Past seven days I have spent in Järvenpää, a small town in southern Finland where our most famous composer Jean Sibelius lived. I took part as a teacher to a very popular family music camp, "Kotimusiikkiviikko" (Hausmusikwoche in original German), which has been around for more than 50 years already. The idea of the camp came from Germany, where there is a long tradition of making "home music", but this camp is one of its kind in Finland.

I was conducting two orchestras during the camp, one for little children who just have learned to read music, and a chamber orchestra for bigger kids and their parents - with more ambitious repertoire of course. With the chamber orchestra we played some pieces by Sibelius and a Händel Concerto Grosso.

Fun concert with kids dressed as animals (photo by Rauha)

Besides orchestras and choirs there are many more instrumental ensembles and children's music groups. Private tuition is available for all string instruments, guitar, flute, recorder, clarinet and singing. There are concerts every night. On the second last day of the camp there is a "fun night" with people dressed in crazy costumes and performing funny stuff late into the night!

Sibeliuksen haudalla
At the grave of the Master (photo by Rauha)

On the camp there is also a tradition of taking a walk to the grave of Jean Sibelius and performing his Andante Festivo for strings and singing the hymn from tone poem Finlandia at the grave. Sibelius is buried on his home yard in Ainola, and the place is practically in a forest! He wanted to live surrounded by the Finnish nature and get inspiration from it! It is always a memorable moment to conduct at that holy site.

For some time I have tried to reduce my educational activities, but this camp is one that I would like to keep in my diary for years to come. The atmosphere there is unique, with parents and children making music side by side, and with the teachers totally dedicated to their work - most of them have been returning to the camp more than ten years already!