Diane Jarvi http://dianejarvi.com Songwriter - Musician - Poet Thu, 07 May 2015 12:55:42 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Bittersweet http://dianejarvi.com/bittersweet/ http://dianejarvi.com/bittersweet/#respond Fri, 27 Jun 2014 01:28:32 +0000 http://dianejarvi.com/?p=1011 Diane Jarvi Bittersweet

Bittersweet is a fusion sound and a melding of both Finnish and American folk traditions; the album embodies both musical landscapes. Jarvi has taken the Nordic sound and also brought it into American folk, sometimes evoking mountain music and café accordion sound. Her voice is resonant, rich, and she uses it like an instrument.” -Sheila Packa and Kathy McTavish –New World Finn

“On her new album “Bittersweet,” singer, guitarist and kantele player Diane Jarvi once again dives deeply into her Finnish heritage with beautiful, sometimes haunting results. The kantele is a Finnish harp, a national instrument, and Jarvi plays seven different ones on “Bittersweet,” ranging from a tiny “pikku” to a 36-string model. The sound entrances, as does Jarvi’s lovely and character-filled voice, on songs about Finland, family members, strong women, hard winters, and the mysteries of genealogy.  Jarvi [is] joined by old pal Dan Newton (accordion), jazz bass great Gordy Johnson, The DitchLilies, the Finn Hall Band, and violionist Sara Pajunen, whose solo on “Meri Lintu”  is a little wonder. And let’s not forget Jarvi’s daughter, LiLi Jarvenpa, now a fine kantele player herself.” Tom Surowicz–Minneapolis Star Tribune

When I began working on bittersweet I thought it would be a recording that would center on my love of the kantele. While nine of the fourteen tracks do have kanteles on them, I saw a different theme emerge when I started choosing songs and going into the studio. Eight of the tunes are specifically songs about women. And the others could definitely be songs sung by women, one  lullaby-Nukku Matti, Meri Lintu, a song about a lost love, and a waltz from the past, Valssi Menneiltä Ajoilta.

I kept tripping across my family history as I worked on this recording. I wrote Aili’s Dance for my mother who loved to dance. She and my father belonged to a dance club and she was very fond of waltzes. But this tune is more about how her soft, clear voice could lighten a very dark day. I wrote Multia for my mother’s mother Hilja. Multia is a small, rural Finnish town. I visited the scattering of poor abandoned buildings across from a small field where my grandmother and her family had to move after her father lost most of their substantial savings due to gambling and alcohol. Three of the children of that family left Finland when they became adults and did not seem to want to look back. I recorded Rebel Girl after finding the Finnish version in my mother’s “Little Red Songbook”. Both of my parents grew up in Minnesota’s Finn Halls. This would have been one of the songs they all sang, maybe on a Saturday night, before the dance. Ilmatar Sweeps the Dance Floor is an instrumental response to a poem my mother wrote called Ilmatar-Air Spirit Mother. Ilmatar is the female air spirit that appears in the Kalevala—Finland’s epic poem.

Other songs are also women’s stories. Eipä Luultu Luopuvani is a song in the Kalevala tradition that tells about a young woman who has left her home and must make her own way. Tell Us is an interpretation of a Kalevala chant about what the people of the bride sing to a prospective bride-groom upon meeting him for the first time. Oh Le Le Le is a gypsy song about a woman griping quite a bit about her husband. Kotkan Ruusu is a very famous Finnish tango. It is about a lady of the evening, music composed by Helvi Mäkinen.

diane-lili-treeAnd the other tunes were inspired by nature and trying to cope with the elements. I wrote Sparrows and the Bittersweet while practicing my pikku kantele for a gig and was loudly interrupted by sparrows pecking at bittersweet berries hanging on my front door. It was so fun to bring my daughter LiLi into the studio and have her play this song with me. So now she is also a part of a musical and ethnic lineage. Lumi Runo-Snow Poem was written as a response to yet another brutal winter in Minnesota and Dragonwell was written after drinking tremendous amounts of Chinese tea during what felt like endless days banked in by snow.

What holds all these songs together is ancestry, my Finnish heritage both in Finland and the immigrants and their experiences here in this country, connections to women stories going back to the 19th century and further yet. But also there is this instrument, the kantele, that to me is a sound of shadows and rivers, mysterious and at the same time something that shimmers and pulses in my bones long after I have played a song.

