Thursday, October 01, 2009

Arja Koriseva - 20 years as Tango Queen

Some of the dresses Arja wore in the concert

This year Arja Koriseva celebrates 20 years at the top. I would have loved to go to her 20th anniversary concert, but lack of funds made this impossible. Here is a report by lifelong Arjaphile Anna Hiltunen; translated, with her permission of course, from her blog All photographs by Anna.
Arja Koriseva's concert last Sunday to celebrate 20 years as Tango Queen aroused all kinds of thoughts. Firstly it could be said that 20 years is an outrageously long time to be a fan - more than two-thirds of my life. I am no longer the 10 year old girl who for many years didn’t listen to any music other than Arja’s - now I still buy records and go to musicals, dances, and concerts; but I no longer have the same compulsion to see every single production or tv programme, to archive every press cutting, or sit on the front row of every concert. Fortunately. I even listen to records at home relatively seldom.
This is certainly not to obliterate the fact that during my 20 years as a fan there have been many never-to-be-forgotten moments. Important friends, touching songs, cold shivers down the spine at particularly moving interpretations. And above all Arja’s captivating dark eyes, which over and over again laugh away even the worst mishaps which may happen on the stage. Arja has managed without electricity at a dance gig in Kapakanmäki; as Maria in the Sound of Music she climbed a tree while heavily pregnant; howled as Eliza in My Fair Lady; countless times she has nearly fallen over leads on small stages; and it is said she has had mosquitos fly into her mouth during a song. These are just a few examples of laughs I have had. But it’s not just a question of laughter - I am touched much more by Arja’s serene side, which reaches a high point in concerts and church performances. The humility and gratitude which Arja has adopted towards her public all these years ... if someone asked for a particular reason for 20 years as a star, I would say it is this.
So what was the 20th anniversary concert like? I can still say proudly that in the whole of Finland today, there is no-one whose concert I would rather go to. No other singer would have such a powerful, pure, melodious voice; who would always give 110% of herself to the audience with her expression; or sparkle quite like Arja does. I would have hoped for more surprises in the programme - I don’t know if it was deliberate or not, but most of the songs were the same as in her 10th anniversary concert. There were some differences, such as Olet kastetta and Tää tunne meille jää, which Arja had said in a previous interview would be in the programme. And certainly Tuulen värit, Kun ilta saapuu kaupunkiin, Memory, and My Way are such wonderful songs, and Arja’s interpretation of them so insanely wonderful, that it was unthinkable that they should not be in this concert as well. It was a masterstroke to start off the concert with Enkelin silmin - it grabbed the audience at once and was such a wonderful version that it held them to the end. The first half was a little duller, perhaps because of those possibly too well known favourites (Rannalla, Kultaiset korvarenkaat, Kuningaskobra ...), but fortunately the second half didn't have this problem. The second half began with a song which will be coming out on record on 4th(?) November, and I can say that it will be a GREAT record!! I'm not sure of the name of it, but I'll find out. (I'll return to this matter when the record is published.) As for Arja’s more serious side, there were excellent examples such as Kun minun kosketat, Jotain jää and Kun aika on. Apart from as the new song the concert’s best offering was the musical potpourri: Singing Raindrops - My Fair Lady - Sound of Music - Dirty Rotten Scoundrels - Tight Places - in other words all the musicals in which Arja has appeared in the past. Actually it would not have bothered me at all if these songs had been performed in full and one or two of the “too familiar” ones left out. The original costumes were a wonderful bonus and photographs were taken. After this was the concert’s climax: Rakastunut nainen, Memory, and My Way. At the end there was no other option but a standing ovation and Arja scampered back onstage to make a bow many times.
If I was asked for Arja’s best song of all time, it would definitely be Aina rakkaus tiensä etsii. I have never heard Arja sing it live, but it is on the record Rakastunut nainen of 1995.
Arja and Anna (taken on a previous occasion)