Reflections Of An 10-year Old Ensemble

Ensemble Norma
by Ida Olsonen
 
It feels almost surreal: this autumn my vocal group Ensemble Norma celebrated it's 10 Year Anniversary! The group that started as a high school project with (I happily admit) more enthusiasm than knowledge or skill, has developed into a skilled and powerful instrument with the five of us being professional musicians with a cappella as our shared passion.
 
A lot has happened in 10 years. We've literally grown up with this group, learning from and alongside each other. Ensemble Norma has been the best possible arena for developing our skills, trying out new ideas and exploring our artistic expression! Most things have been learned by doing - as much by succeeding in our actions as in making mistakes. 
 
We feel, like most groups and artists I guess, that we owe a lot to all the amazing people that have given us advice and encouragement through the years. Sharing experiences with others has been a major source of inspiration for us. I'll always remember our first encounter with the international a cappella scene in Västerås, Sweden in 2009. It was incredibly exciting to meet other vocal groups with the same passion as we had, not to mention being mentored by some of our biggest a cappella role models! So as our 10 Year Anniversary was drawing close, we felt that we wanted to do something special to celebrate; to also pass on something from what web ve gained over the years. We decided to go back to where it all started, and invite the Girls Choir at the Sibelius High School to join us for our Anniversary Concerts.
 
I remember scribbling down some goals for the collaboration and our learning process in early August 2014: "teaching stage presence and interpretation", "improving & stabilizing their groove" and "empowering each singer" . These were, alongside our repertoire for the choir, the guidelines for our three month rehearsal period. One of the conceptual ideas for the Anniversary Concerts was to play around with the image of us in Ensemble Norma being a part of the choir. Five 20-somethings could visually  easily blend into the high school choir, but also pop out and take the spotlight at a given moment, we thought. Going into and singing among the choir worked not only as a theatrical tool for the concert. At the rehearsals, the choir absorbed a huge amount of information nonverbally, just by mimicking and following us. It changed their way of being, their energy when singing and their stage presence. Following this huge development of both formal and informal learning was very impressive.
 
If, to some extent, the rehearsal sessions had also had it's stressful moments, everything was made up for during the two last weeks of rehearsals. As the concerts grew closer, the close-to-a-deadline-magic really kicked in. Pieces where falling into place at a rapid tempo. As a result we performed two concerts with sparkling energy, touching interpretations and amazing stage presence - even the parts of the concert that were sung by only our ensemble were affected by the energy that was radiating from the choir. We couldn't have been more proud of our talented protegés!
 
It was such a dream come true to be able to share our music with 65 talented singers and work alongside their wonderful conductor, Reijo Aittakumpu! Planning it all, writing music, selecting favorite songs and teaching the choir was a huge undertaking, and totally worth every minute of it. And we did not expect the huge musical and emotional response that we got from the choir. After the three month long rehearsal period and two sold-out concerts (the first one being broadcast in real time online, gaining a record-breaking internet audience), it was time to say goodbye. At the party after the concert the air was filled with laughter, tears and gratitude. We kept hugging each other, thanking each and every one for their input and wishing everyone the best possible things for their futures. I think that we did make a difference for these singers, and that they actually felt how their appreciation for both themselves and their choir as a group rose during this project. It'll be great to see what they make of this experience, and what the following 10 years will bring with it!
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