I can’t go backwards to my Finnish ancestors and understand who they were, they remain in so many ways a mystery and in some ways a loss, but I can try to make some music that maybe pulses with something we share. I hope the recording conveys how a Finnish-American woman looks with a musical lens at her heritage, how that heritage haunts her, how for her it is both bitter and sweet.—Diane Jarvi

I am so grateful to all the artvestors who helped make this recording possible and to New Bohemian Arts Cooperative for creating this crowd sourcing model. Kiitos!

Eight different kanteles appear on this recording, seven of them were made by Gerry Henkel of The Kantele Shop in Duluth. As always, thanks Gerry for all my many kantele voices!

And I am so very grateful to the gifted musicians who played on this recording. They all brought their art and talent in such luminous, bittersweet ways.

Arto Järvelä- violin, esseharpa

Dan Newton—accordion

Gordy Johnson—bass

Sara Pajunen—violin

LiLi Jarvenpa—pikku kantele, 5-string

DitchLilies:

Kari Larson—mandolin, guitar

Lisa Schultz—guitar, banjo

Finn Hall Band:

Ralph Tuttila- mandolin

Johanna Lorbach- Violin, Cheryl Paschke violin

Dennis Halme-Accordion, Gordon Oschwald- bass

Translations

diane-jarvi-kantelesEipä Luultu Luopuvani

I never thought I’d give in,
that I would leave the shadow of this fortress,
the shoulders of this ridge.
I believe and trust so I will leave,
give in like a stranger would.
I am left to wander
like a flower
across foreign lands.
I roam wherever I chance to go,
feed myself with a stray swallow.
I have two hands,
quite handsome
with which I catch a swallow
to keep my fragile self alive.

Oh Le Le Le

Yesterday I got so mad.
How could I have fallen for an old man
and his proposal?
He really gets to me. Drives me nuts.
Always going after a younger one.
He’s mine already.

Diane JarviMeri Lintu

A large bird, a sea eagle flies high.
Although you belong to someone else,
I still love you

Sorrow touches a young heart
the same way the winter’s frost
touches a flower in the field.

Nukku Matti

The sandman has come.
The children’s bright eyes will soon close
as he takes them off to dreamland, shows them
beautiful places, sparkling shores of the land of nod.

Review

“Bittersweet is a fusion sound and a melding of both Finnish and American folk traditions; the album embodies both musical landscapes. Jarvi has taken the Nordic sound and also brought it into American folk, sometimes evoking mountain music and café accordion sound. Her voice is resonant, rich, and she uses it like an instrument.

Many (but not all) of the lyrics are in Finnish, and this lends an aching and beautiful element. Her skills as a poet are also present in her music. She evokes the flight of a sea bird and sparrow and the feeling of wandering in the first snow amid falling stars. Even if one does not follow the exact words, her expressive voice carries the meaning. There is a mystery that she weaves from the landscape, the sounds, and the stories. Buy this album. Not only will you support this strong musical and poetic voice, you will cross untravelled regions of your soul and be glad for the journey.” -Sheila Packa and Kathy McTavish –New World Finn

Available by mail order.

Purchase Online at CD Baby

Or print out an order form and send it in.

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Bitter & Sweet http://dianejarvi.com/bitter-sweet/ http://dianejarvi.com/bitter-sweet/#respond Sun, 13 Jul 2014 12:52:23 +0000 http://dianejarvi.com/?p=1152 Originally published at kantele.net · July 13, 2014

diane-lili-treeOver a period of about thirty years or more I have followed a variety of musical paths as a singer, starting with American folk, stopping at jazz, hopping the world music train, and engaging in my own songwriting. For almost thirty of those years I have been compelled to pick up and play the kantele. I have performed and given kantele workshops in old tin sheds, Temperance halls, cow fields, old school houses, churches, libraries, museums, log palaces, and American and Canadian Universities. Why do it? Playing a kantele is a perfect instrument for a shy person. I like that the sound of a kantele rings out, but hovers at the edge of things. There is a Zen saying – catch the vigorous horse of your mind. When I play the kantele, something inside me slows down. I care, and I let go my cares.

I met my first kantele through my mother. She bought it through an ad in a suburban newspaper. The instrument had been in a family with six children who it seemed took many turns trying to play it as children are apt to do when met with large objects that make sound. It had 36 strings with a long, smooth curving body. The sound it produced was not so much song as smoker’s hack. I was told that maybe it was a Kilpinen kantele. It sat collecting dust for years until a group of generous experts, both Finnish-Americans and Finns, gathered around it and figured out how to glue, re-string and re-tune it into a working instrument again. And the sound was deep, old and mellow, a sound of shadows and rivers. The instrument could possibly be over seventy years old. It definitely has that low, wise voice of experience. When I play it, I hear a shimmer of ancient bells.

