Reading my last post from a year ago, when I looked ahead at the upcoming year 2020, brings to mind the old saying: ‘Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans’, a saying that John Lennon appropriated in his lovely song ‘Beautiful Boy (Darling Boy)’.
Things certainly turned out differently than anybody might have anticipated (except for a couple of virologists who have warned us already for years about something like this coming up).
Still, in spite of all the necessary restrictions to get a grip on the corona pandemic, I managed to get a lot of things done. I’d like to have a quick look back on what happened in my work during 2020, before I’ll give it another go at projecting into the future and the upcoming 2021.
So, the first half of 2020 was dedicated to composing: a piece for cello ensemble ‘Musette’, a recorder quartet ‘Bravade’, a four-movement piece for solo violin and electronics, commissioned and first performed by violinist Virpi Taskila and a 15-minute piece for mezzosoprano Virpi Räisänen and string quartet called ‘Begehren’, based on poems by the German poetress Gertrud Kolmar. I also performed fifteen solo piano concerts I called the ‘Empty Church Concerts’. As there were no visitors in Temppeliaukio Church due to the pandemic, I decided to stream these concerts on SatnaMusic’s Facebook site (where they can still be viewed) and, rather unexpectedly I might say, reached all in all almost half a million people worldwide. Thank you all for your interest and beautiful feedback!
In fall 2020 I released a new solo piano album called ‘Here – Beyond The Infinite’ (download and CD available on sidhille.bandcamp.com).
The CD was released on September 23rd, 2020 on the occasion of my 500th solo concert in Temppeliaukio Church. The rest of fall 2020 went in adjusting to the second wave of the pandemic. I didn’t have the strength or inspiration to compose, but I kept playing my solo piano improvisation concerts and a couple of very inspiring duo concerts as part of the Two Moons chamber concert series.
At this point I would like to thank the City of Helsinki, the Finnish Music Foundation MES and the Arts Promotion Centre Finland Taike for their support of my artistic work. In these difficult times this support is especially appreciated! And of course a very big THANK YOU to Temppeliaukio Church for their ongoing super cooperation and their friendly support!
And my composition concert is still booked in Temppeliaukio Church for May 14th, 2021, which is my 60th birthday (WHAT??…has it been that long already?…). On that evening several of my recent new compositions will have their first performance, ‘Begehren’, ‘Heba’, ‘Bravade’ etc.
Other than these live performances I will concentrate on composing again: – a piece for the Tapiola children’s choir featuring the splendid saxophonist Jukka Perko (supported by the Oskar Öflund Foundation) – a piano quintet for myself and the Sid Hille Camerata (supported by the Sibelius Fund of the Finnish Composers’ society) – a duo piece for my new duo Hille-Hohti Eclectic, featuring piano, cello and live electronics.
Keep an eye on the Gigs page to stay tuned, but most of all: Keep safe, stay healthy, wash your hands and wear a mask!
2020 is going to be an exciting year on many fronts, concert-wise and composition-wise. Let me start with the concerts:
– this year, on September 23rd, 2020 I’m going to play my solo piano improvisations in the wonderful Temppeliaukio Church for the 500th time. When I did this for the first time, almost 18 years ago on November 13th, 2002, I had no idea that it would turn into one of the main achievements of my musical career. Thousands of visitors have attended my concerts over the run of years and I’m happy to say that the tradition will continue in coming years, too. Another 18 years, and I will be there for the 1000th concert….
– two years ago I started a new series called ‘Two Moons chamber concerts’, also in Temppeliaukio Church. The idea was to invite top musicians, Finnish ones at first, but recently also more and more international ones, to play in Duo with me. The objective was to meet there and improvise without any pre-arrangements or rehearsals – to just start a musical conversation on whatever topics would occur to us. Many of my guests are musicians I have admired for a long time but never gotten around to play with. So, many of the concerts are true first encounters, fresh and surprising to all present, including ourselves.
Often people come up after the concerts asking what were the compositions we had played and I can tell you that, in these 33 concerts so far, I am as amazed as anybody else by the fascinating soundscapes that seem to ‘just happen’. Anyway, the Two Moons chamber concerts will continue in 2020, and by the end of this year we will have realized the respectable number of 50 concerts.
– my trio F#, the Hille-Könighofer Experience and the Foreign Friends will be active (please check the gig calendar for more information), and a very special project will happen on April 8th at the legendary Rytmihäiriö club in Helsinki, when F# and Foreign Friends unite to pay tribute to The Beatles. In April 2020 it will be 50 years that The Beatles broke up. Twenty years ago I wrote re-arrangements of some of my favorite Beatles songs (the Walrus, Strawberry Fields and some 15 more) allowing for improvisation, changing harmonization and grooves to something more jazzy. We played about 20 concerts in 2000 and another ten or so in 2010, so now it is time again to remember these wonderful songs and deliver them with a personal perspective. Anni Elif Egecioglu on vocals, Sigurdur Rögnvaldsson on guitar, me on keyboards, Jori Huhtala on bass and Markus Ketola on drums. It would be lovely to welcome you all there!
Now for the composing:
– with the support of a grant from the Finnish Cultural Foundation, the second half of 2019 was very productive: I added two parts to the Spheres and Dances for violin solo and electronics (4 movements in total now), I finally completed ‘Heba’ – a ten-minute piece for bass clarinet and chamber ensemble, and just today another piece for cello ensemble called ‘Musette’. I’ll start 2020 with a 6 to 7-minute composition for recorder quartet (commissioned by Bravade) and then, finally, I’ll throw myself into the mezzo-soprano/string quartet piece for Virpi Räisänen. That’ll be a real big one.
