Photo: Tatu Rouvinen
Ilona Korhonen is a female musician, dedicated to the bone to folk music, and involved in all kinds of music, mostly vocal.
Korhonen is familiar with many aspects of a musician’s work: composing, ensemble playing, producing, singing, teaching, researching and working as a consult.
Before turning completely to folk music, Ilona Korhonen studied at the Sibelius Academy Department of Music Education to become a secondary school and upper secondary school music teacher and took plenty of studies in choir conducting and pedagogy. In 2007, she was accepted to study at the Department of Folk Music, and she became Master of Music in 2003.
The subject of Korhonen’s doctoral dissertation, accepted with honours in the summer 2012, was Ingrian runo-singing, focusing on solo runo-singing. The muse and central character of the dissertation was the most famous Ingrian runo-singer, Larin Paraske (1834–1904). The title of the dissertation, “Tulin kuin tulikipuna – Larin Parasken runolauluopissa” (“I Came Like a Spark Of Fire – Learning Runo-Singing with Larin Paraske”), is an apt description of Korhonen’s journey to the heart of runo-singing, guided by Larin Paraske. Runo-singing is, in fact, Korhonen’s strongest suit. The written work of the dissertation consisted of three parts, the most important of which was a poem collection “Kulje mulle yön valona” with poems written in the Kalevala metre by Korhonen herself.
Another field Korhonen has studied extensively is polyphony and choir singing in its many forms. As a part of her doctoral dissertation, she composed and performed an hour-long female choir piece based on Ingrian polyphony, “Tarkka pää, tania mieli”, with her own ensemble. The basis of this great task was Korhonen’s diverse knowledge of choir music obtained through her choir singing hobby and work as a choir conductor and choral composer. Korhonen worked as the artistic director of Vantaan kamarikuoro for 13 years, composing plenty of music for traditional chamber choir, as well as forming important contacts in the choir community. Contacts with vocal music performers of all kinds across the genres have led to many collaborations and have encouraged singers to commission compositions from Korhonen.
Korhonen teaches folk music theory, specifically transcription, at the Sibelius Academy Department of Folk Music. She has spent a long time familiarizing herself with this kind of work; she has participated the Finnish Literature Society’s music transcription project already since 2003 by transcribing all runo-singing samples in the Society’s so-called “A-nauhat” record archive. This has taught her to analyse the process of folk music transcription and computer assisted notation. She has actively advanced general transcription practices as well as the Finnish conventions of folk music transcription. In this project, she has developed important and close connections with folk music and folklore researchers.
In October 2012, Ilona Korhonen received the annual Larin Paraske Award, given out by The Kalevala Women’s Association to a skilled wordsmith. In July 2014 she won national folk music ”Konsta Jylhä -competition”, in traditional competition in Kaustinen.
At the moment, Korhonen is working on her compositions for female choir and composing singer/songwriter material for her ensembles, funded by the National Council for Music’s one year artist grant. She also gives concerts in Finland as well as all over Europe, performing at the moment mostly as a runo-singing soloist.