hear the harp of Väinämöinen...

Feeling the Music: Results of the Pikebone Songwriting Competition

by Lani K. Thompson

Hiroko Ara won the 2005 Pikebone Songwriting Competition for Small Kanteles, sponsored by Kantelemusic.com and Clan Thompson. Hiroko, who cut her first solo kantele CD "Garden" in 2004, took first place for her tune, Grandmother's Cradle Song, and she won a five string kantele crafted by British kantele maker, Michael J. King.

There was a three way tie for second place between John Nurmi's piece, Forest Walk, and two entries from kantele novice Scott Miller: Turn-About and Tanssi. Nurmi and Miller, who started playing kantele less than a year ago, each received a copy of Wilho Saari's CD, Vilhon Vintiltä.

Entries to the competition came from Japan, Canada, and the United States.

The judges included performer Timo Väänänen, American kantele player Wilho Saari, and the husband and wife team of Harvey and Linda Horton who are members of The Kantele Players of Lake Erie (USA).

I asked the winners why they liked to play the kantele. John Nurmi said, "I like that it is fairly easy to learn and to play...making it an ideal instrument to give voice to people who want to make music and who don't have a lot of 'formal' musical training...yet it has the potential for great musical depth..."

I also asked what their aims were, when writing for the kantele.

"I feel...that, when I compose, I just try to be careful and sensitive to feel the music already being there in the air, in the light, in the darkness, on the ground or inside of me," said Hiroka Ara.

"To me the most important thing is a melody that is instantly likeable," said Scott Miller. "If it lends itself to an interesting phrase structure, so much the better!"

John Nurmi once asked a Native American flutist how she goes about writing for the Native flute. "She said that, most of the time, the songs just &'come out of the flutes,' " said John. "I think that's true for kanteles as well. As we play, songs will just come out of them, if we allow them to."

(Author's Note: You can read a longer interview with the winners and download free mp3 files of the winning songs at www.kantelemusic.com. In addition, winning tunes, and selected other pieces, will appear in a new book of music for five string kanteles being published this year by Kantelemusic.com)

Announcing...A New Songwriting Competition

Kantelemusic.com and Lani Thompson's family business, Clan Thompson, are sponsoring a new songwriting competition. Entries can be written on either a five or a ten-string kantele and should be a "Children's Song" - or written by a child 12 or under. A complete set of rules can be found at www.kantelemusic.com. The prize will be a "katele" - a five string kantele in the shape of a cat made by American kantele maker, Gerry Henkel. You can see a picture of one online at: http://www.kantele.com/katele.html. Koistinen Kantele is donating the second place prize which is an English edition of Let's Play Kantele w/CD. Visit them online.

Lani K. Thompson is the author of two kantele books: Compleat Chords for the Kantele and My Kantele Is My Teacher, an English instruction book for five and ten string kanteles. She is currently working on an oratorio for ten string kanteles, based on the Kalevala.