On his birthday, Helsinki square resounds with songs by Sibelius.
Continuing a tradition from last year's 150th anniversary gala, an impromptu choir sang works by Sibelius in central Helsinki.
In 2015 the event drew big crowds under a bright blue sky. Image: Vesa Moilanen / Lehtikuva
At noon on Thursday, Helsinki's Senate Square resounded with works by national composer Jean Sibelius, honouring his 151st birthday. A choir of several hundred people sang choral works by Sibelius on the steps of the Lutheran Cathedral – with anyone welcome to join in the pop up event.
Yle streamed the event live, and an excerpt can be viewed on its website.
The event, organised by the city's Lutheran parishes, featured three works by the master: En etsi valtaa loistoa (Giv mig ej glans, ej guld, ej prakt), Soi kunniaksi Luojan (Hymn in Praise of the Lord) and Finlandia. The choir is conducted by Seppo Murto.
Sibelius was born in Hämeenlinna on December 8, 1865. In grey, foggy weather, some 200 people signed up to take part via Facebook, with up to 1,000 expressing interest. An estimated 500-600 people showed up for the event.
Since 2011, December 8 has been an official flag day in Finland, designated as Finnish Music Day… (Sources, Yle).
John Glenn, first US astronaut to orbit Earth, dies aged 95.
Glenn served 24 years as a US senator from Ohio and later became the oldest person to be sent into space.
John Glenn, a former astronaut and US senator for almost quarter of a century, has died in Ohio aged 95.
Glenn died on Thursday afternoon at the James cancer hospital in Columbus, according to Hank Wilson of the John Glenn School of Public Affairs. Ohio governor John Kasich also confirmed the news on Twitter.
An Ohio State University spokesman had announced on Wednesday that Glenn had been admitted to the hospital more than a week earlier. However, his illness was not disclosed and the spokesman had cautioned that it might not be cancer.
Glenn became a national hero in 1962 when he became the first American to orbit the Earth, one year after the Soviet Union had sent their own man into orbit, Yuri Gagarin. Glenn was the third US astronaut in space and the first American in orbit, circling the Earth three times.
He received a distinguished service medal from then-president John F Kennedy upon his return and was greeted by millions for a ticker-tape parade in New York City.
“It still seems so vivid to me,” Glenn said in a 2012 interview with the Associated Press on the 50th anniversary of the flight. “I still can sort of pseudo-feel some of those same sensations I had back in those days during launch and all.”
Condolences came from politicians across the aisle, celebrities, Nasa and more, reflecting a deep and widespread reverence for Glenn. President-elect Donald Trump called Glenn a hero.
“To me he was a great American hero,” he told pool reporters on Thursday, adding that he had met him twice.
In a statement, President Barack Obama said the nation had lost an icon in Glenn.
“With John’s passing, our nation has lost an icon and Michelle and I have lost a friend,” the statement said. “The last of America’s first astronauts has left us, but propelled by their example we know that our future here on Earth compels us to keep reaching for the heavens. On behalf of a grateful nation, Godspeed, John Glenn.”
Glenn was the last survivor of the original “Mercury Seven” group of military test pilots selected in 1959 by Nasa to become America’s first astronauts.
Glenn was the first US astronaut to orbit the Earth, and later became one of his country’s most effective senators
Glenn was born in 1921 in the eastern Ohio town of Cambridge, and his desire to fly was born of a childhood obsession with airplanes.
He was a decorated combat pilot who quit college to enlist in the military after Pearl Harbor. He was never called up during the Second World War but earned several medals for his service in the Korean War. He earned a reputation for staying on path despite heavy anti-aircraft fire, even once returning from a raid with 203 holes in his plane.
The Department of Defense and US Marines both tweeted condolences to Glenn: “The Corps lost a legend today,” the Marine Corps wrote. “Semper Fi, Sir.”
After the war he became a test pilot who helped develop the US navy’s newest fighter, the F8U Crusader.
Glenn later became a Democratic senator from Ohio in 1974 after several failed bids. He ended up holding office for 24 years, briefly making a run for president in 1984. He was the longest-serving US senator in Ohio history.
Glenn became the oldest person sent into space in 1998 when, aged 77, he boarded the Discovery space shuttle.
According to the “Columbus Dispatch”, Glenn’s body will lie in the Ohio statehouse and a public memorial service will be held at Ohio State University’s Mershon auditorium. One of his last public appearances was at the Columbus airport, which was recently renamed for him.
His wife of more than 70 years, Annie, and his family were around him when he died, the Columbus Dispatch reported.