The Storytellers

Andy Hill

Andrew A. Hill was born in Wakefield on Nov. 28, 1950, son of Raymond Leslie Hill and H. Leona (Laakso) Hill, and raised in Wakefield’s Pike Location next door to his paternal grandparents, William and Viano (Syrjala) Hill, who lived next door to his maternal grandparents, Alfred and Sofia (Palomaki Laakso.

He is a 1969 graduate of Wakefield High School and attended Gogebic Community College and Michigan State University.
In 1975 he joined the sports department at the Ironwood Daily Globe and served there through 2006 as a writer, photographer and editor. In 2006 he purchased the Wakefield News/Bessemer Pick & Axe, a weekly newspaper which he continues to operate with his wife, the former Susan Mussatti.

The Hills have three children and four grandchildren. He is active in community theater, playing roles as varied as Tevye in “Fiddler on the Roof,” Alfred P. Doolittle in “My Fair Lady,” Nicely-Nicely Johnson in “Guys and Dolls” and Joe in an all-white production of “Showboat.” He is a member of the Chamber Singers, an audition choir based in Ironwood.

He is an active lay worship leader, variously serving ELCA congregations in western Upper Michigan and northern Wisconsin.

Mary Biekkola Wright

Community artist, Mary Biekkola Wright, is a native of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. Since 1996 she has brought to life more than 35 large-scale community art presentations and installations. These pieces have involved thousands of people of all ages and backgrounds. Some of the more well-known pieces are the blue and white chairs for Finnfest, the totem poles for Marquette’s Sesquicentennial, the step ladders in Alpena, the pilings in Port Huron, the Grandma Doors in Marquette, Hancock and Wawa, Ontario, the giant mittens in Hancock, and the story line project displayed on the grounds of Michigan Technological University in Houghton. These works exemplify Wright’s belief that all people have the capacity to be creative and when placed in a supportive environment, ideally outside for the public to witness, the culmination proclaims the power of ordinary people coming together to present themselves in the most positive manner possible. The effect of these works is impossible to calculate. This underscores Wright’s philosophy that artists and their works are examples of appropriate power. Mary Wright was the 1999 recipient of the prestigious Governor’s Art Award.

John and Pauline Kiltinen

John Kiltinen brought the idea of the Rockland Opera to the Pine Mountain Music Festival’s Board of Trustees. It was John and Pauline Kiltinen, along with the late Gloria Jackson, who underwrote the commissioning phase of the opera. The Kiltinens have remained actively engaged with the Rockland opera and the film Yoopera! ever since. The Kiltinens were also members of the Rockland Task Force that steered the opera into being.

“I personally have been involved with the underwriting five commissions of new works of music, and each time I have found it to be among the most satisfying ways to use some of our accumulated wealth. I would recommend to anyone who loves good music and who has been blessed with enough wealth to use some of it in this way and to experience bringing new music to life.” John Kiltinen

Jussi Taploa

Director, librettist

Jussi Tapola studied directing and dramaturgy at the Theatre Academy in Helsinki from 1969 to 1973 and opera directing and film in Munich. He was engaged by the Finnish National Opera in 1975. Tapola has appeared as a guest director at the Savonlinna Opera Festival, where his most recent productions are the premiere of Paavo Heininen’s opera The Knife in 1989 and the opera trilogy The Age of Dreams, premiered in 2000.Of his numerous productions at the Finnish National Opera it is worth mentioning Prokofiev’s Duenna, Hindemith’s Mathis der Maler, Rautavaara´s Thomas, Adam’s Nixon in China, Kalevi Aho’s Insect Life, Donizetti’s Anna Bolena and Menotti’s The Consul. Jussi Tapola has also directed opera productions and drama series for TV.

Jukka Linkola

Composer, conductor and performing musician Jukka Linkola was born in Helsinki in 1955. From the beginning his most important instrument and a tool of work has been the piano. He studied at the Sibelius Academy and already during his student years he worked as a rehearsal pianist at the Helsinki City Theatre where he later worked also as a conductor in 1975-1990.

Jazz plays an important part in Linkola’s production. His octet was in its time one of the most significant groups of Finnish jazz. Linkola has conducted many big bands, for example UMO (Orchestra of New Music), the big band of EBU, the big band of the Danish Radio and Bohuslän Big Band. Linkola has taught in projects for example at Berklee College of Music, the world

Linkola has composed a lot of stage music, operas and music for plays and films. The opera Elin in 1991 was a big stage work. The television opera Angelika in 1992 was more like an oratory. Angelika was awarded at Paris Opera Screen competition in 1992 and in 1993 it was chosen the best at Cannes Midem Awards. The third opera of Linkola is called Matka (A Journey) and it was premiered in 1998.

