History of Sastamala Gregoriana
Sastamala Gregoriana is very much a festival linked to a location. In a way, the history of the festival began in medieval times when two stone churches were built on the shores of Lake Rautavesi in Sastamala. People would come to church in long boats, one from each village and probably sang in the same manner as we now hear in some of our concerts. Both churches were left unused when more modern ones were constructed. However, both of the medieval churches had a place in the local people’s hearts and occasional events were held in them.
St Mary’s, the Church with the fantastic acoustics lures the musicians and the audience
Music lovers noticed the special acoustics in St Mary’s church. “Just wait when some guru finds this place” someone commented.
The revival of early music in Europe prepared the way and 1996, three forces came together. Karkun evankelinen opisto (KEO, Karkku Evangelical College) decided to run a masterclass on early music for professional singers. Musician Kari Kaarna orgamised a series of concerts in the church of St Mary’s. The third force was a group of local people who volunteered to do various tasks to help the running of the festival.
The first masterclass was led by Paul Hillier. In 1997, Michael Fields taught the course and has come back as a teacher and, from 2006 onwards, also as the musical director of the festival. The year of Hildegard of Bingen’s 900th anniversary 1998 was celebrated by the masterclass performing Hildegard’s Ordo Virtutum under the guidance of Michael Fields and Ansy Boothroyd. The soprano and teacher Evelyn Tubb arrived in 1999, fell in love with St Mary’s church and the well-trained Finnish musicians. Since then we have enjoyed Evelyn’s special ability to “find the locks in a singer and to open them”. The master class concert is an opportunity for the singers and musicians to stretch their limits and try things they never dreamt of six days earlier.
St Olaf’s, the Church destroyed and restored invites you to celebrate the old with the new
Whilst the masterclass and the festival were establishing themselves with more and more concert goers making the pilgrimage to St Mary’s church, the other church St Olaf’s became the focus the of national attention. First St Olaf’s roof was lovingly restored over two years by hundreds of volunteers. Three weeks after the completion of the new roof, the interior and the roof burnt down. The people wept for a day and then decided to rebuild the whole church. The original style was maintained, but the interior paintings were commissioned from two modern artists who were invited to interpret the original themes in their own way. done Now the church is a point of interest and celebration, linking the old with the new and a showcase of what people can do when they put their mind to it. Sastamala Gregoriana as a festival holds the same ideals. Usually one of the festival concerts takes place in this church.
1996-2001 Kari Kaarna
2001-2005 Jouni Maunula
2006- Michael Fields
Master class teachers:
Paul Hillier (1995), Michael Fields, Ansy Boothroyd (1998), Evelyn Tubb, Anna-Maaria Oramo, David Hatcher, Corina Marti, Michal Gondko, Walter Reiter, Hanna Järveläinen
Performers who have been to Sastamala Gregoriana:
Michael Fields, Evelyn Tubb, Ansy Boothroyd, David Hatcher,Teppo Lampela, Tuuli Lindeberg, Lumen Valo, Border Waites and many more.
Over the years, dozens of local volunteers have been preparing and distributing programmes, given lifts, sought for hairdryers, tights and painkillers, ironing costumes, written addresses and performed many other tasks that make the musicians and concert visitors feel they are welcome to Sastamala.
Text and translation: Taru and Michael Owston