Photo: Teemu Ullgrén / Jan Rosström

Atso Almila and Sibafest declare civil peace from 27 January to 3 February 2018

For the seventh time, the Sibelius Academy of the University of the Arts Helsinki (Uniarts Helsinki) shows the public what it’s all about in Sibafest, a festival that will spread out to the Music Centre and churches in Helsinki from 27 January to 3 February 2018. The artistic director of the festival is conductor Atso Almila, Professor of Conducting and Orchestral Training at the Sibelius Academy. The theme of the 2018 edition of Sibafest, civil peace, was chosen by Almila, and it transports us to the Finnish Civil War in 1918 in a country that had just gained its independence.

– Sibafest is taking a stand because we need to understand the historical events of that era and know how to transform the pain and anguish into building blocks of peace. Art can be a way of dealing with trauma, both individually and as a nation. Among the people who were deeply shocked by the events of the year 1918 was composer Leevi Madetoja, whose brother fell in the Civil War. Madetoja’s close friend, composer Toivo Kuula, was also killed in the war. The grim times of the Civil War have left their mark on Madetoja’s Second Symphony, for example, which will be performed in the final concert of Sibafest on 3 February, says Atso Almila.

– The purpose of our highly international school is to achieve wellbeing and resonance between human hearts through the means of art. We do so by providing top-quality tuition, even by international standards, and by turning the spotlight on our young talented students as much as possible. This year, we also want to present what the Sibelius Academy is doing at its satellite units in Kuopio and Seinäjoki, Almila continues.

Sibafest begins on 27 January with a children’s day. The first day of the festival week ends in an opening concert consisting of two parts, with the first half focusing on songs about the beloved fantasy world of Mörri-Möykky trolls created by Marjatta Pokela. During the other half of the concert, folk musicians and students from the Global Music degree programme join forces to form the Sibelius Academy Folk Big Band & Global Orchestra with Pekko Käppi as the soloist. Käppi is known for his masterful skills in playing a traditional Finnish instrument called ‘jouhikko’, bowed lyre.

History is brought to life on 26–28 January with performances of A Soldier’s Tale, which was composed a hundred years ago by Igor Stravinsky. The production is a collaboration between chamber musicians from the Sibelius Academy and students of the Theatre Academy. An electrifying note is injected into winter darkness on 29 January with the blood-curdling Murhaballadeja 2018 [Murder Ballads] performance by Heikki Laitinen and Kimmo Pohjonen.

Sibafest can be seen and heard also in churches. The celebratory Sibafest church service brings music by Mozart to the Kallio Church on 28 January. On 1 February, students of the Sibelius Academy’s departments of voice, church music and early music collaborate with the Jubilate Choir to perform The Triumph of Time and Truth, an oratorio by Georg Friedrich Händel, at the Old Church.

Sibafest includes a series of talks and panel discussions, and the first one will be organised on 30 January together with the Oskar Merikanto 150 concert by pianist Folke Gräsbeck. The four-part #Kansalaisrauha [Civil Peace] panel discussion series, on the other hand, tackles topics such as the role of the artist in society, the public funding of culture and the artist’s stance on war.

On the last day of the festival, 3 February, Janne Oksanen performs the complete works composed for piano by Toivo Kuula. The final concert of the festival is given on the same evening by the Sibelius Academy Symphony Orchestra, with Atso Almila as the conductor. The programme features a brand new cello concerto by Sauli Zinovjev, who composed it on commission for the Paulo Foundation.

What is Sibafest?

Sibafest is the most significant event of Uniarts Helsinki’s Sibelius Academy. The week-long festival, organised every even year, showcases the entire spectrum of the Sibelius Academy’s artistic activities through events at the Music Centre and in churches of Helsinki. Previous artistic directors of Sibafest include Professor of Opera Markus Lehtinen (2006), composer-conductor Kirmo Lintinen (2008), Professor of Cello Martti Rousi (2010), accordion artist Maria Kalaniemi (2012), lecturer in lied and pianist Gustav Djupsjöbacka (2014), and Professor of Jazz Jukkis Uotila (2016). In 2016, the theme of Sibafest was the world of film, featuring over 30 events and attracting about 8,000 concert-goers to the Music Centre and nearby churches.

Information on over 30 events included in this year’s programme is available at

Further information and interview requests

Producer Joni Käenmäki
Tel. 040 7104384