Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Jyväskylä: Cathedral of Light

All of a sudden I notice one rainbow, or actually, two of them - the second one faint but still visible - above the church in the middle of Kirkkopuisto (Church park). As if they were trying to tell me that there is a treasure at the rainbows' end. Tonight at least this may well be true because the church will be illuminated as soon as darkness falls over the city of Jyväskylä, as part of the City of Light festival that is celebrated here on 21-30 September, 2012.
The opening ceremony speeches over, the large crowd that is gathered in the church park and on the square in front of the city hall can finally turn their eyes to the spectacle that combines light and dance. The church bells chime eight times and the dancers, dressed in white, and each of them carrying lanterns, open the doors of the church and step outside. They move in slow procession to take over the excitingly illuminated lawns. The light has arrived.
The dancers keep their lanterns as well as themselves in slow motion, dancing to the mysterious lights.
The smoke machines add to the atmosphere, as well as the fires that are lit one by one as the dance goes on. The wonderful music creates an eerie feeling. Is this really Kirkkopuisto park? Rather, this feels like a fairytale land.
The church park corridors are full of people, with crowds getting closer to the lawns as everyone with a camera realizes that this is a special moment, something to photograph. I so agree but put the lens cap on. Better focus on the show.
After the dancers have put down their lanterns and disappeared into the slowly dispersing crowds, I turn my eyes to the church. However, it is hardly recognizable; gone is the simple red brick shape and in front of me is the Cathedral of Light. It is quite a transformation; as if it was carnival time! And perhaps it is, a bit of light into the long autumn ahead. The lights in different colours are dancing their own dance in the night.
I am simply enthralled by the fantastically illuminated cathedral. Somehow it looks larger than usual! Although the dancers have left us, the music is still playing into the night, keeping up the mysterious atmosphere. The flute reminds me of Akira Kurosawa's film music. And the colours... they are like fireworks lighting up the park. Light artist and his company Valoparta Oy have really put their heart into this project.
For me, the church at Kirkkopuisto is born again. Usually, when you walk past the building, you hardly pay any attention to the brickwork but now you can't help noticing the arched or round windows or any other shapes that are now highlighted with different, changing colours.
The doors to the church are also open, exceptionally for a late Friday night. There is a short sermon going on when I enter the building, also in celebration of the Cathedral of Light, and thanks to the event, there are quite a few attendees sitting on the wooden benches.
A beautiful song fills the air. Seppo Wuolio, the curate, wishes us good night and safe journey home, on this well lit town. I linger inside the church a little while longer, staring at the blue ceiling with its golden stars, the large chandelier and the altar which shines white in the night. Simply gorgeous!
The Cathedral of Light must be the most beautiful temporary light installation in the history of the City of Light festival in Jyväskylä. The double rainbow that was pointing at the church got it right. There was a treasure at the rainbows' end. However, unfortunately the Cathedral of Light won't remain lit like this but lasts only two nights (21-22 Sep, 2012). Such a wonderful attraction for such a short time. I really hope we haven't seen the last of this light installation - how about returning next year?
As I walk across the park to the sound of music and the lights still dancing around me, the magic continues. Close to the statue of writer Minna Canth (who is gazing dreamily towards the city theatre) there is a small pond into which water is continuously flowing from three directions. However, it is a miracle pond: the centre of it is on fire!
On the other side of Vapaudenkatu street, I notice the reflections of blueish light above street level. I enter the terrace next to the foyer and enjoy the light show playing on the ceiling and the whole foyer. A private function, apparently, but they must be celebrating the City of Light. However, I'm quite happy to be an outsider tonight because the best light show was here, outside!