Europa 2014: Music Instruments
"If these musicians, about whom the following story is told, had concentrated on their daily work, instead of constantly reaching out for the sky, they would probably have done much better in this the tiniest of all known worlds. But that was not the case. They were, each in their own way, possessed, like all real musicians are by nature."
Every time I hear a string quartet, I come to think of this paragraph from William Heinesen's "The Lost Musicians". The small group of cheerful anarchists, who loose themselves in short musical glimpses of beauty and structure in a grim and chaotic world. The reason the musicians are “lost” is because they do not fit in the brutal reality, where religious fundamentalism, greed, poverty and emerging political interests set the agenda. Dreamers in the Klondike which, right after the turn of the 20th century, constituted the Faroese capital Tórshavn. Despite their differences and tough destiny, they find together in music and spread music and beauty through narrow streets and alleys - like songbirds in a hysterical gull colony.
Historically, there is no great tradition of musical instruments on the Faroe Islands. Even though there always have been people who owned and played various instruments, the ballads and folksongs of the traditional chain-dance, which were performed a capella, were the predominant type of music for centuries.
There are a few stories of people in Tórshavn and in the villages, who played instruments. Among others, the renowned cultural figure, Jens Christian Svabo is said to have been an excellent violin player. He learned to play the violin while he was studying in Copenhagen and was frequently used as a fiddler at parties and weddings in Tórshavn in the late 18th century. Around 1890 there was a brass quartet in Torshavn consisting of Anton Degn (cornet), Martin Restorff (alto horn), Christian M. Christiansen (tenor horn) and JP Joensen (bass) .
It was not until a little later, when the renowned Dane, Georg Hansen, commonly referred to as "Baker Hansen" (1844 - 1924), began to teach brass-music, that the interest for instrumental music really started to grow. William Heinesen said about Baker Hansen that he could play all existing instruments – and even some which did not exist yet. In 1903 Baker Hansen founded Tórshavn Music Society, which eventually became Havnar Hornorkestur (Tórshavn Brass Band), which still is active. In 1922 some of his students started yet another brass band in his honour, which was called GHM (Georg Hansen's Memorial). At the same time, the equally renowned ferryman, Poul Andreas Jacobsen, called "Dia við Stein" and his gifted sons were active on the musical stage in Torshavn.
It is on these musical pioneers that the characters in "The Lost Musicians" are based. Quite ordinary citizens whose passion for music formed the interest for instrumental music on the Faroe Islands.
The School of Music
Throughout the twentieth century it was possible to get private music lessons all over the Faroe Islands. Generations of children and young people were taught by teachers, whose dedication was based on voluntary and most often poorly paid work.
The first semi-public attempt at music education started in 1942 with Tórshavnar Musikkskúli, which purpose was to educate talented young people in music and musical collaboration at a higher level - and this school has since 1985 been a municipal school . This initiative resulted in a series of chamber concertos over time and an increased interest for classical music.
But in 1981, an educational pilot project was started, which in 1984 resulted in the foundation of a real public school of music in the Faroe Islands. Today there are about 50 full-time teachers at the school all over the country.
There is no doubt that music schools are the cause of the blooming Faroese musical scene in all genres, which in recent years has even begun to spread across national borders. Even though conditions are cramped and savings plagues the cultural life as a whole, Baker Hansen's legacy is still honoured with enthusiasm and idealistic spirit.
The Faroese Symphony Orchestra
The jewel of the efforts - to lift the music to an international level - is undoubtedly the Faroese Symphony Orchestra. It was founded by music teachers back in 1983 and held the first concert shortly after the opening of the Nordic House in Tórshavn. Conductors at this first concert were Bogi Lützen and Magne Synnevåg. Since 2004, Bernharður Wilkinson has been the orchestra's permanent conductor.
The Symphony Orchestra has over the years benefited from the talent, cultivated by the music schools, and is now manned with professional Faroese musicians from home and abroad, pupils of the music schools, music students from conservatories and talented amateur musicians.
Faroese symphony orchestra holds regular concerts with works of historical foreign, as well as contemporary Faroese, composers. Especially the recurring New Year's concerts in the Nordic House in Tórshavn are popular and draw many spectators. The orchestra also makes a great effort order to arouse children's interest in music by their well-conducted children's concerts.
In addition to playing in the Faroe Islands, the Faroese Symphony Orchestra also has played concerts in the Shetland Islands, Denmark and Iceland.
Yes, despite tight economic conditions, the Faroese music scene keeps the flag high. Idealism is rarely rewarded with earthly goods. But somewhere out in the beautiful musical universe, the five Lost Musicians, Moritz, Sirius and Cornelius, music teacher Boman and master Mortensen, sit with tears in their eyes and ecstatic smiles, listening to the tonal beauty that flows from their spiritual descendants.
Technical DetailsIssue Date: 28.04.2014
Printer: LM Group, Canada
Colours: 4 Colours
Size: 30 x 40 mm
Values: 14.50, 19.50 DKK