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Huvila Tent. Photo: Simo Karisalo

Helsinki Festival 2013. Art Is for Everybody! 0

Helsinki Festival 2013
Helsinki, Finland
16 August – 1 September, 2013

The Helsinki Festival program is made up of theater, dance, circuses, classical music concerts and jazz, its performers a healthy mix of internationally renown artists and local stars showing their newest acts. For several years now, the circus medium has been an especially strong and multi-layered visual and physical presence at the Festival. One of this year's festival-magnets is the circus superstar James Thiérrée, who plays the role of acrobat, comedian, poet and wizard in his surreal performances; here he will be presenting his show “Raoul”.

This year's program highlights the American minimalist composer Philip Glass, and will include a retrospective of the artist's works performed by The Philip Glass Ensemble and Glass himself. Glass will also perform a piano concert, and invites viewers to a showing of the legendary 1982 film “Koyaanisqatsi” (directed by Godfrez Reggio), in which Glass' music will be played live, the composer also taking part.

Another pinnacle of the program are the two concerts scheduled for 18 and 19 August, in which Yoko Ono will be on stage together with her long-time fan Thurston Moore – singer, composer and guitar player for the 80s alternative rock group Sonic Youth; the cooperative project, titled “YOKOKIMTHURSTON”, will also feature Sonic Youth vocalist Kim Gordon.

A beautiful experience is scheduled for 23 August at the Helsinki Music Centre, where the Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra will play the soundtrack to the 1940 Walt Disney film “Fantasia” – a classic piece of music for cinema. This will be the first time that the historic animated film will be shown to a public audience while being accompanied by a live orchestra.

We asked a couple of questions to Helsinki Festival team about this year’s programme and the way it was made.

Philip Glass. Photo: Stewart Cohen

There are a series of events with world renowned authors. What is the place for new artists in Helsinki Festival? Could you please name the artists we must pay attention in future?

The Helsinki Festival's aim is to introduce both world renowned artists as well as fresh, new artists. Pay attention to Lianne La Havas, Matthew E. White, Mokoomba and Carolina Chocolate Drops. On the performing arts side, have a look at Kiss & Cry - the "nano dance" performance.

How do you go about trying to balance out a programme of established and upcoming artists, and to try and make sure there were a variety of events suitable for different age groups?

We have several producers and each one has their own field of expertise. Thus, they are able to follow their field of art and pick out the interesting performers for the festival. 

Nathalie Djurberg, Hans Berg. Photo: Zach Feuer Gallery, New York and Gio Marconi, Milan

The Helsinki Festival is known for its diverse nature of the programme - an exciting and eclectic mix. How do you start to put together ideas for it? Did you start with a wish-list of artists you thought might be suitable if you could get them, did curators/agents offer them?

The Festival Director together with the producers do both. There is of course a wish-list to work with but also different offers are investigated.

What sort of obstacles do you have to overcome to put together a programme like this?

The performers' tours are very hectic and often there is only one performing slot available for the Festival, this refers especially to classical music and large symphony orchestras but also to pop and world music. The most difficult task for the Helsinki Festival is Finland's remoteness; the artists have to make their way all the way to the North in order to join in our programme. 

Presentation licensed by Disney. Concert Library © Disney

Everybody is intrigued about Disney’s Fantasia screens. How did you come up with this idea?

The Festival has co-operated with Disney Finland and linked this show also to the birthday of Jean Sibelius, the famous Finnish composer. The highlight of the evening will be Sibelius’ The Swan of Tuonela, which Disney had intended to include in his film but which never reached completion. Now this historic animation will be screened for the first time in front of a concert audience, with the Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra performing the musical score.

Kiss & Cry. Photo: Marteen Vanden, Abeele

Cie Non Nova: Vortex. Photo: Jean-Luc Beaujault

For many years, the circus as a visual and multilayered storyteller has been a particularly powerful part of the Helsinki Festival programme. Why is it so? Is this an era of circus renascence?

Finland is famous for its innovative circus. The Helsinki Festival wants to strengthen this phenomenon by bringing large international circus events to the Finnish audience, as a reference. Also, the Festival wants to build its profile from a music festival into a true multi-arts festival and we have achieved this goal very well.

Huvila Tent. Photo: Riitta Sourander

In your opinion, what is the most magic thing about this festival?

The Huvila Festival tent has a special feel to it. It represents the end of summer and the beginning of fall in a beautiful way. Also, large outdoor City Arts events that involve the citizens and are free for everybody are great. The Festival is convinced that Art is for everybody!