Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Singing on a Joy Stone: kantele visions

The 5-string kantele is a rather plain little folk harp. Like bread without sugar it is an instrument of economy. No extra frills here. No filigree or jewel- work. Just wood and metal. This is the kantele I take to the lake. Sit on the dock. Rock in a boat. It rides my shoulder as I walk the night wood, an answer to the starlight spilling its milk over the midnight aspen. It rests precariously on a rotting log while I hunt for wild flowers in the mud. It passes aging hands at the nursing home, comes out of my pack when I'm stuck at the airport. It bounces and slides around in the back of my tiny Japanese car as I drive across country from gig to gig. And enters my semi- somnambulant hands after I unpack from a long trip. It takes the enthusiastic abuse of the countless sticky fingers of five- year-olds as they pluck and strum furiously searching for a bigger sound. Big is not a sound you will get from this wooden box. It is more like the threading of sighs, wind over wild grass, a way of coaxing joy from silence, a way of mastering grief. It is the truest song of solitude. But also the reckless tumbling of cool water over heavy stones, the tinkling circlets of sound lifting from a bird nest. I play my kantele on stage in the most blinding of light and all alone when it is so dark, a hand raised inches from my face cannot be seen. And this is when I like my kantele best. When I'm all alone. No one listening, except for my overfed cats who come and sit close by when I play. For this is a way for me to slow down the day. In the quiet center of my day the kantele is for me not only song, but speech, dance, healing, rejoicing, memory, and like a bird; uplift, balance -- flight.

I had the pure joy of being able to share the strange beauty of the kantele to my students in Cokato. They in turn delivered back to me all the mystery and delicacy of its song that drew me to this instrument so long ago. I sincerely thank them for this rewarding opportunity to experience our many and different choirs of strings that rang inside the city hall, the town library, the local museum, the township hall and the old school house. And in the words of my students who described the sound of the kantele as bells, chimes, magic, someone singing--- I do hope they have found another way to keep alive the voices of their ancestors and a way to nurture their new-found songs.

Diane Jarvi

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Kanteles Are Kool

From Diane Jarvi...

I asked my students what they thought kanteles sound like.
Here are a few things they said.

Someone singing
Ice cream
Cuckoo Clock
Bobby McFerrin
Loveable music

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Announcing the Big Show: Singing on a Joy Stone

A Finn Hall Concert with Diane Jarvi and Friends
Sunday, May 15, 2 PM
Dassel History Center
University Laboratories Building
Diane Jarvi and her kantele collection
at Cokato's Temperance Corner

Joining Diane in performance:
Dan Newton, well-known accordionist from Prairie Home Companion
Brian Barnes, exceptional world music guitarist and mandolin player
with members of the Finn Hall Band
Ralph Tuttila-mandolin and jouhikko
Cheryl Paschke- violin and nyckelharpa
Dennis Halme-accordion
and members of the Twin Cities Finnish Folk Dance group Kisarit

Also featuring Diane’s kantele students from the Cokato Ancestral Fires: Songs and Stories of Finland and FInnish America project

Refreshments ♨☕
$2 Raffle for 5-string kantele ♬𝄞

Co-presented by New Bohemian Arts Cooperative and Cokato Finnish-American Historical Society and Cokato Historical Society.  Proceeds will benefit Ancestral Fires: Songs and Stories of Finland and Finnish America, an extended residency exploring Finnish and Finnish-American music.

Suggested donation $10.
To reserve seats call 651-336-4202

Dassel History Center is at 901 First Street North in Dassel MN, approximately 70 miles west of the Twin Cities on Highway 12.
The Universal Laboratories building is on the National Register of Historic Places and serves as the home of the Dassel Area Historical Society. From 1937 to the mid 1970s, Universal Laboratories provided raw ergot from the grain fields of the western US and Canada to pharmaceutical companies.  Critical drugs were produced from the ergot, saving countless military and civilian lives.

Mapquest to Dassel.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Kantele-ilo Kantele-joy

This fall our class learned lullabies, songs that sound like church bells, a bear feast polska, traditional Finnish Christmas tunes and songs from the Kalevala.

In the Kalevala, Finland’s folk epic poem, there is a time when VĂ€inĂ€imöinen who is the great sage, great singer of songs sits down on a singing stone with his 5-string kantele for the first time and plays. The music is beautiful, mysterious, haunting and full of joy.

Old VÀinÀimöinen, immortal singer,

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Skylarks On A Stone: Women’s Voices of the Kalevala

Kalevala Day Celebration 
Sunday, February 27
2:00 PM
Open Eye Figure Theater
$10 at the door
Readings and music by
Diane Jarvi, singer, songwriter, poet and teacher
Sheila Packa, poet laureate of Duluth
Kirsten Dierking, poet, adjunct faculty Anoka Ramsey Community College
Kathy McTavish, award-winning composer and cellist
Co-presented by New Bohemian Arts Cooperative and Finlandia Foundation-Twin Cities Chapter. Proceeds will benefit Ancestral Fires: Songs and Stories of Finland and Finnish America, an extended residency in Cokato, Minnesota, directed by Diane Jarvi, exploring Finnish and Finnish-American music.

Location: Open Eye Figure Theater, 506 E. 24th St., Minneapolis
Free on-street parking or parking in Lutheran Social Services lot on 24th and Portland.

Monday, January 10, 2011

The Teacher Learns

This fall has been an exchange of cultures as this community has invited me to take part in not only teaching kanteles to 10 - 15 students ranging from 5 years old to senior citizens, but also to be a part of Autumn festivals and holiday dinners.

As often happens, teachers learn and gain as much or more than their students from their teaching experiences. I can say this has been the case for me as well. I have learned inter-generational teaching is very rewarding in how we are all curious and attentive to the wonders of making music. The students in this class have been so much fun, so willing to try whatever I bring in to them and always anxious to learn more about each instrument I introduce. They are an impressive group of musicians and they are all eager to devour our Finnish licorice at the end of each class!

--Diane Jarvi


This is the time of kaamos, the time of winter darkness. In Finland on Christmas eve the Finns light ice candles, to set bits of light onto frozen lakes, front yards and also graveyards.

My daughter and I attended Cokato’s Pikku Joulu “little Christmas” party
where ten of my students played Christmas carols and other tunes we have been studying this fall. We ate rice pudding and other treats and then visited the Cokato graveyard where dozens of ice candles flickered their warm stars in the winter dark.

--Diane Jarvi