John the Baptist -oratorio, säveltäjä Heikki Sarmanto, kuva Olga Poppius
John The Baptist Oratorio, composer Heikki Sarmanto. Photo Olga Poppius.

This John The Baptist Oratorio/Opera, composed by Heikki Sarmanto, is a two-act musical drama which has been placed in our time and day. It is a turbulent story of John the Baptist, a forerunner of his time, about a mission, truth and the meaning of life. The work has been composed for choir, orchestra and nine soloists. Kuopio Youth Choir, trained by Jussi Mattila, and the 11-piece orchestra, put together by the composer, is led by conducter Rauno Tikkanen. The work is directed by Veera Airas and in charge of the costumes is Elli Jalvas. The premiere of the oratorio takes place at Johanneksenkirkko on Friday 11.11.2016, in celebration of the church’s 125th anniversary.

Heikko Sarmanto has composed works with ecclesiastical connections for 50 years, because for him, sacred texts have a special touch. The relationship between music on one hand, and language and spoken text on the other, has always interested him. The texts of poet Kim Rich, who wrote the libretto of John The Baptist, have deeply inspired Sarmanto, and together they have composed hundreds of songs and eight full-length works, the latest of which is John The Baptist.

To Sarmanto, the human voice is the most beautiful and the most versatile instrument, and  John The Baptist oratorio enabled him to compose also for choir. The composer was particularly attracted by the beautiful harmony and pure sound of the Kuopio Youth Choir. The magic and drama of the oratorio arises from the music which the orchestra, the  soloists, and the choir create together, as well as from free improvisation. In Sarmanto’s opinion technical virtuosity and professional know-how must not extinguish the clarity of the work, because it is simplicity which is most effective in music.

”I have never endeavored to make something new or big. My works are created out of curiosity”, says Sarmanto. John The Baptist oratorio reflects our time thematically and musically. The story is timeless. Power, truth and the status of women are still subjects of discussion all over the world. The rhythmical world: blues, afrobeat, ethno and jazz come  from different continents and from all those places where the composer has travelled.

Controlled improvisations are an integral part of the work, so every performance is a unique experience. John The Baptist oratorio can be considered a significant innovator which comes after the oratorio tradition of the Reformation.

”Because of its multidemensionality, John The Baptist is a startling experience for people of our time. I wanted to generate emotional truths through music and drama which lead us to search for our better selves. In the work, one can also find paths and by following those paths our lives might feel different”, says libretist Kim Rich.

The work is part of the programme for European ”Reformation 500 years” – anniversary.
The oratorio will be performed in Oulu, Turku, Tampere, Pori, Lahti and Kuopio in 2017 and  negotiations for international performances are taking place at the moment. The bi- and partly tri-lingual printed programme will make it easier to follow the oratorio which is presented in English. John The Baptist oratorio is produced by Kristillinen taidesäätiö.

The roles:

Herodias – Maria Lund
Herod – Jarmo Mäkinen
Salome – Anastasia Trizna
John the Baptist – Henri Tikkanen
Third man/Judas – Mikko Jokinen
Josephus – Ville Mäkinen
Septimus Veles – Pekka Kurki
Annas – Olli Tikkanen
Talitha – Heidi Iisalo

More information:
Publicist: Raija Rehnberg    raija.rehnberg@gmail.com  tel 045 1779577
Producer: Seppo Koistinen  finnish45@yahoo.com         tel 040 0870042