Linkola likes to compose for symphony and chamber orchestras or for big jazz orchestras and he often uses soloists with orchestras. Examples of these works are Crossings for tenor saxophone and orchestra in 1983, Concerto for Trumpet and Orchestra in 1988 and Trumpet Concerto II in 1993. The latest concertos are Flute Concerto (1997), Euphonium Concerto (1995) Tuba Concerto (1995), Organ Concerto (2000) and Horn Concerto (2000).
In recent years Linkola has composed several choral works for instance Evoe and English Series for YL (Helsinki University Male chorus) and Primitive Music for Tapiola Choir.

Conducting his own works Linkola has performed with The Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra, Helsinki Philharmonic, the Orchestra of the Finnish national Opera, the Opera of Gothenburg, Radio Orchestras of Ljubljana and Prague and the Orchestra of Aalborg.
Linkola has received several awards for his works. So far he has published about 35 recordings. His whole production including operas, musicals, orchestra concertos, chamber music, songs and jazz for various combinations is immense.

Joshua Major

Joshua Major has worked as a stage director for 30 years throughout the United States and Canada developing an impressive and diverse repertoire of productions. In August 2012 Mr. Major began as Chair of Opera Studies at the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston after completing 20 years on the faculty of the University of Michigan where he oversaw the Opera Program, both teaching and directing. At the University of Michigan he directed Falstaff, Armide, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and Eugene Onegin, among others.
He continues to be a stage director and faculty member with the International Vocal Arts Institute where he has directed annually since 1993. Upcoming productions include Cosi fan tutte for the New England Conservatory of Music and Sir John in Love with Odyssey Opera.
Other recent productions include the North American premiere of Rossini’s La Gazzetta, Un giorno di regno (Verdi) Die Fledermaus (Strauss) La Perichole (Offenbach), Dido and Aeneus (Purcell), Ariadne auf Naxos (Strauss), The Cunning Little Vixen (Janacek), Lucia di Lamermoor (Donizetti) and The Turn of the Screw (Britten), Les mamelles de Teresias (Poulenc), L’Impressions de Pelleas (Brook/Debussy), L’enfant et les sortileges (Ravel), and La Fille du Regiment (Donizzetti),
Mr. Major was the Artistic Director of the Pine Mountain Music Festival, located in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan on the shores of Lake Superior from 2003-2014.

Candace E. Koski Janners

A native Yooper, Candace observed the evolution of the Pine Mountain Music Festival since it was founded by Laura Jean Deming, Chicago Lyric Opera Orchestra cellist, in 1991. A PMMF Trustee since 2008, she has served in various capacities and is currently the Board President. Candace chaired the ROCKLAND Task Force, a multidisciplinary group, which facilitated over many years, the creation, promotion and production of the opera. (This included collaboration with the Jokkilaaksojen Musiikkisä̤atio in Nivala, Finland for nearly simultaneous premieres of ROCKLAND in the U.S. and Finland. It also led to the engagement of community artist Mary Wright to create an art piece that would support and promote the opera. The Story Line Project was the result.)

With ancestors in the Upper Peninsula since the mid-1800s, Candace is connected to the history of the area. A Finnish great-grandfather was initially a miner. A direct personal tie to the Rockland tragedy exists through another great-grandfather and uncles. James Corgan, long-serving Ontonagon lighthouse keeper and Ontonagon County Coroner, was called to Rockland on the evening of July 30, 1906. A great-uncle served as a juror during the Coroner’s inquest and another served on the jury that acquitted the Finnish miners in March 1907. The Irish lawyer, Patrick Henry O’Brien, who defended the Finnish miners, was a good friend of Candace’s grandfather, Harry Corgan. Mr. O’Brien later became Attorney General of Michigan.

Candace felt privileged to be involved with the development of ROCKLAND and its associated projects and to work with individuals so committed to its production.

