The atmosphere in a studio located in the Espoo neighbourhood of Otaniemi is starting to feel very Christmassy. Paper Christmas star decorations are hanging from the ceiling, a Christmas tree has been propped up in the middle of the room and candles burning on a table add a final touch. Singing star Ilta will soon step in front of the cameras, also full of Christmas spirit.
“There is something special about Christmas.”
“I can’t say that I’m a Christmas person because I love all the seasons of the year. But there is something special about Christmas. I’ll spend Christmas in my childhood home, as always, and we always have the same traditions from going to church to traditional Christmas food,” says Ilta.
Despite her young age, Ilta, 23, has extensive experience of Christmas concerts. The first time she performed Christmas carols was when she was in first grade. Now she has toured around Finland doing Christmas concerts for at least six consecutive years.
Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, some concerts are organised online this year. The online concert organised by Lumo is the first in her concert tour.
“These gigs are naturally very different from the traditional Christmas concerts that I usually perform in churches. Even though the audience is just on the other side of the screen, I can’t achieve the same kind of interaction with them as in a regular concert.”
However, the aim is to make the concert interactive. The audience can comment on the performance and submit their song requests online.
“I have selected both new and old songs. The final song will be decided by the audience. They can choose between three very different songs so it’s exciting to see which one they will pick,” Ilta ponders.
The first virtual concert by Lumo
“This is the first ever virtual concert organised by Lumo, and putting together this event has been very different from our previous Christmas concerts. Already during the registration period, we received plenty of great feedback about the method. Many people are glad that we can share the Christmas spirit despite the exceptional circumstances,” says Riikka Ilmakunnas, Customer Account Manager at Lumo.
Lauri Peltonen, Unit Director of Lumo who will be hosting the concert, confirms the words of his colleague.
“It’s especially great that we can now reach many more people with this concert than traditional concerts. It’s great to wish happy holidays to such a large number of people,” he says.
Approximately 1,500 Lumo residents signed up for the event. Peltonen and Ilmakunnas believe that the actual number of people following the concert will be larger.
“People will surely watch with their families. One of our residents told me that a Christmas concert is an integral part of the holiday season and always enjoyed together with the grandkids,” says Ilmakunnas.
Christmas spirit in the studio and at home
When the moment is upon us and the concert starts, Christmas spirit immediately spreads across the studio and across the screens to residents’ homes. From behind the piano, we hear modern Christmas songs, such as Jouluksi kotiin by Ninni Poijärvi, as well as Finnish traditional Christmas classics, such as Varpunen jouluaamuna and Maa on niin kaunis. It’s easy to believe that many people on the other side of the screens are also joining in the singing, especially with Ilta encouraging them.
“With this kind of a gig, you have to have a similar attitude as when making a TV show. Timing is key because you can’t be a second late. I tried to select songs that would work especially in this kind of a situation,” Ilta says.
Otherwise, throwing herself to the virtual concert is not a challenge for Ilta.
“I don’t stress much: I always try to live in the moment. It’s no use worrying before a gig about the things that could go wrong.”
The virtual concert experiences an unfortunate hiccup when the concert is interrupted due to technical issues. The decision is made to record the concert, and Ilta soon continues her singing and chatting with the camera.
The highlight of the evening was Heinillä härkien kaukalon, as requested by the audience.
Finally, the audience can watch the recording of the concert. However, the winner has already been voted: residents at home selected almost unanimously that the evening will end with Heinillä härkien kaukalon, a Finnish translation of the traditional French Christmas carol Entre le bœuf et l'âne gris.
“I was a little surprised by the choice since often people want to hear more modern songs. On the other hand, this is the perfect song to end the evening with: it crystallises what Christmas is all about,” says Ilta with a smile on her face.
Dreaming of a white Christmas
At the time of the concert, Christmas is still a few weeks away, but Ilta thinks the virtual concert was a great way to kick off the holiday season.
“It was so easy to imagine the audience there, and I loved hearing the comments they wrote,” she summarises.
For Christmas, the singer hopes for snow and traditional Christmas activities with her family.
“Every year, we have a Christmas church vote including several stages to decide which church we will go to on Christmas Eve. In addition, I especially look forward to my dad’s Christmas salad. It’s the crowning jewel of our Christmas dinner. We of course give gifts, too, but not as much as when we were little. Every year, we organise a raffle to decide who is buying gifts for whom. That way there will be a suitable number of gifts.”