Monday, November 02, 2015

Arja Koriseva

Today I received my copy of Arja Koriseva's new book, "Queen Arja". My joy was soured at the news announced hours afterwards that Arja had been diagnosed with breast cancer. This is what she says on her website:

I have lit candles everywhere. The fluttering of the flames soothes the mind and gives strength. In my previous letter I said that the first 50 years of my life has been written in a book; and that now is the time to turn to a new blank page and start writing something new.

I had no idea how different the first pages of the new book would be. I had eagerly rehearsed the songs for the coming concerts, well-loved Christmas carols, so that the Christmas concerts are concluded in the traditional manner as we have done in various ways before.

This year will be different. I cannot sing for you at all. I am suffering from breast cancer.

Treatment has started and I know that I am being cared for properly. I put my trust in medical science, I have skilled people round me, and I have support and security with me. I must now concertrate my powers on getting better and fighting. That is why I am away from work. I hope my privacy will be respected. Of course I read all your messages and letters and enclose your thoughts in my heart. I will fight.

The autumn leaves have fallen; I rake them carefully and I hope with all my heart that I will be able to sing for you when summer warmth arrives and the new buds are bursting out on the trees. Before that I sing to you in all my thoughts of Christmas peace and love .... the many angels around me I received from you.

Take care of each other

Saturday, June 06, 2015

Vanhan Kellari closed

The end of an era: Helsinki's Vanhan Kellari closed at the end of May 2015. It had been running at a loss for some time. It was always well attended every time I went there, but I suspect they all went there to dance and listen to the superstars and didn't spend enough on drink to make the place profitable. I am sorry to see it go: I spent many happy evenings there and listened to some really great singers.

Monday, May 04, 2015

Tangomarkkinat 2015

Internet voting for the 2015 Tangomarkkinat has now started. Click on this for men:
And this for women:

Click on the thumbnails to hear a short clip. Vote by pressing the green Äänestä. Votes are accepted from outside Finland. You  can also leave a comment. Comments can be in English, but you will have to prove you are not a robot by answering a question. It will be something like "how many fingers does  a human being usually have?" but will be in Finnish.

Familiar names include Piritta Venho and Sanna Arell. Sanna was the one who made a big impression on me in 2010 with Boulevard of Broken Dreams. I sent a Facebook message to her. She replied that saying she remembered me and accepted my friend request immediately. What a nice lady. I also sent a message to Varpu Virta to say I was sorry she was not competing this year, and she also replied.

Wednesday, March 04, 2015

Hit me Arja one more time

A new music competition called "Tähdet tähdet" is on Finnish tv on Sundays. Here is Arja Koriseva performing an old Britney Spears number:

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Lumitango 2015

The 2015 Lumitango was to be held on Saturday 7th February. I watched the webcam to see how the snow was getting on in Tampere and it seemed that it would persist, so I booked a flight from Stansted to Tampere, staying at the Omena Hotel. I had breakfast in the Siilinkari cafe next door and looked at the papers. Lots of dances on the Saturday, a few on Friday. I went to the old Finlayson factory (now an art/museum complex, described before in these ramblings). I found a tiny stretch of rail from the old Little Ram railway that once brought fuel to the factory, which I hadn't noticed before. I was distressed to see  the snow was starting to melt.
The Little Ram in the 1950's

That evening, though the Tähti Nightclub is on the doorstep, I decided to go  to the Tapiola Tanssitalo in Karhunkatu (Bear Street), because Kauko Simonen, the first ever Tango King, was performing. There is supposed to be a bus there but I went by taxi and was glad I did, as it was through narrow suburban streets packed with parked cars on either side, nothing like any bus route I had ever seen. It was an excellent night, and I was asked for every dance during the naistenhaku (ladies’ invitation). Kauko Simonen has lost a considerable amount of weight. At the end of the evening I had to get the cloakroom lady to ring for a taxi, as my Orange phone could not access the number; even though I had been successful at getting other numbers.

The Ĺumitango was held in the town square next day. The snow was holding out; in fact a little more had fallen. Heidi Pakarinen was there to provide the music and greeted me in a very friendly manner. There was public dancing in the interval. I discovered that dancing jive in the snow is quite precarious.
Me with Heidi Pakarinen

Heidi dancing in the snow

After the Lumitango I went back to the hotel. Three young Swedish giants were in the lift. I got in, and the alarm went off. I got out again, but they insisted I stayed in and one of them walked up. Perhaps they thought I was old. In the evening I went by taxi to the Tessu in Tesomankatu. It is a big place with two ballrooms that can be used separately, though tonight the partition was pulled back. I had some excellent dances, including a rumba with a Nigella Lawson lookalike, and a tango with a lady who looked just like Angela Merkel. I didn’t know if she would be flattered or not if I pointed out the resemblance, so I said nothing. Frau Merkel is the most powerful woman in the world, but perhaps not the most beautiful. A man danced humppa with two ladies. A lady twerked in front of the sound man. All in all an excellent night.