Before my mother’s kantele regained its sound, I found myself on a path that led me to learning smaller kanteles. I learned to play the five and ten-string with a group of people in Minneapolis who all seemed to share the same desire; make music and connect with that Finnish part of ourselves that swirled in our DNA. They were the kantele group, Koivun Kaiku, founded by Joyce Hakala. Through the group I was introduced to a whole host of tunes that I never knew existed, yet they resonated inside me in a way I can’t really explain.

I studied briefly at the Sibelius Academy. I did my best trying to learn kantele in German from Martti Pokela. He was too shy with his English and my Finnish was next to hopeless. Still he encouraged my attempts to reproduce songs from his books. We both knew my interpretations were a distant approximation, still he would commend me on what he politely called my “innovative” way of playing. When I sat down with Toivo Alaspää I always felt I needed to strap in. It was often fast and furious and I was always trying to catch up, and only sometimes succeeding. So I would stop, flip on my tape recorder and watch the bound together notes from what looked like the easy resting of his hands. Our conversations often included his offering me the saltiest salmiakki and my difficult smile while I tried not to wince. Studying with masters is always humbling. I came away with much gratitude at the opportunity to watch and listen while they conjured sounds both ancestral and modern.

I like to watch how American children pick up the instrument like it was a clock and wonder at how it works. And how those in nursing homes hold it in their laps like a small child. It’s a wooden hollow that they can ring like a bell. It’s a bit of sun that lights in the hand. For me playing a kantele is a mysterious undertaking, something that pulses in my bones long after I have played a song.

I taught kantele for almost a year in the community of Cokato, not far from Minneapolis, that is one of the earliest settlements of Finnish immigrants in Minnesota. I asked my younger students what they thought the kantele sounded like. They scribbled ideas on the chalkboard. Here are a few things they said: someone singing, funny, ice cream, bells, soft, cuckoo clock, great, Bobby McFerrin, owl, harp, chimes, good, magic, loveable music. I concur.

I have accumulated a few different kanteles over the years. Some made in Finland, some made by my good friend Gerry Henkel of The Kantele Shop. I haul one out when I need that certain fix only a kantele can provide. And now my daughter LiLi joins me. There are not many opportunities when an 11-year old can teach adults how to do something. It’s a good thing to see that reversal of roles when she teaches someone how to play. So now she is also a part of a Finnish musical lineage.

The Finnish poet, Jouni Inkola says in his poem Genealogy, “Everything in me is a contagious debt and my heart has nothing to pay it with, since the echoes of its pulse cannot go backwards.” I can’t go backwards to my Finnish ancestors, they remain in so many ways a mystery and in some ways a loss, but I can try to make some music that maybe pulses with something we share.

All of my recordings have had some kantele on them. In addition to vocals, my new CD, bittersweet, has a bit more kantele tunes on it than my previous recordings. There are little tunes on it written for my mother, for snow, for Ilmatar who sweeps the dance floor, for Multia, where my grandmother lived before she emigrated, for sparrows and for Chinese tea. I hope the recording conveys how a Finnish-American woman looks with a musical lens at her heritage, how that heritage haunts her, how for her it is both bitter and sweet.

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Begging for Spring http://dianejarvi.com/begging-for-spring/ http://dianejarvi.com/begging-for-spring/#respond Sun, 16 Mar 2014 22:33:23 +0000 http://dianejarvi.com/?p=528 March 16, 2014

How We Remember

“Memories glide
clouds soft against the relentless sky
as though one were asleep and only dreaming.”

-Hannu Mäkelä

I was reading the New York Times one day. It led me to an interview with the writer Meghan O’Rourke who had written a book that deals with the death of her mother. The article was about grief, how we stumble through loss and what we carry away from the subtraction. It made me think about how I remember my own mother. How even though she died 12 years ago in many ways the grief of that loss has not disappeared. And as it is for many people, the loss has transformed and lessened, but is always a subtle shadow. And maybe because we were close and shared many ways of looking at the world, she is always with me, not a haunting, but a presence.

Poets spend a lot of time remembering or approximating a memory and constructing it all into a new form and putting it onto the page. It is a way to measure time and make it flex, give it a new melody, mortal shape or conclusion. My mother would steer her pencil to a small room, sit at her modest white desk, address the fog of her mind with a cup of coffee and write. She was knee deep in some other world that you could only enter if you knew the code on her internal lock. None of us ever did, except maybe the cat.

