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Snapshots from Finnish summer festivals

by FMQ

Finland is renowned for its summer festivals held across the country. Our snapshots offer a glimpse into the highlights of this year’s festivals.

April Jazz, 21–29 April

April Jazz, the largest jazz festival in the capital region, presented a diverse programme that spanned the spectrum from traditional jazz to contemporary music and other genres. The lineup featured notable figures like jazz legend Billy Cobham and percussionist Tatu Rönkkö, renowned for his unique drumming style. Katri Kallionpää vividly recalled Rönkkö’s performance in the Helsingin Sanomat newspaper:

“Tatu Rönkkö entered the bright lobby of Emma [venue] barefoot. A drum kit, meticulously ‘epicized’, stood ready by the window. […] Knives were taped onto the drums, with some sort of antennas sticking out from them. The contraption seemed to involve a bit of electronics as well. […] Mundane objects like forks and onion peels might appear like a jest, but in Rönkkö’s hands, they begin to pulse with a magical, sensual rhythm that hypnotizes the listener.”

–Katri Kallionpää, Helsingin Sanomat

Naantali Music Festival, 6–17 June

The Naantali Music Festival graced the month of June. In the Finnish media, a particular spotlight was cast upon the young violinist, Lilja Haatainen

“Lilja Haatainen, the solo prodigy of the Naantali Music Festival, enchanted the audience with the violin canon’s classic, Kreisler’s Prelude and Allegro. At just 12 years old, Haatainen has already won over the judges of various competitions with her talents. And indeed, they were on full display: her rendition of the piece was executed with professionalism. Haatainen held nothing back in terms of tempo or interpretation; her performance exuded bold outward expression and determined intent. This showcased not only her technical prowess but also her grasp of drama and attention to detail.”

-Pauliina Rahiala, Turun Sanomat


Lauttasaari Music Festival, 15–18 June

Finnish summer festivals, spread across the country, frequently celebrate a local ambiance. But could a similar concept thrive in major cities? The answer is a resounding yes, as exemplified by the inaugural Lauttasaari Music Festival held in Helsinki’s Lauttasaari district. Co-conceived by Seppo Kimanen, the visionary behind the iconic Kuhmo Chamber Music Festival, the Lauttasaari Music Festival featured an array of captivating performances by musicians like Juhani Lagerspetz (piano) and Senja Rummukainen (cello). Embracing the theme of nature and the sea, the festival went beyond music, offering lectures covering environmental concerns and maritime history – a fitting theme for an island-based event. This festival convincingly demonstrated that the essence of local culture thrives just as beautifully in the heart of Helsinki.

-Lasse Lehtonen, FMQ

Haapavesi Folk Music Festival, 29 June–1 July

The Haapavesi Folk Music Festival was organized for the 34th time. The diverse program ignited considerable interest, showcasing not just premier Finnish folk music talents like Okra Playground, but also spotlighting international festival performers. Among them, the Bulgarian ensemble Oratnitza, the English group Lady Maisery, and Nepal’s Kanta dAb dAb drew in packed crowds.

-Haapavesi Folk Music Festival



Savonlinna Opera Festival, 1–17 July

The Savonlinna Opera Festival embarked on a quest for rejuvenation by introducing musical performances for the very first time. In a review published in Helsingin SanomatVesa Sirén sought to underscore another pivotal aspect of this year's festival:

“Only a few days after the inaugural musical performance at the Savonlinna Opera Festival, a far more momentous debut unfolded. On Wednesday, Theater Hagen delivered the Finnish premiere of Outi Tarkiainen’s A Room of One's Own as a guest performance. This marked the festival’s first opera composed by a woman.

It’s about time. For instance, the inclusion of operas by Kaija Saariaho in the Savonlinna program would have been possible for two decades.”

-Vesa Sirén, Helsingin Sanomat



Viitasaari Time of Music Festival, 4–9 July

“As the audience transitioned into summer in Central Finland, they were greeted with a remarkable array of performances at the opening concert of the Viitasaari Time of Music Festival. […] The lineup included and continues to feature intimate concerts, engaging discussions, and a concise photo exhibition centered around John Cage. […] Despite occasional rain clouds, they merely served as a scenic backdrop to the exceptional music on display. Altogether, the festival, now crossing its 40th year milestone, holds a promising future ahead, with potential expansion beyond the Viitasaari Summer Academy.”

-Juhani Vesikkala, Rondo


Kuhmo Chamber Music Festival, 9-22 July

The Kuhmo Chamber Music Festival celebrated its 53rd edition. Even in its sixth decade, the festival maintains its unwavering popularity:

“The true treasures of the Kuhmo Chamber Music Festival lay beyond the confines of the established repertoire. […] The two-week chamber music festival in Kuhmo came to a close with Saturday’s concerts. As the final day commenced, there was a slight sense of waning; the afternoon event at Kuhmotalo saw only a little over a third of the hall filled. However, any doubts were dispelled by the evening church concert – Kuhmo Church was brimming to the fullest.”

-Jussi Mattila, Savon Sanomat


Kaustinen Folk Music Festival, 10–16 July

The sunniest days of summer! The Kaustinen Folk Music Festival presented the most extensive array of national and international folk dances and melodies in the Finnish festival season, featuring hundreds of performances, workshops, spontaneous street performances, and jam sessions. 

“Among the numerous standout moments, Polenta’s dynamic performance rooted in the pelimanni tradition was truly enthralling, and the collaborative ensemble of Näppärit, uniting hundreds of participants of all ages in collective play, left a lasting impression”, described a festivalgoer to FMQ.




Turku Sea Jazz, 26–29 July

Jazz, summer, and the sea! Turku played host to an array of Finnish jazz luminaries, ranging from Aili Ikonen and Timo Lassy to Ilkka Arola Sound Tagine. The event formed a delightful blend of top-notch music, sun-soaked summer vibes, and delicious food and drink, perfectly coinciding with the Turku Food & Wine Festival. Alongside Aili Ikonen, standout vocalists of the year included Lisa Ekdahl and Johanna FörstiIda Nielsen & The Funkbots injected the event with funk-filled energy. Turku Sea Jazz is an integral part of the Archipelago Sea Jazz festival series, comprising four intimate jazz festivals nestled along the Baltic Sea. This series also encompasses Baltic Jazz, Korpo Sea Jazz, and Åland Sea Jazz in Mariehamn.

-Loviisa Pihlakoski, FMQ


Flow Festival, 15–18 August

Each year, the grand stages of the Flow Festival in Helsinki play host to a diverse range of music, spanning from pop music legends to fresh faces in the indie scene. However, the festival goes beyond that, offering a meticulously curated and varied selection of music from “the margins”. The festival itself presents an immersive experience with its captivating lighting designs. For those inclined towards more experimental musical endeavors, there's, among others, Meriheini Luoto, an avant-garde violinist who graced The Other Sound stage at Kattilahalli. She delivered a meditative moment on the festival’s opening day. Attendees sat in the dim expanse of the factory hall, seemingly entranced by the composer’s improvisations – at times using her violin and at others, her voice – in a rhythm that alternated between intensifying and fading, occasionally disrupted by an almost surreal, throbbing resonance. The backdrop of visuals, resembling bursts of soap bubbles, played a significant role in enhancing the overall impact.

-Loviisa Pihlakoski, FMQ

Featured photo: Wikimedia Commons