The following day (Sunday) I went to a service at the Orthodox church. A very strange experience. The congregation had to stand in the vestibule while the monks did their thing. There was a lot of chanting in Russian, or possibly very old Finnish. The congregation didn’t join in. There were very ornate doors at the back decorated with pictures of saints. From time to time a door would open, a monk would come out, perform some task and return, and the door would shut. This reminded me of nothing so much as a mechanical clock, though of course the clocks are based on this rather than the other way round.
Orthodox Church, Tampere

According to the paper Saija Tuupanen was due to appear at the Kerhola in Nokia. Normally Nokia is well served by trains and buses, but not on Sunday so I had to get a taxi at the cost of 36 euros. The Kerhola is an old hospital. I arrived 10 minutes early but they wouldn’t let me in and I had to wait outside in the snow with other early arrivals. In the event Saija Tuupanen did not appear; instead there were the Pekkaniskan Pojat. Included in the lineup was Taisto Lunkka, who plays harmonikka at the Tangomarkkinat. He is very talented, but not so pretty as Saija. Nevertheless it was a good night, and I met many of the same partners as I had seen last night. The event was due to close at 22:00 but I left half an hour early after a sensational foxtrot with “Nigella” to the tune of Pink Panther.

There was no flight on Monday, so I spent the day in Hämeenlinna. This is where Jean Sibelius was born 150 years ago so naturally the town was making a big thing of the anniversary (2015 is also the centenary of Olavi Virta and the 50th birthday of Jari Sillanpää and Arja Koriseva). The castle is very bleak and forbidding in the snow. I tried to imagine being a soldier trying to get in in midwinter. There is a military museum in the castle but it is not open in winter. There is also a Brahe restaurant, but this is named after the Swedish nobleman Per Brahe rather than the better-known Danish astronomer Tycho. According to the paper, Arja Saijonmaa would be at the Helsinki Culture House on 19th March, but unfortunately I will not be able to attend.

Hämeenlinna castle

Monday, October 06, 2014

Arja's 25-year concert

On 29th September Arja Koriseva gave a concert in Tampere celebrating 25 years as Tango Queen. I wasn’t able to go, but Anna Hiltunen sent me this description (translated with her permission):
It was a truly wonderful concert! It was a small tour, going to Jyväskylä, Tampere, Helsinki, and possibly other places. Arja was accompanied by the Riku Niemi orchestra, a very popular orchestra which has performed by itself and also collaborated with other artists. The same orchestra accompanied Arja in her tango album Tango Illusion in 1996. The orchestra has many string instruments and wind instruments (a lot of different instruments) so that the songs sounded really great! The concert opened with a tango potpourri comprising Kultaiset korvarenkaat, Tango Illusion, Yksin, Sä oot mun tangoystäväin, and Muista minua. Among the tunes known to me Arja sang Enkelin silmin, Rakastunut nainen, Tuulen värit, Huomiseen, Kun tunteet kuljettaa, Tuhon tietä kuljen [I‘m a Fool to Want You], Rannalla, Näkemiin, Muisto (Memory)... Of course there were songs from musicals; Arja was here in the Turku Summer Theatre in My Fair Lady  in 2000 and commemorated it by singing snippets of On the Street Where You Live, Wouldn't It Be Loverly, and I Could Have Danced All Night - all in Finnish. Arja had the same hat and sunshade as she had in the musical! During Wouldn't It Be Loverly she threw chocolate bars into the audience, but I didn’t get one, even though I was in the front row. Other old friends followed. Particularly wonderful were the title song from Myrskyluodon Maija and the operetta number Itke en lemmen tähden. All the other numbers were familiar to me, except Kun paljon antaa, which Arja mentioned in her new online diary on her official website. It has marvellous words, and I hope Arja will record it, as she said she might when we talked after the concert. Arja told me that she had listened to the song a lot when she was a child, an it had been important to her; and now at last the time had come to include it in her repertoire. It was amazing to think about the passage of time, when I mentioned that I had first met Arja 22 years ago! I was 11 years old. The concert atmosphere was really fantastic, and when Arja sang Kuningaskobra as an encore the whole audience came to their feet and clapped along. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to take any pictures, or I would have sent them.

One of Arja’s songs come particularly to my mine, namely Jokainen hetki, from her record Kun aika on. Arja is giving Christmas concerts this year, with Tango King Amadeus Lundberg, but I will not be able to go, as The Turku concert will be very near Christmas, when I will be in Mikkeli celebrating Christmas with my parents.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Tanssii tähtien kanssa 2014

The new series of Tanssii tähtien kanssa has started. One of the sponsors is Expressbus, and the introduction shows footprints dancing the Letkajenkka into a bus. Ten couples are competing, and I haven't heard of any of them. One of them has the distinctly un-Finnish name of Cristal Snow, who was a candidate for the Eurovision Song Contest in 2008, but in the event Teräsbetoni was selected to represent Finland. His professional partner is Kia Lehmuskoski, and they share the same taste in lipstick:
Helena Ahti-Hallberg has left the judging panel. I shall miss her, for two reasons. But her place has been taken by the lovely Krisse Salminen, who you will remember won in 2012 with Matti Puro.
Jukka Haapalainen and Jorma Uotinen remain as judges, and a guest judge will appear every week. The first one was the very glamorous former Minister of Finance, Jutta Urpilainen:
So far Sinikka Sokka and Topi Viermaa have been eliminated. We have seen the cha-cha, jive, waltz and quickstep. Tango, foxtrot, rumba and samba next week.