There is a fine art in making something seem simple when it really is not, when it is more along the lines of a polynomial equation. My mother used her words to reach back and re-tell, but also distill to a pure clean line. This was a gift that seemed to elude me. She did her best to teach me how to sweep the clutter from my own work so it had a polished gleam of a solitary stone, not the endless random scattering of swamp pebbles. I won’t pretend she was always very successful, but it was that act, the winnowing down, her exacto-knife approach to her own work that sits with me every day when I write.

The poet Muriel Rukeyser said in The Poem as Mask, “Now, for the first time, the god lifts his hand, the fragments join in me with their own music.” My mother taught me to keep working with the fragments and the music will come.

My mother wrote extensively about her experiences as a child of immigrants. She wasn’t always enamored with her ethnicity, didn’t sugar coat it, but couldn’t deny its power. It drew her back often as if those Kalevala spirits of air, sun and moon sung some spell to keep her searching her old stories. As my mother aged, her mind began to slip into long dark rivers away from us. And yet it would return with a great need to keep writing. So when she was seventy-five and fighting early stages of Alzheimer’s she began to work on her last book. She battled the fractured state of her mind as she gathered together a variety of genres. For her, writing was an honest admission of loves and disappointments, a place to speak quietly, but firmly about her convictions, but also it was so much about retrieving memory. Her memory was fraying and it frustrated her for she could not construct the book she desperately wanted to make. Still she kept at it, tugging at her own distant stories, where they would bob to the surface, as she described in one of her poems, “submerged logs, remnants of another time… dark ghosts from the water.” She did manage to assemble a final book. And once it was published she wished to begin again. The longing to create never left her.

Eventually all that memory that was for her a compass to her art, fell away. She would hold her own books as though she had never seen them before. What she loved so well she was forced to let go in the power of language with all its everyday and extraordinary voices. When she could no longer read or speak, I and many others would read to her from all of her favorites; Adrienne Rich, Tomas Tranströmer, Eeva Kilpi, Rilke, as well as her own words. And I often thought of the words she herself had spoken, “You know if you keep at it, something will emerge.” I’ll never know what she heard or understood, but I can hope somewhere deep in the hollows where ideas and memories are born and collide, she took the words as food, as offerings to any want. She seemed all bone and star.

When she wrote one of her poems called Tuohela, it was all a conjuring of memory. Tuohela was a cabin she visited with her parents as a very young girl. In the poem she tries to recall events and summons something more elusive, the idea of place, of belonging, of ancestry. Cesare Pavese said, “We do not remember days, we remember moments. The richness of life lies in the memories we have forgotten.”

Memory, a field of study once placed inside the critical domain of philosophy is now plunked deftly between the fields of cognitive psychology and neuroscience. My mother, a poet with Alzheimer’s, found herself set squarely inside both schools. She might have said that she belonged in neither one. In many ways she was an old believer. She believed that the world coursed with mystery and people sometimes just needed help finding the divine of their own hearts. And that is how I choose to remember her, my memory all cluttered with various fades and shifts, at times rich in blackness and other times strung with colored lights.

So how do we remember? That question is up for grabs for all of us who have stories to tell. And despite science and philosophy and our endless human desire to quantify, maybe it is all still a bit of an unknown. Aaro Hellakoski said, “deep in my being where no being’s available, the utterly unsayable is ready for saying—for gladly somewhere-as no one’s speaking- a song’s breathing in dreamers everywhere.”

Let our dreams continue in memories, let them glide and sing their elusive songs.

(An earlier version of this appeared in the New World Finn.)

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April Snow http://dianejarvi.com/april-snow/ http://dianejarvi.com/april-snow/#respond Thu, 11 Apr 2013 15:17:28 +0000 http://dianejarvi.com/?p=992 4/11/2013

April snow has swallowed up my yard once again. It waits for wind sheer and boot prints of the mailman. It is as white as an unwritten page. Many invectives could follow here, but I’ll attempt to refrain.

In the spring I make an attempt at a nature diary. It is often all scribbles and bits, dribs and drabs of observation and more often a great deal of long odes and field hollers of desire. This is that time of year when I feel like Blanche DuBois, standing on the fire escape waiting for Stanley to go ahead and rip his t-shirt.

One of my favorite Finnish poets, Arvo Turtiainen said, “Spring crept onto the tin roofs and danced there with the wind, spring ripped the windows open and whipped the housewives out onto the balconies to belabor their mats, spring licked the park trees reddish and blued the evenings….”

