- Täysikuu (Under Fullmånen). This is an old classic, composed by Toivo Kärkki wih words by Reino Helismaa. There's a 50's era cover of it by Olavi Virtta here, and a more recent version by Maria Kalaniemi and Tango Orkesteri Unto here . A version also appears on Kalaniemi's Swedish album, Vilda Rosor.
- Boeve's Psalm -- This was composed by Lars Hollmer, but I have categorized it as Finnish because it has been widely performed with Maria Kalaniemi's group, Accordion Tribe. It's a haunting melody; something very like it appears in the first funeral scene in the great accordion movie Schultze Gets the Blues; the bass line is unmistakable, but the melody line isn't quite the same and it doesn't get a mention in the music credits. This solo version by Guy Kucevsek is a good way to get a feel for the piece. The left hand can be played on the bass and contrabass rows of a standard stradella box, but takes some getting used to; I'll try to annotate some chords at some point as an alternate approach. This is really written as an accordion piece, but I think it could work well with fiddles too (version with cello here). The sheet music I posted is in a rather oddball key (F#M), and I'm working on a version transposed to G-major. It's a pretty simple melody, so you may be able to transpose to G "by ear" easily enough. I think G would be a lot easier for the fiddlers. There's an accordion tutorial on this tune in G here, which has some great tips on how to handle the left hand part (the hard part for accordionists). It's in German, but not hard to follow from the video and the sound of the music -- though it helps to know the names of the chords in German.
Christmas and Advent
In the Nordic countries, Christmas festivities start around the first of Advent. In Sweden, Luciadagen (a mashup of pagan Lusse traditions with the cult of Santa Lucia) is a lovely holiday the 13th of December, with lussekattor (saffron buns) offered around with coffee in the morning, special songs, and the Luciatåg, led by Lucia with a crown of candles. Then everybody hibernates roughly from New Years to Easter, except for a brief awakening around Tjugondag Knut when the Christmas tree is taken out at the Julgransplundringkalas. Here are a few songs from all the Nordic countries, played and sung in the season.
- Nordnorsk Julepsalm, in F here (with chords) and in G here with Ed's harmony line. My solo accordion version is here on my youtube channel.
- Luciavisan . The traditional song sung on Luciadagen, taken from the Italian Santa Lucia.
- Konstan joululaulu (By Konsta Jylhä). The dots for an Em version, with my added chords, are here. This is scored for piano, but the treble line works fine on a chromatic accordion; fiddlers, diatonic box players or whistle/flute players can pick out the melody or harmony from the treble line. Lyrics are here. Performed here by Kaustisen Purppuripelimannit as an instrumental, or here with vocals. My favorite vocal version is the one by Sari and Mari Kaasinen of Värtinnä fame, but that cover isn't available on Youtube.
- Koppången . A lovely piece composed by the Dalarna fiddler Kalle Moraeus. A version in D with my chords added here. It is 4/4 time, with 4 beats to the measure, but a slow 4/4. I don't much like the triplets in this version, and prefer to play them as an eighth followed by two sixteenths (in this time signature). There is a slightly different version in B-flat with lyrics (in Swedish) here. Originally instrumental, there are beautiful lyrics, sung e.g. by Ann Sofie von Otter . And here is an instrumental version done by Orsa Spelmän (yes, Benny Andersson, of ABBA fame, lives in Orsa and often plays with this group). I have this solo accordion version on my Youtube Channel, but I'd like to eventually do a duet with a fiddler.
- Julpolska efter Matts Wallman
10 o'clock sheet music
When 10 o'clock rolls around at the Scandi Session, Ed hands out sheet music for a new tune, which we learn by sight-reading or just listening to the others until we get the hang of it. A lot of these have nice harmony lines, so please do feel free to give them a go. Some of our 10 o'clock tunes are archived here. At some point, if they become popular enough, they'll be promoted to the main tunebook.