Folk Traditions and Culture in North Karelia
In the course of time four types of folk poetry in the metre of the Kalevala were collected in Karelia: epics (heroic tales), lyrical runes, festive runes and incantations (ceremonial runes). Besides the rune singers of the Kalevala, this region has always had lots of poets, wordsmiths.
There were collectors of folk poetry from different centuries like Elias Lönnrot, D.E.D. Europaeus and August Ahlqvist. They also inspired North Karelian folk rune singers like Juhana Kainulainen, Simana Sissonen, Mateli Kuivalatar, Arhippa Buruskainen, Anna Mustonen.
For the longest time rune singing skills were preserved in Ilomantsi, where the Karelian language, the Greek Orthodox religion and trade connections to the east preserved these skills. In the village of Parppeinvaara there lived a rune singer and Finnish harp (kantele) player Jaakko Parppei in the late 19th century. At Parppeinvaara, Ilomantsi the planning and construction of the rune singer’s house (Runonlaulajan Pirtti) started in the late 1950s. The house opened its doors for visitors in the summer of 1964.
The national landscape of Koli Hill has always had a significant impact on different arts and tourism. It has inspired both many Finnish and foreign writers, musicians and painters. The famous painter Eero Järnefelt visited Koli in 1892 for the first time and in 1935 for the last time. His fascination with the scenery of Koli is preserved in fifty of his paintings. The first tourist inn at Koli was opened in 1896 and the national park was founded in 1991.
The Joensuu City Theatre has its home in the building of the Town Hall. One of its activities is also to tour around the region. Every year about 12–15 productions are staged and 300 performances are given there. The number of theatre goers is about 25,000-40,000 annually. The Joensuu City Theatre(also called the Regional Theater of North Karelia) is the only professional theater in the region. The cinema center Tapio, which was rebuilt and opened in 2005, is open all year round. The cinema has four halls with seats for about 650 viewers.
In the summertime regional cultural life can be enjoyed out in the open in courtyards, market places and nature. Lively theatre activities are maintained by 20 summer theaters. The spectator can often enjoy not only a high-quality performance but also the beauty of North Karelian scenery when attending. In summer eight open air dance pavilions of the region are also opened: in Liperi, Kesälahti, Lieksa, Nurmes, Outokumpu, Pyhäselkä, Rääkylä, and Tuupovaara.
The image of North Karelia as the region of music and songs is still very strong. Many representatives of music life, famous both in Finland and abroad – opera singers and rock musicians have come from North Karelia. Numerous musical events in North Karelia including festivals, from Kihaus Folk to Ilosaarirock, also confirm these words. The company Kantele Koistinen from Rääkkylä has made the Finnish harp (kantele) a modern instrument and taken our national instrument into the international music arena.
The orchestral life of Joensuu also has long traditions. In 1881 the voluntary fire brigade of the town founded a brass band and later a string orchestra as well. In 1908, which was the foundation year of the permanent orchestra, concerts arranged by this musical society became regular. The golden time of the orchestra faded after 1912 because of the decrease of financial support from the town. The society of Orchestra was founded in 1953, which created the foundation for the Joensuu Town Orchestra. Nowadays the orchestra gives some 60 concerts yearly, about one third of which are symphonic ones. In addition to them it also plays church, chamber and pop music as well as music for children and young people not forgetting rock.