At the school of Katariina
January 28, 2014
Some time ago I visited the school of Katariina in Turku as part of my work at the VS Kantele Project. I was delighted to see their many 5-string kanteles that already are in use. But I was even more delighted to find one unused 5-string kantele with wooden tuning pegs and some strings missing; what a great opportunity to try out the brass strings in the school environment!
I was given the permission to take the instrument home where I changed the 0,40 mm brass strings in it (from Malcolm Rose). Brass string kanteles won’t endure as high tuning as the ones with steel strings, and I decided to try the G-major at first (the lowest string tuned to G3). The tuning settled suprisingly easily, and after the strings didn’t stretch anymore, the timbre became pleasant and warm – a quite similar experience as I’ve had with the earlier brass or bronze string kantele experiments.
Thinking about the possible use at school, I also tried out how the sound could be combined with a steel string kantele tuned in D-major (the lowest string tuned to D4). The result was positive – the two timbres work out fine together. Watch the video: Katariina.
The instrument was also tested with the children of the second- and third-grade. We made short improvisations in groups of three: one player having the brass string kantele (tuned in G-major), the other played the steel string kantele (tuned in D-major), and the third played the piccolo kantele (tuned in an octave higher D-major). The players were also able to choose from different playing techniques: one plucking, the other used a bow and the third played with a pick. The harmony worked out great, children had a lot of fun improvising, and at the same time they were introduced to the different timbres of different kanteles and playing techniques.
Brass and bronze were the main string materials in kanteles for hundreds of years (possible for over a thousand years) before the steel strings. Hence it could be said that to this 5-sting kantele of the Katariina school started the old but new life.