Saturday, July 25, 2009

The Last 12 Months: An Abridged Version

Hello… It’s exactly a year since the last time I posted on The Late Review, giving new heights to the word ‘late’. The reasons for this hiatus are long and various, but suffice it to say that plenty has happened in the intervening 365 days. A few of the highlights:

• On the work front, last summer I translated a very long book about the history of Raseborg (which was the primary reason I stopped blogging for a while). This 270-page epic managed to eat up most of my time until the middle of September.

• My translation of Matti Yrjänä Joensuu’s To Steal Her Love was finally published by Arcadia Books. A number of good reviews appeared, including this one in the Independent.

• In November I started working for the quarterly magazine Welcome to Finland, translating articles and correcting the (often extremely bad and funny) English of others. This job seemed to take over my life every time an issue came around (160pp each), so you can imagine I wasn’t exactly devastated when the editor informed me that they were letting me go because they’d found someone who would translate it cheaper! Apparently that’s the way people conduct their business in the cutthroat world of Finnish journalism…

• The up-shot of all this – and of being turned down for an artist’s grant by the Finnish Cultural Foundation – means still having to eke out an existence until something more interesting comes along… Oh well.

By virtue of my own sheer laziness, the renovations to my bedroom have taken over five months. The house has been in chaos and I’m still sleeping in the living room. All that remains is to give one wall a final coat of paint and to affix the skirting boards, then we’re done. Photographs will follow shortly.

On the artistic side of things, singing has rather taken over my life. In August I joined the Incanto Vocal Ensemble, conducted by my good friend Jukka Jokitalo – meaning more rehearsals and less time for blogging! I have continued taking lessons with the wonderful Kirsi Telaranta and since Christmas have been concentrating, as far as my solo voice is concerned, on developing my countertenor.

In February, American tenor Charles Kamm – who was visiting Finland for six months and, among other things, sang with and conducted Incanto – and I sang Purcell’s marvellous countertenor duet ‘Sound the Trumpet’ (performed here by countertenor Alfred Deller and his son Mark). Spurred on by this, we decided to have a go at Britten’s ‘Canticle II: Abraham and Isaac’. This culminated in a concert far more ambitious than either of us had imagined. In association with the Metsoforte Choir, we and the enormously talented pianist Timo Latonen put on, in May, a concert with the following programme:

• Britten: ‘I know a bank’ (from A Midsummer Night’s Dream)
• Tippett: Songs for Ariel
• Barber: Hermit Songs
• Britten: Canticle II: Abraham and Isaac

In July my composition Resonance for violin, strings and horns (composed last autumn, yet another reason for not blogging…) was performed at the Brinkhall soi festival by my friends from the Refugium Musicum Chamber Orchestra, and I performed an aria from Handel’s Messiah at a Sunday service in Turku Cathedral – a wonderful experience. Imagine my delight when, later that day, a woman stopped me in Stockmann’s in Turku to ask me whether it was me that had sung at the cathedral that morning! Rest assured, there will be plenty of posts about singing in the coming months.

And, not to disappoint, there will be lots of posts about politics, Finnish, British, American and otherwise. There’s certainly plenty to comment upon, what with the deplorable results of the European elections in June; the rise of the fascist Perussuomalaiset and the charges for incitement against their ‘intellectual’ henchman Jussi Halla-aho – now relieved of his duties; the Kokoomus turning a blind eye to the racist comments of their own candidates in the lead-up to the elections; the exit of the British Conservative Party from the EPP to join ranks with homophobes, racists and climate-change deniers across Europe and the looming return to neo-Thatcherist misery in Britain; the attempts to impose creationism, via the Trojan horse that is ‘intelligent design’, on pupils in certain US states; the assault of the far right on all that is good about the Obama administration; and so on (and so on).

So, apologies for the inordinate wait. I hereby promise to keep any faithful readers I may still have regularly up-to-date with any thoughts that pop into my head and seem worth sharing.