26 May 2022

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Sibelius – freemason and one of the most masterful composers who ever lived
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Sibelius – freemason and one of the most masterful composers who ever lived

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Masonry has had many composers but Sibelius has something unique

Jean Sibelius was Finnish and was born in 1865 and lived a long life, dying in 1957. For some of us he was contemporary!

Those who know Sibelius’ music will I am sure agree with me that he was indeed one of the greatest composers who ever lived, along with other “greats” who are perhaps better known household names like Beethoven and Mozart.

His music is fiercely nationalistic and he is certainly recognised as Finland’s greatest composer. Probably his best known work, although by no means his greatest, is Finlandia and this symphonic poem embraces all the great traits of his music which evokes his home country, forests, mountains, snow, rivers, wild life, even the northern lights or Aurora Borealis – you name it. You can just hear the long winter days and then the magnificence of spring.

There is a really excellent recording of Finlandia at this link and it is accompanied by a really tastefully put together video which includes inter alia incredible photography of ducks leaving their nest and going to the water for the first time, and baby bears with their mother! It is really worth the look and lasts just under 10 minutes.

But as I said, Finlandia is not his greatest work – forgive me Maestro – but other works far supersede this, mostly his seven symphonies.

Many of a certain age will remember the news programme “This Week”, a news programme on ITV which ran from as recently as 1956, finally finishing in 1992. The introductory music for this programme was part of the first movement of Sibelius’ Karelia Suite. You can hear all three movements of that here:

This blog was prompted by the inclusion of Sibelius’ 2nd symphony in the first night of the proms this year – a work of great interest and complexity and his writing just got better and better. The richness of his orchestration, the elaborate speedy parts with the violins and wind instruments and the deep crashing tones of his brass, one of Sibelius’ main trade marks are all well known throughout his compositions. That you can probably pick up on the BBC I Player.

Some may remember one of the episodes of The Apprentice promoted by Lord Sugar. The task was to re-brand Finland particularly as a summer destination, actually not such a hard job given the beauty of the country. One of the teams decided to use some pop tune as their musical background, demonstrating a total lack of empathy, much to the chagrin of the Finnish clients! What an opportunity was lost, not using the music of their most famous composer which so elegantly sums up their country.

Sibelius stopped composing major works some thirty years before his death in the 1920s. In his later years he went on to compose masonic music. Freemasonry reached Finland in the mid-eighteenth century in 1756 but was banned in 1822 after the country became part of Russia in 1809. In 1917 after the country had re-established its independence, the Suomi Lodge no 1 was formed and amongst its first members was Sibelius who became the lodge organist, playing enthusiastically on every occasion, so much so in fact that at times he would have to be called to order by the Grand Master! Perhaps that reminds you of some of today’s masonic organists?

He was in fact instructed to compose some typically Finnish masonic music, which he did. Here you can hear the organ part of his opening hymn:

You Tube has many items of his music. I cannot resist but give you also the link to his processional masonic ritual music here:

Truly a great man and composer. Sibelius has even been credited with really helping getting masonry going again in Finland. If you know his music already, revive your knowledge and get to know it better. If you do not know it, take some time to listen to some of it. He will elevate your mood, music to bring tears to your eyes.

Adrian Leopard 19-08-21

Photo SaiKrishna Saketh Yellapragada

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