July 24 – 28, 2024

Enjoy Finnish Christmas music in July!

Kauneimmat joululaulut (The Beautiful Songs of Christmas) is a popular pre-Christmas event in Finland. People fill the churches just to sing the songs of Christmas. The songs they sing certainly include a lot of music that Americans also sing, “The First Noel,” for example. BUT you may not be aware of the many Christmas songs, unique to Finland, including some sung earlier, in Finnish America.

During this hour, FinnFest attendees will have a chance to sing these uniquely Finnish songs in the middle of summer. If you don’t know them, don’t worry. Margaret Vainio, who used to organize these events in Finland, will help you learn them. Marianne Wargelin will provide narratives about the Christmas songs included in the “Finnish Heritage Hymnbook,” a new FinnFest publication. Paul Niemisto will share how Ameriikan Poijat decided what to include on their own Christmas CD. Start a new tradition of singing Finnish songs alongside all your American favorites.

Words to the songs will be projected on the screen. If you want to follow the words & music, make sure you purchase your personal copy of the hymnbook at the Tori in advance! Hymnbooks and Ameriikan Poijat’s CDs will also be available for sale at this event.

Presenter Bios:

Margaret Vainio: An American musician who has lived her adult life in Finland, worked as a cantor for more than 30 years, a position she held within Finland’s Evangelical Lutheran Church. During those years, she became a strong bilingual practitioner of Finnish and English and a highly sought after translator of Finnish into American English. In 1999, she formed part of the Finnish Heritage Hymnbook Committee, providing a contemporary Church of Finland perspective to the goal of publishing a collection of Finnish hymn translations. She created and led two Finnish choirs that performed Finnish hymns at FinnFests. She has conducted Finnish hymnsings for FinnFest. Vainio, a graduate of Northern Michigan University, studied music at the Cincinnati Conservatory of Music and earned an M.A. in music from the University of Jyväskylä. The hymnbook’s useful auxiliary information reflects her careful scholarship. Vainio developed a second career as a head trainer of Asahi Nordic and director of International training, including, since 2016, Asahi’s presence at FinnFest festivals. Not surprisingly, she translated their text: Asahi: The Nordic Health Practice into American English.

Paul Niemisto: St Olaf College Music Professor Emeritus, originally from Northern Michigan’s Finnish region, has lived and worked in Minnesota throughout his career. A graduate of the University of Music School of Music, he received his doctorate from the University of Minnesota. In 1979 he founded the Cannon Valley Regional Symphony Orchestra, which he still conducts. In 1990 he founded Boys of America (Ameriikan poijat) a Finnish style brass septet made of American musicians, which has toured nationally and internationally. In 1996, he conducted the choir created for a Festival of Finnish Hymnody held at Luther Seminary and continued to conduct choirs that sang the hymns from that earlier event. In 1999, he became part of the Finnish Heritage Hymnbook Committee, contributing his expertise with music transcription. Ameriikan poijat developed a rich repertoire of Finnish hymns that they used to perform as solos as well as to accompany singing at FinnFests . He regularly performs on as a conductor, on trombone, euphonium, and tuba. In summer 2006 he spearheaded the now internationally known Historic Wind Music Conference and the Vintage Band Music Festival, held in Northfield, Minnesota. 2026 will be the VBF Twentieth Anniversary. During his many visits to Finland he has been a teacher of many wind players, wind band conductors, and has been a part of the ongoing renaissance of Finnish wind band music. He is also a member of the Great Western Rocky Mountain Brass Band in Silverton, Colorado, and an occasional player with the Sheldon Theatre Brass Band.

K. Marianne Wargelin: Raised in several Finnish American communities across the continent, is a researcher and educator working in Cultural History. She uses interdisciplinary materials to study ethnicity, cultural pluralism, and the survival and change of small cultures within large, dominant cultures, particularly Finland and Finnish America in the context of Europe and the USA. She has co-authored Women Who Dared: The History of Finnish American Women, published four encyclopedia essays as well as articles on Finnish and Finnish American folklore, popular culture, and the high arts. In 1996, she collaborated with her father, Raymond Wargelin, working on Finnish hymn translations; in 1999, she formed part of the Finnish Heritage Hymnbook Committee and, in 2013, gave a FinnFest presentation about Finnish hymns in America. A graduate of Suomi College, she earned degrees in English language literature at Augustana College (Illinois), and the University of Michigan and studied American Studies at the University of Minnesota. Earlier an educator in American higher education, she later became associated, both as instructor and student, with the History department at the University of Tampere. From 1999 to 2019, she served as the Honorary Consul of Finland in Minnesota and South Dakota.