"laestadian, apostolic, gay, lgbtq, ex-oalc, ex-llc, llc, oalc, bunner" LEARNING TO LIVE FREE: Finlandia

Sunday, December 06, 2009


Thanks to Vanhapiika for sharing this link. My grandfather grew up near Savonlinna, I'd like to think he heard this in concert and that the rousing music fixed his resolve to avoid conscription in the Russian Army. Although one could argue that leaving for America (e.g, draft-dodging) is not the sentiment intended!

Finlandia became so popular that it could only be performed in disguise under false names. This video says it was labelled "Impromptu" to avoid the Russian censors. According to Wikipedia, "Titles under which the piece masqueraded were numerous, a famously flippant example being Happy Feelings at the awakening of Finnish Spring.

Far from the country and context that gave it birth, I would grow up singing the Finlandia Hymn as "Be Still My Soul" (without musical accompiment, of course) in the OALC. The lyrics were written in 1941 by a non-Laestadian Finnish poet.

Since then I have heard the hymn performed many ways. I love the version by Joan Baez, and cherish the memory of a dear friend playing the tune on bagpipes. However, I have yet to experience the power of a live performance by an orchestra. What about you? What are your connections to Finlandia?


  1. Finlandia Hymn is known as Hymn of Youth in the ALC. Words were written by Evald Benjamin Lawson, longtime President of Upsala College (Augustana Synod), East Orange, N.J. Upsala College closed its doors during the 1990's. Most likely the ALC compiled hymns from several sources to be incorporated into at least two editions of Hymns and Songs of Zion.

    First verse: O God of love, of majesty and might, From grateful hearts ascend our hymns of praise; Thou has revealed eternal truth and light. To gude the sons of men upon their ways;

    The hymn is located in the Occasional/Thanksgiving section.

    I was able to hear Sibelius' Finlandia in Minneapolis, at Orchestra Hall. Osmo Vänskä conducted the Minnesota Orchestra. It was electrifying. I don't ever recall being in a concert when all the hairs on my arms literally stood upright. I'll never forget the experience.

    Not too long ago I saw a middle school orchestra perform the same piece on TV. Hmmm. Not the Minnesota Orchestra but fun nonetheless.

  2. I was at that concert as well. It was beautiful and hair raising like you said. I think that it was extra special because Vanska is a Finn. I wonder if we sat next to each other.
    Another Lurker

  3. wow, what an interesting story. "Be still my soul" is one of my favorite hymns.

  4. It's one of my favorite hymns from childhood, too.

    I wonder how common it was for young Finnish men of that generation to come of America to avoid being drafted into the Russian Army. My great-grandfather emigrated for exactly the same reason!

    My favorite hymn these days is "We know that Christ is raised" words by John Geyer, hymn tune "Engelberg."

  5. So "Be Still My Soul" is Finlandia? (Im sorry but the sound on my computer doesnt work right now and I cant figure it out after tried to hook it all back up again)

    I had no idea, but I love that song and remember it well from my youth. I still sing it today. I am still partial to the "old hymns" (and occoppella) b/c I remember my grandmother singing them to me, and falling asleep on my mothers lap in church with the everlasting singing of communion.

    Those are memories I would love to pass along to my children, so we find other ways to keep those traditions :) I sing often to them and we sing together, we play tapes with the old hymns on them and other choirs, we attend "singing christmas tree" concerts and the like.