Folk Camp

2018 - Kalevala Singing


Kalevala Singing

The Kalevala is a collection of epic poetry from Finland, compiled from the oral history tradition from eastern Finland, Karelia, and Ingria. Oral history has been passed down in Finland for thousands of years using poetic devices suited to the structure of the Finnic languages. The poetry is often sung with kantele accompaniment. To teach the epics, a singer sings a line of verse which is repeated by the student. The singers clasp their hands together and rocking back and forth during the teaching process.

A much larger body of poetry from the Kalevala tradition was collected in the 1800s and early 1900s, including shorter lyric poems published in a volume called the Kanteletar. Wax cylinder field recordings were made in the early 1900s in the Finnic region of Ingria (near present-day St. Petersburg) where Kalevala poetry was sung in polyphony influenced by surrounding regions.

The workshop participants will learn to sing and play the kantele in the Kalevala tradition, focusing on songs collected between 1850 and 1925. Participants will gain an understanding of poetic devices unique to the structure of the Finnic languages, as well as the importance of improvisation, and the influence of surrounding Slavic traditions. Lyric sheets and some kanteles will be available. For this year, I will include material from north and south Karelia learned from Emmi Kuittinen.