Craig Randal Johnson

Performing engagements and artistic activity take Craig Randal Johnson across the United States and to several European countries. Based in Minneapolis, Craig Randal Johnson maintains a wide range of musical interests, having worked extensively in opera and theater, as orchestral conductor, solo pianist, as orchestral double bassist, as chamber ensemble performer and concert organizer. Craig Randal Johnson often programs Finnish music, 20th century American piano music, as well as more standard symphonic and operatic works.

As Finlandia Foundation “Performer of the Year” in 1999, Craig Randal Johnson played Finnish piano recitals in Los Angeles, the San Francisco Bay area, Dallas, New Orleans, Denver, at Finlandia University, Illinois Wesleyan University, the Hartt School in Hartford, at the Canterbury (CT) Finn Hall, and elsewhere. Other recital appearances have included appearances in Hannover as well as in Magdeburg, Hildesheim, and Templin in Germany, Calif. Lutheran Univ. in Thousand Oaks, the Landmark Series and at Sundin Hall in St. Paul (MN), the University of Iowa Center for New Music, SE Louisiana University, Finnfest 2002 in Minneapolis, Finnfest 1997 in Minot ND, the ‘Rock’ Church in Helsinki, and the new ‘Raahesali’ in Raahe, Finland. Composers represented have included David Macbride, Libby Larsen, Judith Shatin, Aarre Merikanto, Erik Bergman, Einojuhani Rautavaara, and Hanns Eisler.

A specialist on the music of the German composer Hanns Eisler, Johnson appeared as a soloist at the Eisler Centenary Gala Performance in New York City (1998). He has performed two evenings with the dramatist Eric Bentley and baritone David Jordan Harris on WNYC public radio in New York, presenting Eisler songs and lieder. He has presented Eisler programs in St. Paul, at Gustavus Adolphus College in St. Peter MN, Madison WI, River Falls WI, Hartford, and Hannover, Germany. He was music director for the Brecht show “For Those Who Come After”, which featured songs by Eisler, Wolpe, Milhaud, and Weill (summers 1997 and 1998 in Minneapolis).

Craig Randal Johnson holds degrees from the University of Minnesota (B.A.) and Northwestern University in Evanston, IL (M.M.), and has studied conducting at the Mozarteum in Salzburg, the Domaine Conducting School, and the Aspen Music School. He was Principal Double Bassist of the Florida Symphony early in his career, and has played double bass with several orchestras in Europe and the USA including the Staatsorchester Braunschweig, Aspen Chamber Symphony and Columbus (OH) Symphony.

Craig Randal Johnson conducted the USA premiere of the new Jukka Linkola opera, Pine Mountain Music Festival production of, “Rockland, The Opera”, to sold out houses in Houghton, Michigan (July 2011). Opera magazine (London) noted in its January 2012 issue:

William Joyner

Over the course of his career, tenor William Joyner has given nearly 550 performances of some 55 different roles, in 12 countries on 3 continents.  He has sung in some of the world’s foremost opera theaters, including Milan’s Teatro alla Scala, Bologna’s Teatro Comunale, Venice’s Gran Teatro la Fenice, Paris’ Opéra National (Bastille), Brussels’ Théâtre Royal de la Monnaie, Berlin’s Deutsche Oper and Deutsche Staatsoper, The Washington National Opera, Miami’s Florida Grand Opera, The New York City Opera, and The Santa Fe Opera.  William Joyner has performed with the Chicago Symphony, the New York Philharmonic, and the Münchener Rundfunkorchester, and has worked with some of the greatest maestri of our time, including Daniel Barenboim, the late Gary Bertini, Bertrand de Billy, John DeMain, Heinz Fricke, the late Armin Jordan, Vladimir Jurowski, Anne Manson, Antonio Pappano, Georges Prêtre, and the late Marcello Viotti.

Don Olson

Don Olson is an Ontonagon County Historical Society member and Bergland/Matchwood Historical Society member.  Don attended Rockland the Opera Task Force meetings with his wife Josie, helped with promotion of Rockland the opera and with Josie’s Rockland walking tours.  He had a family connection to the 1906 Rockland Strike Tragedy.  The two Finnish miners who were killed and Alfred Laakso lived at Don’s grandmother Maria Louko’s boarding house.

Josie Olson

Joanne “Josie” Olson is a committee member of the Rockland Township Historical Museum, a board member of the Ontonagon County Historical Society, and a member of the Bergland/Matchwood Historical Society.  Josie was a Rockland the Opera Task Force member.  Deeply touched by Alfred Laakso’s story of the 1906 Rockland Strike Tragedy told to her by his son David in 2006, her love and involvement of Rockland history and her Finnish heritage, Josie was dedicated to doing historical research and Rockland walking tours for the Task Force and others involved with Rockland the Opera.

