Kardemimmit kicks off their tour in Minnesota's Iron Range

HomeNews & EventsKardemimmit kicks off their tour in Minnesota's Iron Range

Following a wonderful show and shouts of “Kiitos!” (“Thank you!” in Finnish) at the Cedar Cultural Center in Minneapolis, Kardemimmit loaded their van and drove three hours north to Chisholm in the Iron Range region of Northern Minnesota to start their tour with Arts Midwest Folkefest.

Kardemimmit loads the van to drive north
Kardemimmit loads the van to drive north. Photo by Stephen Manuszak.

A mining boom in the Iron Range during the late 1800s and early 1900s brought together more than 40 ethnicities from around the world, including a large number of Finnish people who settled in the area seeking economic prosperity. The stories and traditions of those early immigrants are still honored by our program partner, Minnesota Discovery Center, a museum based in Chisholm that explores the land, people, and work across the Iron Range region.

Kardemimmit’s week started with a visit to Chisholm Elementary School. After a few songs and learning about Finnish culture, students got to ask questions. They were excited to learn that Finland has wolves, bears, and trees very similar to those in Northern Minnesota – and they were surprised to learn that there are no crocodiles in Finland.

Students raise hands during Kardemimmit's workshop at Chisholm Elementary School
Students raise hands during Kardemimmit’s workshop at Chisholm Elementary School. Photo by Stephen Manuszak.

Later the ensemble visited Heritage Manor, a nursing home in Chisholm where several residents still spoke Finnish and remembered homes with kanteles, the national instrument of Finland and Kardemimmit’s primary instrument. The band members spent time walking from table to table, showing kanteles to the attendees and letting them try plucking a tune before reuniting in front of the crowd to share a few more songs. “They sound like angels!” exclaimed one attendee.

Kardemimmit lets audience members try a five-stringed kantele
Kardemimmit lets audience members try a five-stringed kantele. Photo by Stephen Manuszak.

Kardemimmit visits every table to show kanteles from Finland during their workshop at Heritage Manor
Kardemimmit visits every table to show kanteles from Finland during their workshop at Heritage Manor. Photo by Stephen Manuszak.

The next day Kardemimmit visited Hibbing High School, where Bob Dylan went to school and played some of his earliest shows. Kardemimmit visited two choir classes packed with students eager to hear music from around the world, sing for their Finnish visitors, and learn a tune themselves. The students asked about the origin of Kardemimmit’s songs, how they met and started performing together, and – as vocal students – how long it took to achieve such incredible harmonies.

Kardemimmit learns about Bob Dylan's time at Hibbing High School
Kardemimmit learns about Bob Dylan’s time at Hibbing High School. Photo by Stephen Manuszak.

A packed choir room listens to traditional songs from Finland during Kardemimmit's visit to Hibbing High School
A packed choir room listens to traditional songs from Finland. Photo by Stephen Manuszak.

Participants came up to Kardemimmit after each workshop – and even at local gas stations and restaurants – to talk about their own Finnish and Scandinavian heritage. Many attendees mentioned grandparents who still spoke other languages, and some even took the opportunity to practice speaking Finnish.

Students visit with Kardemimmit after their workshop for choirs at Hibbing High School
Students visit with Kardemimmit after their workshop for choirs at Hibbing High School. Photo by Stephen Manuszak.

A student tries a few words of Finnish and shares about her own Finnish and Swedish heritage after a workshop with Kardemimmit at Hibbing High School
A student tries a few words of Finnish and shares about her own Finnish and Swedish heritage after a workshop with Kardemimmit at Hibbing High School. Photo by Stephen Manuszak.

Through their workshops and performances, Kardemimmit encouraged people to connect with Finnish and Scandinavian traditions in a modern context – new arrangements of age-old lyrics, fresh sounds from ancient instruments. With warm personalities and incredible music they also encouraged people to connect with a global perspective, whether the sounds were familiar or brand new.

During their week in Northern Minnesota, Kardemimmit will visit schools and community centers in Chisholm, Hibbing, Virginia, Aurora, and other neighboring cities before their culminating public concert at the Chisholm High School Auditorium on Saturday, October 7, 2017.

For more historical background, visit the article Immigration to the Iron Range, 1880-1930 by the Minnesota Historical Society or the exhibition Emigrant Journey at the Minnesota Discovery Center.