Choir SEURA – The Serbian-Finnish Society

It was June 2013, when Marjatta Jeskanen (the singer from Finland who lives in Belgrade) suggested to SEURA’s chair Miroslav Cvetković, that she could teach Finnish traditional songs. She said that she couldn’t imagine that it would last for so many years.

It went several months when I heard that there is one guy who plays the piano. He was interested in joining the group if there were more singers included. I presented to him a pile of Finnish songbooks, which draw his attention, said Marjatta.

Photo: From the left, sitting: Jasna Stevanović, Nadja Stevanović, Marjatta Jeskanen, Marija Popović, Dimitrije Crnić; standing: Tijana Tišma, Lazar Jovanović, Zoran Djukić, Marela Ilić

To develop the cultural links between Finland and Serbia, the Serbian translator for the Finnish language – Čedomir Cvetković, founded The Serbian-Finnish society in 2009.

He was an advisor to the Yugoslav Embassy in Finland, awarded with three Scandinavian orders and medals – two Finnish and one Swedish for his merits in realizing the idea of bringing these two nations closer. Cvetković was also known as a translator between former Yugoslav president Josip Broz Tito and the former President of Finland, Urho Kekkonen. While working as a Finnish teacher, he brought the Finnish language to Serbia (ex Yugoslavia). SEURA is active in promoting friendship between Finland and Serbia through many events and activities. His son, Miroslav Cvetković (musician and the bassist of the popular band Bajaga i Instruktori) officially registered the Serbian-Finnish society – Seura in 2011, becoming the chair on Seura after his father.

Marjatta Jeskanen: “The first people who came along were those who had studied finish in Olivera’s class so they could pronounce it rather well. (Olivera Stevanović is the Finnish teacher in Seura Society) There was the principle that everybody who wants to come along can come, not depending on that if they could sing or not. I thought that we couldn’t manage to do it, but after a couple of rehearsals, all of us wanted to sing! Anyway, we had a couple of splendid singers, and the rest developed well at the time. So, we started to sing, as soon as we learnt a few songs, and it was good.

Surprisingly, we still have five persons who have been in the group from the very beginning. At the moment there are ten persons.. Also, some of us are singing in the other choirs, which is good because of developing the skills. In the beginning, we sang almost all songs unisono, and later on, we turned more to harmony in two voices. From the beginning, we had piano accompaniment, but we have sung a cappella, also. A few months ago, our pianist Lazar Jovanović, went to study in Finland, but now, we are not training because of the virus time.”

Marjatta Jeskanen on songs and happenings:

„We started with simple traditional songs but later we turned to more complex songs by Finnish composers. I had 26 songs on the list, but I think I still missed a few songs. We selected some songs due to coming happenings. For example – on Sami National Day, we sing songs in the Sami language, Kalevala evening songs in Kalevala metric, and some traditional Christmas songs. Anyway, now we have a collection of songs which we can “brush up” when needed.

Mainly, we have performed at SEURA’s happenings, often in Parobrod culture center.  We had Finnish evenings in Čačak and Pančevo, as well as in Belgrade.. Also, we had a co-operation with International Choir in Italian Embassy Christmas concert. Maybe, our best success was Sami National Day, which we arranged in Parobrod. There were the Finnish Ambassador Kimmo Lähdevirta and his spouse Mrs. Pia Kaikonen, also the Swedish Ambassador, Norwegian friendship society’s Chair, and Russian cultural attaché.“

Jeskanen: „Over the years, we have become friends, and we use to meet each other without any specific reasons. At the moment, we are missing the place to rehearse, but there are no gigs either.“

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