Pirjo is a versatile soloist and session singer. She is a strong interpreter with an expressive and supple voice, which adapts easily to various styles from tango to jazz and theatre music. Pirjo has worked extensively in musical theatre, and has appeared in leading roles in Finnish productions of Les Misérables and Aspects of Love, as well as in original Finnish musicals. She has released three albums with How Many Sisters vocal trio and toured Europe and Japan with The Finnish Adiemus Singers, a group which records and performs music by Karl Jenkins. Pirjo feels most at home when singing songs written to Finnish poetry.
TIMO ALAKOTILA is one of Finland’s busiest, most versatile and most in-demand musicians, as composer, arranger, pianist and harmonium player in folk, classical, jazz and pop fields. His career began in 1982 in Kaustinen, Finland as harmonium player and founder member of the fiddle group JPP, who quickly established themselves as the best and most innovative fiddle music group in Finland. During their twenty-five career, JPP (www.thejpp.fi) has released nine albums, including the critical favourite, String Tease. They’ve toured the world, including Thailand, Egypt, North America and all over Scandinavia and Europe. Timo composes, arranges and performs with accordionist Maria Kalaniemi, previously in the group Aldargaz and more recently in the Maria Kalaniemi Trio (CD: Tokyo Concerts) and in the Kalaniemi / Alakotila duo (CD: Ambra). Timo is harmonium player and composer with folk music quintet Troka with three albums released. He also composes, arranges and performs with Troka accordionist Johanna Juhola (duo CD forthcoming) and British accordionist Karen Tweed (CDs: May Monday and Midnight May Monday). Alakotila is also a member, composer or arranger in groups Nordik Tree with JPP’s Arto Järvelä and Sweden’s Hans Kennemark and UNTO Tango Orchestra with Pirjo Aittomäki, Hannu Rantanen and others. He has also composed and arranged music for: Värttinä, Hannu Ilmolahti, Järvelän Näppärit, Tsuumi dance group, Hannu Kella, female vocal group Kaira, vocal group Rajaton, Japanese singer HaLo, British singer Bill Jones, Finnish group Vissinki, BBC Concert Orchestra, Stavanger Symphony Orchestra, Pori Sinfonietta, Finnish opera singer Jorma Hynninen, Tempera String Quartet, UMO Jazz Orchestra, SAMA Folk Baroque Ensemble. Alakotila has produced several Finnish folk music albums by Aldargaz, Tallari, Hannu Seppänen, Burlakat, Loituma, Tsuumi, Johanna Juhola and Milla Viljamaa, Las Chicas del Tango and The Kouhot. Larger composition projects include: “Folkmoods West”, an extended four part work for big band, string orchestra, guitars and accordion, UMO Jazz Orchestra, the 14 piece JPP String Orchestra, guitarists Jarmo Saari and Petri Hakala, pianist Seppo Kantonen and accordionist Minna Luoma. Subsequent to “Folkmoods West” Alakotila composed “Concerto for Accordion”, with chamber orchestra and Troka accordionist Johanna Juhola. More recently was “Sinfonia Concertante” for UMO big band and accordionist Maria Kalaniemi and music for the Tsuumi dance group, an extended work entitled “Laulu Tulipunaisesta Kukasta”. In 2004, Alakotila was commissioned to compose new music, “Moraine”, for the BBC Concert Orchestra for a special concert on September 30 in London’s Queen Elizabeth Hall with the Orchestra and guest star, accordionist Maria Kalaniemi. Alakotila also composed music for “Valkoinen Peura”, a ninety minute piece for ten musicians with performances was in Lapland, 2004. Alakotila more recently composed and arranged tango pieces and performed these plus “Moraine” with JPP and Stavanger Symphony in Stavanger, Norway, 2006. Alakotila’s “Concerto for Accordion” was performed in Germany , Folk-Baltica Festival, and Denmark by Johanna Juhola and Nord-Deutscher Sinfonietta . Recorded by radio in Flensburg Germany. In addition: Alakotila co-arranged and co-produced music for a Finnish Eurovision program interval segment, 2007. Grants: Alakotila has received two consecutive 5 year composer’s grant from Finnish Ministry of Education.
JOHANNA JUHOLA (born 1978) graduated as master of music on accordion from the Sibelius Academy, folk music department, 2008. Her other instruments are claviola, accordina and toy grand piano. Johanna loves tango nuevo and other passionate music genres and especially their fusions, as well as combining music with other kinds of performing arts.
