1. Rajaton won the Contest for Vocal Ensembles at the Tampere Vocal Music Festival in 1999. What is your most prominent memory of the event?
The thing I remember best is when we were phoned and told that we’d won the whole show. This was actually on the night before the concluding concert, because we’d said earlier that we couldn’t perform at the concert because of other commitments. But when this happened, we managed to get ourselves in the very first slot in the concert and sing, and some of us left immediately after that. So I wasn’t there myself to hoist the Näsinneula Trophy; I was in a car on my way to Mikkeli.
2. You’ve been on the jury of the Contest for Vocal Ensembles since 2003, you were Artistic Director of the festival in 2011, and now you’re the jury chairman. How has the Contest changed over the years?
It’s been wonderful to have a front-row seat at the Contest for such a long time. It’s been hugely rewarding to be on the jury, and it’ll be interesting to work with a completely new group of people this year. One trend I’ve noted is that the number of ensembles performing acoustically has decreased, particularly classical ensembles. We’ve responded to this by dividing the Contest into two categories to level the playing field for unamplified groups; after all, they have a lower volume and don’t use any electronic effects.
3. How would you like to see ensemble singing develop internationally?
I hope to see new and original groups that continue to push the envelope of vocal expression. There’s plenty of room for new groups in the world!
4. The Rajaton vocal ensemble is celebrating its 20th anniversary. What’s the secret of your successful long collaboration?
I believe that the main reason we’ve made it this far is that we invested a lot in it from the very start. We’ve had our ups and downs, but we’ve always kept our goal clear in our minds. Another thing is that we’ve always had a devoted fan base. If it wasn’t for them, I’m not sure we’d still be together today.
5. How would you advise fledgling vocal ensembles?
Be bold in searching for your own identity and then embody that identity in your music and your performances. Work hard and set specific goals for yourselves. Talk a lot, but sing even more!