The Finland Center Foundation is hosting a concert called Hymn to the Word: A Benefit for UN Women on April 3rd. We wanted to combine great music with a cause, which is why we decided to invite one of Finland’s leading jazz musicians to perform in New York. The concert will be held in Saint Peter’s church on Lexington Avenue where Heikki Sarmanto will be performing with Jeannine Otis, Bim Strasberg and Greg Bufford. The net proceeds from the concert will go to UN Women.
Heikki Sarmanto is one of Finland’s top jazz pianists and composers. He has studied music at prestigious schools like the Sibelius Academy in Finland and the Berklee College of Music in Boston. He has been composing and performing music since the 60s which has led to an impressive discography with artists from all around the world as well as numerous awards and accomplishments.
The work Sarmanto and his New York based colleagues will be performing on April 3rd will include “The Magic Songs”, a musical collaboration between Heikki Sarmanto and vocalist Jeannine Otis. It explores the poetry of Eino Leino as translated by the late Aina Swan Cutler through Mr. Sarmanto’s music. These songs, first performed and recorded in 1980, have become classics and are listened to all over the world. The collaboration between Mr. Sarmanto and Ms. Otis highlights the best of the possibilities of cultural exchange. At the Hymn to the World concert, the music will be enhanced by the addition of two New York musicians: Bim Strasberg on bass and Greg Bufford on drums.
When asked what got him interested in music in the first place Heikki Sarmanto has this so say: “Our home was filled with music, my mother urged me to take piano lessons and taught us songs that we would perform with my brothers Auvo and Matti as small children. I have three brothers and all of them are excellent musicians, for example my brother Pekka is a world-class jazz bassist. We lived in this apartment building in Kruunuhaka, Helsinki, which was constantly filled with the sounds of the trumpet, the violin and the piano. I’m sure the neighbors were not always pleased with us!”
“I noticed early on that when I played classical piano I had a habit of adding my own stuff in between the written notes. I liked to improvise even as a youngster! My teacher would say: ‘That’s not what the notes say!’ to which I’d reply with ‘I’m sure Beethoven or Chopin didn’t always play according to ready made notes, but they would alter them depending on the current mood.’ For me spontaneous improvisation is a key element when making music.
“Music has become a way of life for me, I consider it a force of nature. We take in the influence of music from all sorts of places; we’re merely the recipients of it. Some lucky people have the privilege of connecting with music. Like the Finnish poet Aaro Hellankoski wrote: ‘Olen vastaanottaja vain, olen soiva.’”. Heikki Sarmanto’s reply to the question of what keeps him going and making music after all these years is quite an impressive one.
Please join us in enjoying great music and benefiting the UN Women!
Hymn to the World Concert: A Benefit for UN Women
7 PM April 3rd
Saint Peter’s Lutheran Church
619 Lexington Ave. @ 54th Street
Tickets: (include intermission reception)
$20 in advance / $100 sponsor (for reserved front row seating, a Sarmanto CD and Lumene cosmetics gift) at www.finlandcenter.org
$25 at the door, if space available
Supported by The Consulate General of Finland in New York, The Arts Promotion Centre Finland, The Finnish Performing Music Promotion Centre, Suomi-seura and Finland Center Paul Tirri Fund, and the Samuel Rubin Foundation
Photo: Boy Hulden