Esa Ruutunen

One of the principal singers will be Esa Ruuttunen, baritone from Finland, who will sing the role of Alfred Laakso, who opens and closes the opera.  Mr. Ruuttunen is also the artistic director of Jokilaaksojen Musiikkisäätiö in Nivala, Finland, which will produce the Old World Premiere of “Rockland” in June, 2011.  His grandfather worked as a miner in the Upper Peninsula at about the same time as the action in the opera, 1906.

Barbara Shirvis

Barbara Shirvis has been acclaimed for her “gorgeous tone, technical security and a touching vulnerability” by the Boston Globe. As her reputation has grown, the soprano has been lauded as “magnificent” by the Los Angeles Times, “luminous” by the Cleveland Plain Dealer, and an “authentic blonde beauty” by Opera News. In summer of 2014 she sings Rosalinda in Die Fledermaus in a return to Minnesota Orchestra.

In 2013-14 Barbara Shirvis returned again to North Carolina Symphony as soprano soloist in Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9, to Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra to sing Countess Almaviva in Le nozze di Figaro and is soloist in Vaughan Williams’ Serenade to Music and Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 with the Wichita Symphony Orchestra. Her 2012-13 season included her debut with Hawaii Opera Theatre as Rosalinda in Die Fledermaus; soprano soloist in Britten’s War Requiem for the American Choral Directors Association; also a return to the Jacksonville Symphony in the same capacity, and as Desdemona in Otello, both under Fabio Mechetti. Engagements for the 2011-12 season included singing Strauss’ Four Last Songs and Beethoven’s “Ah! perfido” in a return to the North Carolina Symphony Orchestra, and the title role in Manon Lescaut with Chautauqua Opera.

Recent successes include Johanna in Linkola’s Rockland with the Pine Mountain Music Festival; her debut with Anchorage Symphony Orchestra as soloist in Mahler’s Symphony No. 2; a return to Jacksonville Symphony to sing Barber’s Knoxville: Summer of 1915 and Mahler’s Symphony No. 4; to Toledo Opera as Alice Ford in Falstaff; to Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra as Fiordiligi in Così fan tutte; and to Rochester Philharmonic in Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9. She also sang the title role in Tosca with the Minnesota Orchestra; in a recital, “Hearts Afire” with husband Stephen Powell, through Highland Park United Methodist Church; as soloist in Madison Opera’s 2010 “Opera in the Park” festival; Cio-Cio-San in Madama Butterfly with Utah Opera; Desdemona in Otello with Opera Roanoke; Liù in Turandot in a fully staged production for the Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra, also in a return to Kentucky Opera; Mimì in La bohème with West Virginia Symphony Orchestra; as soloist in Haydn’s The Creation with the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra; in Mahler’s Symphony No. 2 with Syracuse Symphony; in recital in a new program, “American Celebration,” with Stephen Powell; Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 with the Brevard Music Festival; and Countess in Le nozze di Figaro with North Carolina Symphony.

Mark Walters

Opera News describes Mark Walters as “a force to be reckoned with” in Lucia di Lammermoor and as “heroic” in Carmen.  The Chicago Sun Times depicts Walters as “vocal fury” in La forza del destino.  The Salt Lake Tribune says “The tall, handsome singer possesses a magnificently resonant voice and unforced dramatic ability.”

Walters has sung over 50 roles in the baritone repertoire and with recent performances of Rigoletto, Il trovatore and La traviata, he is a singer to watch in the demanding Verdi arena. Walters has been heard in the World Premiere of Rappahannock County by American composer Ricky Ian Gordon which was recorded on the Naxos label as well as the US premiere of Rockland by Finnish composer Jukka Linkola. Additional premieres have included Corps of Discovery by Michael Ching with Opera Memphis, Good Neighbors by Robert Taylor at the Cumberland Playhouse, Blake by Leslie Adams with the Cleveland Choral Society and The Children of the Keweenaw by Paul Seitz with the Pine Mountain Music Festival. Walters has also had the pleasure to premiere the song cycles Of Passion’s Tide by Canadian Composer Laureate Jeffrey Ryan, 4 Poems of Rossetti by Marty Robinson and Love’s Cycle by Mark Henkin.

Raising Voices, Mining History