In midst of the global lockdown and coronavirus crisis, choral music fans in Finland and abroad are thrilled with the soothing musical message from the Finnish high school students, singing their hearts out.
Have you heard of Vaskivuori Upper Secondary School? Perhaps not yet, but many music professionals in Finland have, since this high school in the city of Vantaa at the capital area of Finland specializes in music. For example, they boast several choirs, a big band and a whole range of rock bands, and there is even a highly popular student musical production every year.
What you probably have heard of is the success of Finland and Finnish schools in the PISA assessments. Finnish students have performed extremely well, and the newest PISA assessment from 2018 also proved Finland the only country to combine high performance with life satisfaction: when examining the relationship between these two, Finland stood out from other countries and economies. And Vaskivuori Upper Secondary School is a good example – a well-performing public school with motivated teachers and happy students.
What makes them stand out today is that they took the effort to spread the joy and comfort in midst of the coronavirus crisis with an individually recorded, online-produced choir performance. On this video, the school’s chamber choir appears and sounds like a solid real-time choir, perfectly together as one voice, and yet the youngsters have seemingly recorded their parts at their homes, one by one. Looks easy – but is it?
Join in the chorus
The masterminds and busy bees behind the video are music teacher Jonna Vehmanen along with her husband, musician and producer Juho Vehmanen. During these strenuous times, it is a truly heart-warming, disarming experience to hear the bright voices and see the smiling faces of their pupils. Where did the inspiration come?
“Jonna had bumped into Eric Whitacre’s Virtual Choir project in the internet some months ago. When the coronavirus struck us and Vaskivuori Upper Secondary School Chamber Choir had to cancel their competition trip to Cork International Choral Music Festival, she wanted to do something ambitious and special to make up the disappointment for the singers. "The Song of the Fearless", which was tailor made for this choir by lyricist Julia Junttila and composer Jussi Chydenius in 2015, also fit in with the message so perfectly that it was an easy choice”, tells Juho Vehmanen.
Worldwide, Finland is famous for the excellent standard and quality of tuition in schools. What about music teaching – would an ambitious project like this be part of your normal music tuition anyway? Or was it due to the pandemic, closing down the schools in Finland?
“This unavoidable digital leap will certainly provide us with many good tools to be used in the future. Also the threshold for providing distance learning has been significantly lowered. Rehearsals at home aided by recordings of individual parts is a method we had used before, but now we’ve come up with better ways to communicate and rehearse in tight schedules. Projects like this will most certainly be part of our tuition in the future as it gives a new, useful approach to choral singing”, explains music teacher Jonna Vehmanen.
She warmly encourages colleagues around the world to initiate similar projects:
“This has been a really fun and educational journey for us. And based on the numerous inquiries we’ve had towards the technical implementation of our video, we’re pretty sure we can expect a lot of similar projects in the near future.”
To close with the good news, Jonna Vehmanen and Juho Vehmanen have prepared easy-to-follow instructions (click here to view as pdf) for those willing to make their own recording and video. It does require some technical applications and careful preparation, but the efforts surely pay off.
Watch the video here:
The Song of the Fearless (Jussi Chydenius/Julia Junttila), performed by Vaskivuori Upper Secondary High School Chamber Choir, conductor: Jonna Vehmanen, Technical supervising, mixing and video editing: Juho Vehmanen