July 24 – 28, 2024

Tickets for this event will be available closer to the event.

Craig Randal Johnson, concert pianist, will present the work of three 20th century Finnish Composers.

KOLI by Ahti Sonninen (composed in 1970)
1. Ukko – Koli
2. Akka – Koli
3. Pikku – Koli

SURULLINEN PUUTARHA/The Melancholy Garden by Erkki Melartin:
Me kaksi/ We Two
Lemmentie/ Lover’s Lane
Kerjäläislapsen Kehtolaulu/ Lullaby for a Beggar Boy
Sade/ Rain
Yksinäisyys/ Solitude

VIISI BAGATELLIA/Five Bagatelles by Joonas Kokkonen (1969)
Puut/The Trees

The Highland String Quartet will perform String Quartet in d minor, ‘Voces intimae’, Op. 56 by Jean Sibelius

Presenter Bios:
A frequent performer at FinnFest, pianist Craig Randal Johnson‘s program features music starkly evoking the Finnish natural world. Craig Randal Johnson has been decorated as a ‘Knight of the Order of the Lion of Finland’, by the Ambassador of Finland to the United States, for his ongoing activity as conductor and pianist in promoting Finnish music. Mr. Johnson has performed across the USA as the Finlandia Foundation “Performer of the Year”, and has played Finnish music concerts in Germany, Finland and Canada.
As conductor he has directed six FinnFest symphony concerts, most recently in Duluth at FinnFest 2023 which featured the US premiere of Jaakko Kuusisto’s Piano Concerto, as well as works by Leevi Madetoja, Kari Tikka and Jean Sibelius. Craig Randal Johnson holds degrees from Northwestern University and the University of Minnesota, and has undertaken additional studies at the “Mozarteum” in Salzburg, the Aspen Music School, the Berlin Conducting Symposium, the Monteux School for Conductors, and at Dartmouth College. He is Artistic Director of the Minnehaha Repertory Orchestra in the Twin Cities. He has conducted the Florida Symphony, Rome Festival Orchestra, Opera at the Pine Mountain Music Festival, the Marquette Symphony, North Star Opera, and the Osnabrücker Sinfoniker amongst others. An accomplished professional double bassist, Mr. Johnson was Principal Bassist of the Florida Symphony, and held positions with the Aspen Chamber Symphony, Staatsorchester Braunschweig, and the Columbus OH Symphony.

2024 marks the 39th anniversary of the Highland String Quartet. Steve Highland, first violin, Laurie Bastian, second violin, Ronald Kari, viola, and Betsy Husby (Steve’s sister), cello have been together since 1985 when colleagues from the Duluth Superior Symphony Orchestra joined forces to perform Arnold Schoenberg’s Verklaerte Nacht on one of Laurie’s violin recitals. All members of the Highland String Quartet are Duluth natives with Finnish heritage, were founding members of the Lake Superior Chamber Orchestra, and have held principal and assistant principal positions with the DSSO. They also play in the Lyric Opera of the North orchestra.

Steve Highland retired from his position as assistant concertmaster of the Duluth Superior Symphony Orchestra but continues to play in the orchestra. He has been concertmaster of the Lake Superior Chamber Orchestra for most of its history. In addition to his work in music over the years, Steve has also studied and taught physics at UWS and UMD. Currently he is busy tutoring math students in the TRIO program at Fond du Lac Tribal and Community College in Cloquet. Steve is also an experienced mushroom hunter hoping that this year will be a good one.

Laurie Bastian is a Duluth native who started playing the violin at the age of seven. She has been a violinist in the Duluth Superior Symphony Orchestra since 1979, and has been principal second violinist since 1987. She is an original member of the Lake Superior Chamber Orchestra and principal second violinist of that orchestra. Laurie has maintained a full studio of violin/viola students of all ages for over three decades. She received her BA in violin performance from the College of St. Scholastica. Laurie has also fiddled in country rock bands. Laurie and her husband Bill married in 1988, and together founded and managed Northland Opera Theater Experience for eight productions. She has a daughter, Jenni. Laurie enjoys home projects and gardening.

Ronald Kari attended the University of Minnesota-Duluth. He just finished playing his 62nd consecutive season with the Duluth Superior Symphony Orchestra having never missed a single classical concert. He is presently assistant principal violist, historian, and coordinator of the Youth Ensembles for that organization. Ron has served on the boards of the DSSO, Matinee Musicale, LSCO and Duluth Musicians Association and is union steward for the DSSO. He has also performed with the Lake Superior Chamber Orchestra since its founding.

Betsy Husby is principal cellist with the Duluth Superior Symphony Orchestra and the Lake Superior Chamber Orchestra. She has a Doctor of Musical Arts degree from Stony Brook University, and while a student there, performed in the 1986 International Tchaikovsky Competition. She has performed in France, Russia, and Japan with pianist Alexander Chernyshev, and has soloed with orchestras and arts organizations across the region. Currently she has a private cello studio and is on the faculty of the University of Wisconsin – Superior.