Unknown song by Sibelius found

A previously unknown song, believed to be by Sibelius, has come to light. With the title Venelaulu (Boat Song), and also known as ‘Teij-oo’, it has an anonymous text (most likely the composer’s own adaptation of a traditional poem) about berry pickers working the night shift, loading the berries they have picked onto boats. Daylight has come and they want their harvest to be counted up so that they can go home.

The original handwritten material for this song was found on a postcard concealed between pages of a travel guide to Jamaica in Ainola’s library. It is assumed that Sibelius acquired both the book and inspiration from the song on his trip to the USA in 1914, hence the provisional dating of the song to that year.

Opening bars of ‘Venelaulu’ (without text):

Experts from Sibelius One have seen the material and have pointed out that descending intervals of a fourth or a fifth are characteristic of the composer (here the opening motif contains a descending fourth), and that the ornamentation in bar 6 of the extract quoted above bears a resemblance to Sibelius’s violin writing in some of his wartime pieces for violin and piano; these factors would suggest that the piece is indeed authentic.

Other commentators have taken a more sceptical attitude. The singer Harry B comments: ‘The idea that Sibelius crossed the Atlantic and then wrote this Boat Song is, frankly, bananas.’

Harry B is 96.



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