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Festival Ruska back for second year

September 16, 2016

As the Copper Country becomes ablaze with colorful leaves, Finlandia University will celebrate its roots with Festival Ruska 2016.

The second annual Festival Ruska gets under way on Tuesday, September 20 with lecture by a Finnish professor on the psychic lives of plants, and concludes on Thursday, October 13 with the season premiere showing of the Nordic Film Series, with several ethnic events on the days between sure to appeal to all audiences.

Two days after the lecture, which will be delivered at 6 p.m. September 20 by Juhani Ihanus at the Copper Country Community Arts Center in Hancock, the festival features the opening of “Listening to the trees growing … feeling my own roots widening” by Päivi Mikola and Hannimari Heino; the reception takes place at 7 p.m. at the Finlandia University Gallery in the Finnish American Heritage Center.

Later that week, on September 25-26, the festival features a full slate of programming dedicated to the 500th anniversary of the Lutheran Reformation. Programming for these two days takes place at the university’s Jutila Center in Hancock. The program is highlighted by a pair of presentations by Dr. Mark Granquist, including a Sunday afternoon address titled “Reformation and the Immigrant Experience,” scheduled for 4 p.m. on September 25.

As with last year’s event, music is a key part of the Festival. This year, a performance titled “Beethoven and Banjos,” will take place at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday, October 1 at the Calumet Theatre. This performance features the combination of Carnegie Hall’s affiliate ensemble with a U.P. folk music group to create a unique show.

“The music will be chosen and composed to be a direct celebration of the UP’s landscape, culture, and heritage,” says Beethoven and Banjos Artistic Director and U.P. native Evan Premo. For ticket information, call the Calumet Theatre Box Office at (906) 337-2610 or visit the Calumet Theatre website.

Earlier that day, at 2 p.m., the performers of Beethoven and Banjos will offer an opportunity for the general public to interact with the musicians at the Theatre. The musicians will give demonstrations on their respective instruments and lead a discussion. Guests will have an opportunity to ask questions, but there will not be musical instruction. These sessions are free of charge, but advance registration is appreciated. To register, call the Calumet Theatre Box Office at (906) 337-2610.

Other offerings during Festival Ruska 2016 include a one-time performance by the Helsinki Chamber Choir, as they’ll perform the opera “State of the Union” at Michigan Technological University’s Rozsa Center on Sunday, October 2. Tickets for this show are available by calling the Center at (906) 487-2073 or visiting the Rozsa Center website.

On Wednesday, September 28, the festival takes a different ethnic turn, hosting a dance, which is also part of Michigan’s French-Canadian week. From 7 to 9 p.m. at the Finnish American Heritage Center, festival goers can dance to the music of the Thimbleberry Band (Libby Meyer on fiddle; Oren Tikkanen on guitar, banjo and Finnish vocals; David Bezotte on accordion and French vocals; Belinda Mattfolk on flute; Matt Durocher on bass) playing a variety of Finnish and French-Canadian dance tunes and songs.  Learn French-Canadian folk dances and enjoy waltzes, schottisches, polkas and other favorites. Admission is $6 per person.  For more information, contact David Bezotte at dbezotte@yahoo.com or (906) 370-4956.

The festival wraps with a pair of events in mid October. On Tuesday the 11th, Finlandia Foundation Lecturer of the Year Sharon Rahkonen will present on Finland’s Independence at a 6 p.m. program at the Finnish American Heritage Center. This program is free and open to the public. And two days later, on Thursday the 13th, the FAHC’s Nordic Film Series concludes the festival and opens its season with screenings of Kristin Ojaniemi’s documentary “UP a River – Goin’ to Camp” at 2 p.m. and 6 p.m. Ms. Ojaniemi will be present at both screenings.

For more information about Festival Ruska 2016, visit finlandia.edu/festivalruska or contact the Finnish American Heritage Center at (906) 487-7347.

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