Hello, this is Robby Raney. During the last couple of weeks of May and into the month of June I had the opportunity to be in Europe. First in the Scandinavian countries of Finland, Norway and Sweden. I thought it would be fun to give you a few highlights of trip as WSMC takes you on Summer Vacation.
Portions of these programs were recorded live overseas. I'll let you know what. We begin in the capital city of Finland: Helsinki, which was founded by Gustav Vasa in 1550. The country itself was owned by several different nations through the ages. From the 12th through the 19th centuries it was ruled by Sweden. They lost it to Russia after the War of Finland in 1812, who ruled until December 6, 1917--their Independence Day.
Let's travel around the city for a moment... When you are driving around, you will definitely know you are in city, but it is a slower paced city than many in the states, and there are trees! More trees than would fit fenced in on sidewalks.
During the early 20th-Century, the Finns were trying to develop their own nationalistic style of architecture. Instead of relying on the modern, expected and traditional element, they went back in time with their buildings. In modern, downtown Helsinki, the buildings look like they should be hundreds of years old, but in effect they are only around one-hundred.
In 1812, after the Revolution where Sweden lost control of Finland, Czar Alexander I of Russia wanted to make Helsinki, its new capital, into the most beautiful city in Europe--after his own St. Petersburg.
Another Czar Alexander is given the most prominent place in the city square. There is a beautiful statue of him standing in the middle of the Senate Square, a cobbled courtyard that is just below the Helsinki Lutheran Cathedral.
From the state of Czar Alexander II, let's climb the 46 steep, stone steps to the Cathedral. Just before you enter through the main, side entrance, gaze up and see bronze statues of the twelve apostles looking down at you.
Inside the church is simply beautiful. You walk in from the back, and are almost immediately greeted with a beautiful altar piece, maybe 75 feet away. The inside of the church is in the shape of a Greek cross with all four of the arms an equal distance. In the outside angles of the meeting point are statues of important figures in Church history, including that of Martin Luther.
Behind you is breathtaking 57-stop Marcussen organ from 1967, which is housed in the facade of the Church's original 1848 Walcker organ. The 57-stops play a total of some 5,600 pipes distributed between four manuals and pedal.
As we leave the church and descend the stairs, we continue walking through the beautiful city. A few blocks later we come to an open-air bazaar, and in the middle of the crowd is a statue called the Lady from the Sea, which is the symbol of Helsinki.
The city of Helsinki has 240 parks, and Finland, with a population only of 5.4 million, has 3 million saunas--more saunas than cars! And the country can make Minnesota look like a desert with 187,888 lakes!
Another Helsinki attraction is the Church of the Place of the Temple--though it's called most often the Rock Church. A church was desired in a particular neighborhood of Helsinki, but the locals didn't was the view to be spoiled. Architect were hired, and they decided to blow up the inside of a granite boulder and build inside it. The church is beautiful inside, lit using the sun, and the acoustics are absolutely amazing. It is a treat for a choir to sing there.
One of Helsinki's most famous sons isn't even their son. Jean Sibelius was Finnish, but wasn't born in Helsinki. He loved to travel, but always came back home to Finland where he said the silence spoke.
Sibelius' most famous work is definitely Finlandia, which is only about 10 minutes long. It ends with a chorale that we sing to this day. The melody is unchanged, and the harmony and even arrangement have changed very little since it was composed and was entered into our hymnals as Be Still My Soul.
After Jean Sibelius passed away, the city of Helsinki, his adopted home, decided to honor him with a statue. I had the opportunity to see it while in Helsinki. The statue was welded from many different pipes, and it almost looks like a collection of organ pipes or those insect nests on the wall of your porch. It's not supposed to symbolize any of those things, though. It is just supposed to describe the music of Sibelius.
Within just a few feet of the main Sibelius monument is a secondary, much less abstract statue, also in his honor. This one features Sibelius' face along with clouds.
I'm a Classical musician, a growing Christian, and a world traveler. I'm learning, exploring, and trying to understand this wonderful world I live in.