Spring can be a kind of a slow motion affair,  (this year its slowness is more like the swift movement of the Mendenhall Glacier). But sometimes when spring does arrive,  it’s easy to miss all its details until it has completely taken us over with its flood of green. In lieu of Stanley, my true spring desires run more along the lines of the appearance of snow fleas, first drops of sap, tree buds, the goldfinch smudging back to yellow. Humble desires yes, but ones I look for with curiosity as arrival dates change. So given spring’s changing appearance every year I still take a crack at my own version of phenology, writing down observations when I can. I start my notes with birds. Before the new onslaught of snow, I watched killdeer fly over farm fields and eagles perched in trees all along highway 61. Today cardinals threw out forlorn songs sitting on broken, icy branches.

In the spring, birds are kind of the teenagers at Daytona Beach. There is no mistaking when they arrive. Even in snow melt, birds show up all pumped for loud music and fast dating, but then they take up home construction and raise families. So they are an enduring lesson of life cycles for my daughter and me, and to our never-ending dismay, an interesting source of snack food for our cat.

Birds awaken us from our cold somnolence. For some of us it is utter satisfaction to sit in a ditch and watch yellow-rumped warblers gather and swirl around tree tops and dirty street curbs. Winter has made us hungry for something highborn, something that speaks of the sun, something that tells us maybe life isn’t all vulgar and sad. If the planet, in spite of its age and all its abuses can still deliver thumb-sized hummingbirds to a feeder to drink nectar, maybe I too can stop whining and learn something from these gem birds and their furious art of flight. My notes on hummers tend toward the poetic.

And then there is the turkey. One year a wild turkey took up residence on our city block. Here are some nature notes about the turkey:

Makes the neighborhood boys run screaming. Likes to sleep in the Japanese lilac. Scares the cat by stretching its pre-historic neck, fluffing up its feathers and  stages stare downs with its beady eye. Never ceases to startle me by flapping its great spread wings within inches of my face while I get the Sunday paper. Likes to eat coneflowers. Likes to look at itself in every front door window on the block.

The turkey showed up one spring laying eggs in a neighbor’s backyard. The eggs did not survive, but the turkey remained. We grew accustomed to her roaming, her hunt for seeds, her implacable quest for whatever constitutes a turkey’s life on an inner city block by an interstate freeway.

The other day I saw crows circling a great horned owl soaring over our roof. It appeared the owl had something the crows wanted in on. The owl darted through the urgent tangle of dark birds, swift and light. There was strength in all that rising struggle and suspension. The crows eventually gave up and the owl flew off.

I often stand and feel illiterate in the face of nature. It has a different language. A different silence.

Like Thoreau and Thomas Jefferson taking their notes and the Japanese, a thousand years ago charting the arrival of the cherry blossoms, kids begin their own phenology in biology class, noting the arrival dates of migrant spring birds. So our desires to observe and record the changes of earth run long and deep. Aldo Leopold said, “The months of year, from January to June are a geometric progression in the abundance of distractions.”

For me birds are some of the greatest distractions the earth has to offer. And so is the arrival of spring. Should it ever come. I continue on with my own sketches and nature notes as the earth eventually gets warmer and the environment responds, telling us of both the disappearance and discoveries happening around us.

Viljo Kajava said in his poem from Song of Sparrows, (Spring 1918), “What was that bird that I heard in May? It was the sound I heard when I pressed my head against my mother’s wrist.”

Birds are symbols of how to cheat gravity and ride with angels. They are symbols of our simplest desires to be giddy and find love, to possess power, but also adaptability, delicacy and rebirth. Look for their wingbeats in the coming season. They have much to tell us.

(An earlier version of this piece was previously published in the New World Finn)

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Artvesting · New Music From Diane Jarvi http://dianejarvi.com/artvesting-new-music-from-diane-jarvi/ http://dianejarvi.com/artvesting-new-music-from-diane-jarvi/#respond Tue, 12 Mar 2013 00:37:19 +0000 http://dianejarvi.com/?p=605 Diane Jarvi Kantele I have a new recording and artvestors helped make it happen!

Current Amount received from Artvestors: $5550.00! Kiitos!

You’ve probably heard of musicians raising money from individuals to finance their projects—through websites such as Kickstarter. I am a founding member of an artist cooperative (New Bohemian Arts Cooperative) that has created its own collaborative financing model called Artvesting. We offer a personal, local alternative to the other large-scale crowd sourcing models and my new recording is our first Artvesting project.

The Cooperative dedicated 100% of artvesting support to help me realize the project.

I am so very grateful to all those who helped make this recording possible. Thank you!

