If CLASSICAL TRANCELATIONS hasn’t shown up on your radar yet, it’s high time that changed. Conceptualized already back in 2006 by Petri “Lowland” Alanko, they joined forces with the Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra and Ahjo Ensemble chamber choir, as well as a handful of famous Finnish vocalists, to record a show to bring in the new year. Filmed in November 2020, this performance aired on January 1st, 2020, via Yle Areena.
The performance was set in the ballroom of Helsingin Kaupungintalo (City Hall), under a wintry blue atmosphere. Recorded back in November already, the Helsinki Philharmonic and Ahjo Ensemble were set up live stream -style around conductor Eero Lehtimäki, whom we immediately recognized from the GAME MUSIC COLLECTIVE, of which he is also the conductor. The light show was beautifully arranged, with fabulous ambient lighting all around, with some light poles, flashes, spotlights, disco lights, you name it. It is a trance show, after all, so the visuals are important and they did a fabulous job.
In the same vein, the Helsinki Philharmonic and Ahjo Ensemble were absolutely on fire. The songs were masterfully arranged to sound like trance remakes of pop songs, executed by an orchestra. I can’t begin to underline how utterly brilliant this is. Every single song in the show was truly fabulous, worked expertly into the classical instruments.
The show started as a camera zoomed in on the venue from a dark sky above, with some credits rolling, and the music began as the view arrived at Lehtimäki before panning around the performers. Finnish pop artist Chisu was first up to sing, dramatically revealing a disco ball -like outfit beneath her dark coat, vibrantly reflecting light around the room as they performed Donna Summer‘s “I Feel Love.” This was followed by Tapani Rinne – the only non-vocalist guest – appearing on bass clarinet to take the lead in “Infinity” by Guru Josh. However, the show truly picked up when Redrama appears to sing (or rather, rap) some CHEMICAL BROTHERS, a combination of “Galvanize” and “Hey Boy Hey Girl.” There’s just something in the low tones and sharp strings that really made this song stand out.
Nelli Matula‘s first song of the night was “Lean On” by Major Lazer, a popular hit song from 2015 that never did much for me, but sounded really cool with the orchestra adding some extra oomph into the mix. Viewers got a taste of DEPECHE MODE with a dramatic version of “Enjoy the Silence,” with Olavi Uusivirta on vocals. While not as exciting as the metal version done by LACUNA COIL, the trancelated (is that a verb?) version was a nice take on the original and while Uusivirta‘s style may not be for me, it really worked in the world of classical trancelations nicely.
One of the funkiest tracks of the night was DAFT PUNK‘s “Get Lucky,” as performed by Pete Parkkonen, with great use of the choir to add some power. A tip of the hat to the percussion in this one too! Chisu returned in a new dress for an eerie rendition of the EURYTHMICS song “Sweet Dreams,” her ambient sound working perfectly with the song.
I’ve never personally been a fan of David Guetta‘s “Titanium,” but Nelli Matula‘s performance, backed by the orchestra, put a lot more depth into the original. As an artist who was completely new to me, she really did a great job of her songs and her happy new year wish was very cute. Another well-known Finnish rapper, Paleface, was on vocal duty for “Insomnia,” a 1995 song by FAITHLESS that I didn’t recognize until the strings kicked in with the familiar riff. It started slower, with an almost creepy ambience, including snaps from the choir, before picking up the pace as it progressed.
Another new name for me from the Finnish vocal scene was Marianna (often stylized as MARiANNA), during “Hey Brother” and “Levels” by AVICII. She had some real cheek and ferocity to her performance, as well as a lot of camera charisma – her part was fairly short and without any applause, it felt almost wrong – a crowd should have been screaming for her when she concluded. Let’s not forget the band too, for the intro (or first song of the medley) was long and dramatic with a fabulous build-up.
I haven’t heard (re: paid attention to) Robin Packalen since his duets with Elastinen some handful of years ago (I didn’t even know he was using his last name these days), so I really pleasantly surprised to hear what a lovely voice he still has post-puberty; his hit song, “Frontside Ollie” came out in 2012 when he was a mere 14 years old, so it was interesting to hear how he’s developed. Dressed in a half-white, half-black suit with a black and white shoe to inversely match, he did a beautiful job of “Don’t You Worry Child” by the SWEDISH HOUSE MAFIA. Once his performance was over, Marianna returned again for “No Good” by PRODIGY, complete with an outfit change.
We legitimately got hyped up and cranked up the music louder when they started up the BOMBFUNK MCs “Freestyler,” a popular nostalgia track for Finns who grew up around the ’90s, with Jesse Markin singing – the easy highlight of the show for us because the orchestra and vocals really brought it to another level! This was followed by an appearance of Darude for his own song, the internationally famous “Sandstorm” that was originally released in 1999. As the original was already trance (or at least trance-adjacent), it was very interesting to see how they would expand on it. It was certainly longer and more dramatic, especially with the addition of the choir for some extra oomph – very cool, and a fabulous ending to the show as a whole!
If there was one strange thing happening during the performance, it was that sometimes the choir clapped for the artists and sometimes they didn’t. While some may argue that it’s weird for a band to clap for themselves, so to speak, having the choir clapping for only some of the performances felt very awkward and, when they did applaud, this felt infinitely more comfortable to me – I was hearing the thing I needed to hear. It’s been a pretty common problem with streamed shows, but the sometimes-clap, sometimes-not, made it stand out even more when they didn’t.
Nevertheless, this was a truly fabulous performance. CLASSICAL TRANCELATIONS‘ new year show is still available online at YLE Areena, and I can’t recommend watching it enough. It’s completely redundant to say this is the best thing to come out this year since this year has only just begun, but I will gladly say that this show set the bar high for the musical arts in 2021! More please, and as soon as possible!
- I Feel Love ft. Chisu (Donna Summer cover)
- Infinity ft. Tapani Rinne (Guru Josh cover)
- Galvanize / Hey Boy Hey Girl ft. Redrama (Chemical Brothers cover)
- Lean on ft. Nelli Matula (Major Lazer cover)
- Enjoy the Silence ft. Olavi Uusivirta (Depeche Mode cover)
- Get Lucky ft. Olavi Uusivirta (Daft Punk cover)
- Sweet Dreams ft. Chisu (Eurythmics cover)
- Titanium ft. Nelli Matula (David Guetta cover)
- Insomnia ft. Paleface (Faithless cover)
- Hey Brother & Levels ft. MARiANNA (Avicii cover)
- Don’t You Worry Child ft. Robin Packalen (Swedish House Mafia cover)
- No Good ft. MARiANNA (Prodigy cover)
- Freestyler ft. Jesse Markin (Bombfunk MCs cover)
- Sandstorm w/ Darude