FIRST DAY IN NAANTALI, FINLAND

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The old church made of stones

Still stands next to the piles of rock and ruins

Neither the raids of the Danes nor the wars were able to tear down its walls. 

It emerges from the smoke, from the flames recalling all the bygone days

And Naantali, the small borough with birch-bark roofs grew up in its shadow.’

Huugo Ehnqvist

Naantali Church, built for the use of the Catholic Convent of St Bridget in 1443, is the setting for today’s rehearsal and for this evening’s concert.  Inside, the polished wooden benches are covered, today, with violin cases, water bottles and tour reading material.   The orchestra is seated and tuning; oboe reeds have been adjusted, music angled to catch the light from the chandeliers and soloists positioned.

The opening melodies of the Haydn Sinfonia Concertante rise into the vaulted ceiling and the ECO sounds good already, even at 10.30 in the morning.  The second piece on the rehearsal schedule is Shostakovich’ Symphony No 14, based on poems about death.  The text, sung by two soloists, contains little of the optimism often included in poems on this topic.  Yet this morning, with sun streaming in through the leaded windows, it sounds magnificent.

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