If you would still like to support this project, you can do so right here on my website. There are always post-production costs that include CD release concerts, promotion, mailings…

*If you would prefer to send a check, you can make it out to: New Bohemian Arts Cooperative. And mail it to Lupine Records P.O. Box 19274, Minneapolis, MN 55419

Or if you want to order bittersweet you can always send your orders to Lupine Records or visit cdbaby. Kiitos!

 

 

Check out the Sample tracks:

I Never
Matti
  • Release date—Summer 2014

I will have a CD release party with guest musicians who appear on the new CD, some Finnish treats, a silent auction to win a 5-string kantele made by Gerry Henkel and maybe some post-show tango dancing.

Artvesting Levels

  • $1.-$20. My sincere gratitude for helping me complete this project.
  • $25.  You will get a copy of the new CD in your mailbox in advance of public release.
  • $50.  You will get a signed copy of the new CD with your name on the credits and a reserved ticket to CD release concert.
  • $100. All of the above and signed copy of my most recent poetry book, The Tender Wild Things or signed copy of my last CD, Wild Gardens.
  • $200. You will get signed CD, CD credit, 2 tickets, and I will give you a kantele lesson on a 5, 10 or 36-string kantele. If you don’t have your own instrument, you can borrow one of mine.
  • $500. Signed CD, CD credit, 2 tickets to concert and a kantele song written just for you which you will receive as an MP3.
  • $1000. Signed CD, CD credit, 2 tickets to concert, 5-string kantele made by Gerry Henkel of the Kantele Shop. One instrument available– goes to first supporter.
  • $1500. Signed CD, CD credit, 2 tickets to CD release concert and I will perform: an exclusive house concert for you. Concert to be held within 100 miles of the Twin Cities.

Invest in Diane Jarvi's CD Project

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New CD in the works http://dianejarvi.com/new-cd-in-the-works/ http://dianejarvi.com/new-cd-in-the-works/#respond Sun, 23 Sep 2012 17:08:55 +0000 http://dianejarvi.com/?p=551 Invest in Diane Jarvi’s CD Project
  • Leave blank if you wish to remain anonymous.
  • required if you need to be sent a notification email
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

*If you would prefer to send a check, you can make it out to: New Bohemian Arts Cooperative. And mail it to Lupine Records P.O. Box 19274, Minneapolis, MN 55419

GOAL–$5000.

Artvesting Levels

  • $1.-$20. My sincere gratitude for helping me complete this project.
  • $25.  You will get a copy of the new CD in your mailbox in advance of public release.
  • $50.  You will get a signed copy of the new CD with your name on the credits and a reserved ticket to CD release concert.
  • $100. All of the above and signed copy of my most recent poetry book, The Tender Wild Things or signed copy of my last CD, Wild Gardens.
  • $200. You will get signed CD, CD credit, 2 tickets, and I will give you a kantele lesson on a 5, 10 or 36-string kantele. If you don’t have your own instrument, you can borrow one of mine.
  • $500. Signed CD, CD credit, 2 tickets to concert and a kantele song written just for you which you will receive as an MP3.
  • $1000. Signed CD, CD credit, 2 tickets to concert, 5-string kantele made by Gerry Henkel of the Kantele Shop. One instrument available– goes to first supporter.
  • $1500. Signed CD, CD credit, 2 tickets to CD release concert and I will perform: an exclusive house concert for you. Concert to be held within 75 miles of Twin Cities area.
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Poetry Workshops http://dianejarvi.com/poetry-workshops/ http://dianejarvi.com/poetry-workshops/#respond Fri, 07 Dec 2012 19:05:04 +0000 http://dianejarvi.com/?p=583 http://dianejarvi.com/poetry-workshops/feed/ 0 Singing On My Joy Stone http://dianejarvi.com/singing-on-my-joy-stone/ http://dianejarvi.com/singing-on-my-joy-stone/#respond Fri, 22 Jul 2011 13:40:04 +0000 http://dianejarvi.com/?p=461 Kanteles are coolIn 2010 I had the great joy and wonder of teaching the 5-string kantele to thirty students that ranged in age from 5 years old to 81 in the town of Cokato, Minnesota. I came to them as a recipient of a grant written together with the New Bohemian Arts Cooperative and funded by the Minnesota State Arts Board from the Minnesota Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund. As a performer of ethnic music for many years I have had numerous opportunities to share the music of Finland and to teach the kantele, but never for an extended period of time. It had always been a dream of mine to find a teaching experience where I could join a Finnish-American community for more than a weekend and make some music together.