Juhola has composed music for several dance, theater and circus performances for the Swedish Theater in Helsinki, for Zodiak – the center for new dance, for the circus group Circo Aereo, for Theater of Keski-Uusimaa, Q Theater, for the circus group Med Andra Ord, for Dance Theater Hurjaruuth and for many project-based working groups. The latest composing request was “Fantasiatango” for the opening of Eurovision Song Contest in Helsinki 2007.
Juhola has been an influential member of bands such as Troka, Las Chicas del Tango, Spontaani Vire, Johanna Juhola Reaktori and Novjaro. She also have duos with pianist Timo Alakotila, pianist Milla Viljamaa, guitarist Roope Aarnio and the duo called Kraft with violinist Pekka Kuusisto. With Tuomas Norvio, a virtuoso of electronic music, Juhola has experimented with combining accordion with electronics, making music for contemporary dance, for fashion shows and television fiction. Johanna has visited the world of art music as a soloist for Timo Alakotila’s concerto for free bass accordion and a chamber orchestra, and playing chamber music of Astor Piazzolla performed with different ensembles.
Johanna Juhola won the International Astor Piazzolla Competition in 2000 with Novjaro Quintet and the International “Citta di Castelfidardo” award, Astor Piazzolla music section as Duo Milla Viljamaa & Johanna Juhola in 2002.
The spring of 2006 saw the release of “Miette”, Johanna´s debut solo album. All the music on the CD was written by her and performed in collaboration with a group of versatile musicians. Other releases with Johanna Juhola include her 2003 duo CD with Milla Viljamaa titled “Piazzolla Passage” and “Mi Retorno” 2007, the Keystone Cops album “Just the glow” from 2006, the 3rd Troka album “Raharinki” from that same year, Las Chicas del Tango: “La Voz Femenina” from 2007, the Timo Alakotila & Johanna Juhola album “Vapaassa Tilassa” from 2007 and the 3rd Spontaani Vire album “Korkea kofeiinipitoisuus” from 2008. The next CDs to be released are the first Kraft album “Max höjd” in january 2009 and Timo Alakotila´s “Concerto for free bass accordion and a chamber orchestra” with Vox Artis in spring 2009.
Mauno Järvelä was born in Kaustinen 1949. His father, grandfather and uncle were all mastermusicians, whitch led to Mauno learning the folk music in Kaustinen already as a child. Later on, he studied and became a professional musician playing in the Finnish National Opera, the Radio symphony orchestra and the orchestra of Kokkola. Since 1985 he has been a violin instructor in Kaustinen and created a method of teaching that combines traditional folk music and western classical music. Mauno has been rewarded for his work with e.g. a finnish art reward Taiteen Suomi and a Pro Finlandia -medal. He´s an original member of JPP.
Petri Hakala (b.1962) has been part of the Finnish folk music scene since mid eighties playing mandolin family instruments, guitar and fiddle. He has been in several bands through the years, among them: Korkkijalka, Ottopasuuna, Maria Kalaniemi & Aldargaz, Helsinki Mandoliners, Erik Hokkanen & Lumisudet, Markku Lepistö & Co and duo, Freshet, Tango Orchestra Unto.
Among the recent new groups is Grupo Choramba that plays Brazilian choro music. Numerous recordings with the above mentioned groups since mid. 1980′s. The concerts with the aforementioned groups has taken him all over Europe and to United States as well.
He has been a mandolin and guitar teacher at the Sibelius-Academy Folk Music Department, Central-Ostrobotnian Conservatory and on various folk music camps since early 1990s.
Hakala has also worked as a studio musician actively and has played classical mandolin in the orchestra of Finnish National Opera in Helsinki.
Two solo CD:s has been released: “Kirjo” (1999) and “Trad.” (2007). A duo cd ” Pelimannien jäljillä” (2002) with the accordion player Markku Lepistö. A Book “Trad. Traditional Finnish Fiddle Tunes on Guitars and mandolins was published in 2008.
Hannu is the one of the top bass players in Finland. A brilliantly skilful double and electric bassist, he is a sought after musician who has played in numerous Finnish jazz and world music groups such as Värttinä, UMO Jazz Orchestra and Raoul Joonas Widenius Trio and classical orchestras Avanti! and Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra among others. His international projects include collaboration with composer John Adams, guitar players Wayne Krantz and Django Bates, jazz singer Viktoria Tolstoy and bondoneonist Luis Di Matteo. Hannu regularly plays in theatre productions and when he was a member of Värttinä, he collaborated with A.R. Rahman composing music for Lord of the Rings musical.