– depending on how smoothly this process goes, I’m determined to start on a new piano concerto, my second, by mid 2020, because…. – in spring 2021, on May 14th to be precise, I will have a composition concert at Temppeliaukio Church. Mostly new material will be performed, but a part of it will be a retrospective on works that have been particularly important to me: definitely the saxophone concerto ‘Time Freeze’, probably one of the string quartets (maybe ‘In Farben’?), we’ll see. The whole thing is a bit of a birthday present to myself, because on that day I will conclude the 60th year cycle of my visit to this amazing planet of ours. So, if you feel like being part of that, you might want to pencil the date already into your calendar: May 14th, 2021 in Temppeliaukio Church, Helsinki, Finland!
Have a great 2020! Visit Finland! Visit Helsinki! Visit Temppeliaukio Church! Peace!
After some wonderful summer festivals gigs with my Foreign Friends I’m getting ready for the fall 2019 season.
F# will travel to Italy to play at the Musica sulle Bocche-Festival on Sunday, August 25th, and to do some recording with Italian saxophonist Enzo Favata.
Enzo had been touring with us in Finland last March and we are very much looking forward to continuing our cooperation.
Right after returning from Italy, on August 29th, I will pick up on my solo piano improvisation concert series in Temppeliaukio Church – sixteen concerts in all. (Please check the Gigs page for concert dates or copy the picture below.)
The Hille-Könighofer Experience released their debut CD ‘All & Everything’ in Austria during a Duo concert tour last June. In November, Herby & I will promote the CD also in Finland, starting with a concert at the EMMA contemporary art Museum in Espoo on November 23rd. (Again, please check the Gigs page for more tour dates.)
‘All & Everything’ is the recording of our last year’s concert in Temppeliaukio Church. Drummer Markus Ketola had joined us in creating this fantastic musical journey. One hour of soundscapes that include beauty, fragility, groove, rawness and confusion, excitement and tranquil resolution, in short: all and everything. Here is a little video clip from the same concert:
Easier said than done. Try and catch up. It’s been pretty busy again.
I played my 450th solo piano improvisation concert in Temppeliaukio Church and received some very nice flowers.
My trio f# (hille-huhtala-ketola) was on tour in Finland with Italian saxophonist Enzo Favata, played at the April Jazz Festival as a trio and at the Tallinn Music Week in Estonia with Ivi Rausi and Laura Põldvere
The Two Moons chamber concert series in Temppeliaukio Church was realized for the third time. Nine wonderful improvisation concerts with wonderful duo partners. Exciting experiences!
For more information about past or upcoming concerts, please visit my gig page.
I visited Sydney, Australia, when a composition of mine was performed there during the World New Music Days 2010. After the concert a journalist from New Zealand asked me where I was from, originally, and I answered that I grew up in a little town in Germany called Donaueschingen. ‘Oh, you’re a lucky man!’, the journalist said. The funny thing is that while I was growing up there, it would have never occurred to me to look at it like that.
In Donaueschingen, you see, there is a legendary festival of contemporary music where many a modern masterpiece has had its first performance. Sitting in those concerts as a teenager, though, the music seemed super weird, as seemed the audience, grey-haired guys studying scores while they were shuffling about our small city, people who had come from far away to listen to this eccentric stuff. I didn’t understand anything of what was going on in that music, I wasn’t a classical guy, normally I was listening to the Beatles and I had just discovered Chick Corea and ECM, but there was something in this contemporary music that I seemed to recognize. It sounded like music I often heard in my dreams, when I slept. When I found Zappa, I saw how these two seemingly separate worlds could be connected. I was fourteen when I heard ‘We’re only in it for the money’ for the first time. And hadn’t also the Beatles already pointed in that same direction with ‘Revolution No. 9’?
Performing at the Donaueschinger Musiktage myself, finally in 2015, felt like a circle coming round. With my Contemporary Collective we managed to create exactly the kind of music I had been pursuing for all these years in between: soundscapes, improvised dialogues between some of my favorite instruments, the bass clarinet, the cello, the electric guitar and my keyboard department, based on a ‘Parameter Chart’ I had devised. With the right kind of musicians and the right kind of chemistry between them, these results can be achieved in improvisation: anything can happen, surprising turns of events, the sense of spontaneity and forward motion, always vibrating with life and the intensity of the present moment.
This is what we are doing nowadays and will be doing also in 2019 with my trio F# and the Hille-Könighofer Experience. These are live music installations, music that can happen only once in exactly the same way.
And this is what I am aiming at in my composed music as well. I would like my composed music to sound like it were improvised, and my improvisations like they were composed. The same intensity, the same spontaneity, the same sense of uniqueness in the present moment – but written down, so that it should be possible also for other musicians to bring this music to life, even if I’m not around myself. This is where the Sid Hille Camerata comes in, a chamber music ensemble performing my compostitions, with a string quartet at its heart. After the success of our CD ‘Farbformen’ (being nominated for ‘Record of the year 2017’ by the national broadcasting corporation YLE and being voted the audience’s favorite), the year 2019 will bring a cooperation with the fantastic mezzo soprano Virpi Räisänen. Virpi commissioned a new piece from me, which I will start working on in February and which is due to be premiered in autumn 2019.
More news from the composer’s shed include a short piece for cello ensemble in January, a solo piece for decacorde (the ten-stringed guitar) sometime later in spring, and the almost finished piece for bass clarinet and chamber ensemble (a tentet with several of my favorite instruments, strings, piano, percussion).
I’m a lucky man, I guess, getting to do exactly what I dreamed of, in those days in Donaueschingen, a long time ago!