The city of Cokato, Minnesota is a small community of just under 3000. Its primary influx of immigrants came from Finland and Sweden. And it is one of the oldest Finnish immigrant communities in the state. The first Finnish settlers arrived in 1865. Today twenty-five percent of Cokato’s population is of Finnish descent and it is still regarded as a Finnish community.

In September I arrived in Cokato with 15 kanteles made by Gerry Henkel for the Cokato Finnish-American Historical Society to keep as an instrument lending library. Classes began that month and ran though May. We played inside the city hall, the town library, the local museum, the township hall and the old school house. And our final concert was held at the Dassel Historical Society.

In the Kalevala, Finland’s folk epic poem, there is a time when Väinämöinen who is the great sage, great singer of songs sits down on a singing stone with his 5-string kantele for the first time and plays. The music is beautiful, mysterious, haunting and full of joy.

Listening to my students play Kalevala melodies and Christmas carols and advance to more complex tunes as well as creating new melodies was also mysterious and full of joy. Music has that quality of wonder about it that evades description. I was grateful to discover that my students also wanted to share that wonder and played their new musicfor family, friends, church gatherings and holidays.

It was a pure pleasure being able to share the strange beauty of the kantele with my students. They in turn delivered back to me all the mystery and delicacy of its song that drew me to this instrument so long ago. Our many and different choirs of strings rang inside our bones and lifted up as only music can when played with others.

When you are learning something, anything new—there is that kind of fear mixed with hope, shyness with exhilaration—it is a kind of journeywork, a kind of pilgrimage.

I watched as my adult students came to class eager to play, to offer humor, ideas, innovation and whole-hearted curiosity. One student built this own 5-string and is soon to build another. The same student said he could not make the final concert—perhaps thinking he was not ready or a bit shy—but he came and played two solos for an audience of over two hundred people. Several of these students had no musical background, but seem to find a new connection with the sheer power of making song.

I asked my younger students what they thought the kantele sounded like. They scribbled countless ideas on the chalkboard. Here are a few things they said: someone singing, funny, ice cream, bells, soft, cuckoo clock, great, Bobby McFerrin, owl, harp, chimes, good, magic, loveable music.

My vision as a musician has always been to be a tradition bearer of my ancestry and to always seek curious wonder and joy.
I never was able to get to all the students signed up on the waiting list. We ran out of instruments. But those generous people of Cokato who did join me throughout the year, helped us share a common thread of ancestry and made music ring inside all of us. It was delightful, humorous, haunting–and enchanted. And I thank them for the opportunity.

First published in the New World Finn, Summer 2011.

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Some We Kept; Some We Threw Back http://dianejarvi.com/some-we-kept-some-we-threw-back/ http://dianejarvi.com/some-we-kept-some-we-threw-back/#respond Fri, 19 Nov 2010 20:14:27 +0000 http://dianejarvi.com/?p=105 Some We Kept; Some We Threw Back, by Minna Rainio and Mark Roberts, depicts a man in contemporary times, making preparations for a sauna in the north woods of Minnesota.]]> Diane Jarvenpa Narrates new Finnish film on immigration

Some we kept, some we threw back by Rainio & Roberts

Some We Kept; Some We Threw Back (2010), by Minna Rainio and Mark Roberts, depicts a man in contemporary times, making preparations for a sauna in the north woods of Minnesota.

As he chops wood, pumps water and lights the sauna fire – a woman narrates a series of experiences from her childhood when she and her parents left Finland for America.

Some We Kept; Some We Threw Back creates powerful parallels with the refugee’s stories of Angles of Incidence – the female voice describes the reasons her family left her home country: famine, unemployment, political persecution, and reveals the negative receptions they received as part of a new immigrant community.

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Dreaming In Winter http://dianejarvi.com/dreaming-in-winter/ http://dianejarvi.com/dreaming-in-winter/#respond Mon, 24 Dec 2012 04:01:45 +0000 http://dianejarvi.com/?p=962 12/23/2012

On the 45th parallel where I have lived my entire life, I find I am still not a winter person. But while SADS sits down in my living room like an unwelcome nine-hundred pound elephant, there is a large part of me that sighs gratefully for the wave of darkness and quiet that kaamos brings. For many people this is the season of skiing, skating, snow boarding, hockey, winter camping, hunting, snowmobiling, and yes, carving holes in lake ice and jumping in– and it all seems so healthy and invigorating as I ponder it from a distance while I sit with a pile of afghans, drinking a cup of Mexican hot chocolate. That is their winter season. For me, winter is museum season.

