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The Land of Song in the Future: Choral Finland 30 years from now

What can you do to promote children’s singing in Finland? Spread the word about MunKuoro groups.

Research on children’s singing and musical activities paints a pretty bleak picture. Statistics Finland reports that singing as a pastime is on the decline. Music teachers in schools are increasingly uncertain about their jobs, and music tuition has been reduced in teacher training programmes. Members of older generations can sing any number of songs from memory, while young people stare silently at their phones. School choirs also seem to be a dying breed.

How did this happen? After all, Finnish culture was built on a foundation of song: Finland is the nation of Väinämöinen the singing wizard, a land of song! Perhaps one reason for the worrying trend is the traumas caused by singing tests in schools, forcing awkward kids and teens to sing in front of everyone else wholly unprepared and branding them as musical or unmusical, as the case may be… so singing is only for the privileged few! Perhaps parents who had undergone this themselves wanted to protect their children from having their self-confidence demolished. Was choral singing left in a self-contained bubble of its own? A comprehensive network of choirs for children and adolescents used to be maintained by parishes, and this system trained many singers and sustained choral culture in Finland. Yet today we are seeing an increasing diversity of religions and cultures: do children from non-majority backgrounds have equal access to choral singing as a pastime?

But enough doom and gloom, let’s stand up and do something about it! Let’s revitalise the image of choral singing, help set up children’s choirs, create meaningful activities for them, put them on the map and bring them together, champion teaching children to sing and offer every bit of help and support that we can to people willing to establish children’s choirs. Let’s foster a new choral culture and create activities that suit the needs and preferences of kids and teens by involving them in the planning. This is what Nuorten Kuoroliitto [Youth Choir Association] is doing, in collaboration with its Swedish-speaking counterpart De Ungas Musikförbund [Youth Music Association], through a network known as MunKuoro/MinKör [MyChoir]. We are now in the first year of operations following a pilot period.

The MunKuoro/MinKör network was inspired by the project “Kör i skolan” [Choir in school], launched by the Finlands Svenska Sång- och Musikförbund [Finland-Swedish Song and Music Association] with the aim of setting up new choirs in schools around Finland. Today, the network is managed by Nuorten Kuoroliitto and De Ungas Musikförbund i Svenskfinland (DUNK). Together, we have the potential to bring together choir conductors across the country and across language boundaries. It is an incredible richness to be able to share this wealth of competence in this small country. The involvement of Nuorten Kuoroliitto gave MunKuoro a welcome impetus to carry on, and today there are 55 member choirs in the network!

So where are we now? The MunKuoro video competition is avidly attended, a book of beginners’ choral songs has been published, and the first bilingual (Finnish/Swedish) MunKuoro/MinKör summer event with concert will be held in Tampere. In the spring, we posted online support for teachers and are preparing materials, educational tips, games, sheet music and articles to assist choir conductors in their work. This will be helpful for primary school teachers and experienced choir conductors alike. You have to set up at least one MunKuoro group anywhere in Finland to gain access to the material.

What can you do to promote children’s singing? Spread the word about MunKuoro groups. It is easy to do: guide interested people to the website (or in Swedish). You can start a choir or join an existing choir in the network. You can send us your materials, ideas, games or songs to share in the network. But most important of all: you can believe in young people and their ability to learn to sing. It brings a positive surprise each and every time!

Mia Makaroff

MunKuoro/MinKör concert
Saturday 15 June at 13–14, Tampere Hall, Small Auditorium
Free entry

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