I am fortunate to live in a metropolitan area with many choices regarding museums. Some of my favorites are the Mill City Museum housed in an old flour mill where the likes of Beatrice Ojakangas will teach you how to bake a cake, the Science Museum of Minnesota where I can hang out with a diploducus and learn that it takes 400 years for a drop of water to travel from the headwaters of Lake Superior to the shores of Lake Ontario and the Minnesota Children’s Museum where I visit the bubble room. I have learned you can never have too many bubbles in the month of February. Never. The choices go on and I choose to go, for now almost all of the museums in the Twin Cities are for the people. I can go to any library and get a free pass to many museums in town. Ah, the library, my other winter temple. But that is another story.

A regular haunt of mine in the winter is the Minneapolis Institute of Arts. It is a five minute drive from my house and I go there every week. In addition to all of the Greek and African rooms, Impressionist and Renaissance paintings, this winter I can visit China’s Terra Cotta Warriors. It is an exhibit so astonishing if simply to witness the rippling of the horse’s flanks or the individual features of each warrior’s face sculpted with precision,– let alone to grasp how vast this army was, why it was constructed and what became of the army of artists that produced it. And how like a dream it feels when walking among them– those birds, those distinct human faces.

One year there was an exhibit at the MIA jointly presented with the Walker Art Center called Eero Saarinen: Shaping the Future. It was the first major museum retrospective of the Finnish architect’s career. On a cold winter day I could look at his Grasshopper, Tulip and Womb chairs, study his plans and models for a Yale hockey rink, TWA terminal, the Dulles International airport and of course his Gateway Arch. Saarinen was prolific, unorthodox and controversial. He was certainly gifted at designing for corporate America. They say he was a structural expressionist and it shows in his vast sweeps and swirls, spin-outs and bird-like allegories. And he was often criticized for varying his style for each of his projects. I remember sitting in his North Christian Church in Columbus, Indiana on my way to Nashville one rainy day. As I sat there in silence, I was impressed at how spiritual a space could feel that had been described as a “steel hat over a concrete bowl”. Saarinen died shortly before it was completed and he had said he wanted to tell St. Peter “This was one of the best buildings I had ever done.”

I watched a film by Charles Guggenheim on the construction of Saarinen’s Jefferson National Expansion Memorial. It was called Monument to the Dream. You could see amid all the strange blocks of concrete, elevators, wires, ladders and dozens of men in hard hats –how a thin arc of concrete can speak of vastness, how a dream can be formed.

Museums are places to explore, learn, and try out. My daughter and I learned how to draw our own Saarinen arches with rulers and graph paper. We assembled models of houses and sculpture gardens with foam core, colored papers, glue, scissors and shreds of upholstery. And I am a convert. I have learned from my many winter trips to museums I am a huge advocate of occupational therapy. No matter how miserable you may feel, regardless of the sinking state of the economy, the rampages of world hunger, senseless violence– or the mere fact it’s so cold, leaving your house could potentially kill you,– it’s nothing a little glue, markers and pretty colored, shiny paper can’t soothe for the moment. At least that is how it is for me. It helps to have a kid in tow, but not necessary. It is Zen to sit, calm the mind and in this case, use your hands to make a dream. I have made several little dreams like rangolis, mandalas, Tibetan prayer flags, Calder-esque mobiles, origami boxes, dragon kites…

Obviously we go to museums because we can travel to the universe of the artist and see fresh statements about the world in new, astounding ways –and to witness dreams. Art– love it, hate it, — got to have it. The same goes for me with winter. It is ridiculously hostile at times and it is a gift to those of us who need to slow down. The poet Billy Collins said, ‘bare branches in winter are a form of writing’. I am glad I can pause and have a look at a winter tree, a sculpture, a corner of my life that has piled up and desperately needs attention. Winter allows us to just sit –or maybe sleep like some of our fellow mammals, but also muse, create, re-invent, attend.

The Sami poet/singer Nils-Aslak Valkeapää said “I know that you are waiting for a dawn, a wondrously beautiful future. I don’t want to deny you that, because dreaming is the gift of life.”

I suppose artists can be accused of escape and denial for their time spent seeking dreams. But we all wait for the dawn in our own way. And when life is harsh, a dream can feed our hungers and lead us in surprising ways that connect us with others.

The new year is coming. The Finnish poet Kirsi Kunnas says, “breathe earth’s vastness so that each of you, alone, but neighboring together, will fill with stars.”

Let us all fill ourselves up and make some dreams.

(An earlier version of this piece was previously published in the New World Finn.)

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