first Finnish Freemasons' lodge was founded in 1756, but Masonic
activity ceased when Sweden lost Finland to Russia in 1809.
the dawn of Finland's independence, a number of men who had
emigrated from Finland to America and there become acquainted with
Freemasonry were considering whether Freemasonry could be
reintroduced to Finland. The most active among them were the
lawyer Toivo H. Nekton (previously Itkonen) and the engineer J.E.
Tuokkola, who had re-emigrated to Finland in 1918. Both Nekton and
Tuokkola drew up long lists of prospective members. The name of
the "world-famous composer" Professor Jean Sibelius
appears in the preliminary lists. Early versions of the list also
included august members of society such as General C. G.
Mannerheim, Archbishop Gustaf Johansson, the architect Lars Sonck,
the painter Pekka Halonen and the composer Robert Kajanus. It is
not known whether Nekton talked to these men, or how they reacted
to the proposal, but none of them appeared in the final list of
a small group gathered to discuss the founding of "Suomi
Lodge 1" on 14th August 1922, it was recorded in the minutes
that Jean Sibelius would compose "original, genuinely Finnish
music for the lodge". Toivo H. Nekton, who had been an active
choral singer, had already discussed the matter with his old
friend. It is also noted in the minutes that Jean Sibelius and
Sigurd Wettenhovi-Aspa would be "exempted from the
registration fee and the membership fee for the first year".
The initiators hoped that Sibelius would become the organist of
the lodge, while Wettenhovi-Aspa was granted the exemption since
he had promised to write a history of Freemasonry in Finland - a
promise he never fulfilled.
the presence of a group of dignitaries gathered in the Assembly
House of the Estates in Helsinki on 22nd August 1922, Arthur S.
Tompkins, the Grand Master of New York State, together with his
entourage, performed an induction to the order according to the
prescribed ritual. One of the newcomers acted as the candidate for
induction, while Jean Sibelius and about another thirty men
followed the proceedings from the side.
loosi" – the Suomi Lodge - started its activities with
great enthusiasm. During the first year of its activity Sibelius
participated in the sessions of the lodge on six occasions, but as
he was spending a lot of time abroad in those days, his visits
became less frequent during the years that followed.
seems that every time Sibelius was present at the sessions of the
Suomi Lodge he sat at the fine Mannborg harmonium, as the lodge
did not possess an organ as yet. The programme included works by
Mozart, Beethoven, Handel and Bach, and also well-known chorales.
When the composer was sitting at the harmonium the Masons could
hear, in addition to other music, fine improvisations. These
provided material for Sibelius's Surumarssi, which later
became connected with the third grade of Masonry, and was almost
completed in April 1923.
in the enthusiasm of his playing the composer seemed to forget
time and place, and the Master of the Lodge had to interrupt the
music discreetly in order to proceed with the ritual.
Masonic Ritual Music
Sibelius's own ritual music was slow in coming, and for a time it
seemed that he had forgotten it entirely. Wäinö Sola, who was
unaware of the initial stages of the matter (he had become a Mason
in April 1923 when Sibelius was acting as part-time lodge
organist) suggested at a brotherhood dinner in the autumn of 1926
that Sibelius should be asked to write a special ritual piece for
the Finnish Masons. The motion was carried with great enthusiasm,
and the very next day Sola had the opportunity to present the
request to Sibelius, who gave his assent. The Suomi Lodge decided
to support the project financially. This became possible when a
brother of the lodge, the pharmacist Berndt Forsblom, donated
10,000 marks for the purpose. It was paid to Sibelius before the
end of the year.
Sibelius became interested, and early in the morning of 7th
January 1927 he called Sola and asked him to come that same
evening with brother Linko (Ernst Linko had received his Masonic
degree a couple of weeks after Sibelius) to the session of the
Suomi Lodge in which his ritual music would be performed for the
first time. On that occasion they received the score from
Sibelius, and thus faced the ordeal of what was essentially a
sight-reading performance. In the morning Sibelius had already
come to listen to the music when it was played by the regular
organist, Arvi Karvonen. However, the harmonium could not produce
anything like the forte Sibelius desired - which led the furious
composer to address harsh words to the uncooperative instrument.
The music was not played in its entirety that night, but at least
three ritual music pieces received their first performance. The
activity of the lodge was the installation of Samuli Sario as
Master of the Lodge; as a skilful user of words Sario had also
participated in translating and writing the texts for the music.
only five days the entire ritual music was ready to receive its
first complete performance. On the evening of 12th January 1927,
with Sibelius himself in attendance, Wäinö Sola and Arvi
Karvonen performed the entire ritual music for the congregated
brethren. Among those present was also the Vice Grand Master of
Finland, V.M.J. Viljanen, who in his warm address thanked the
composer, adding that the new ritual music would cause Sibelius's
worldwide reputation to "shine forth and be
immortalised" even more than before.
leadership of the Finnish Grand Lodge well understood the value of
the composer's fine work and decided to make Sibelius a honorary
member; Viljanen presented the invitation to the composer, who
declared that he would accept honorary membership with gratitude.
Since then, only two brethren have been granted this rare
the evening of the first performance of the ritual music Sibelius
gave his composition to his own lodge, Suomi Lodge, and announced
that the other two Finnish lodges, Tammer and Phoenix, would also
be allowed to use it in their sessions. With the composer's
permission Sola copied the score for their use. Since then all the
Finnish lodges have used only the music of their greatly revered
composer-brother in their sessions.
night Sibelius paid his last visit to his lodge; at least his name
no longer appears in the minutes of Suomi Lodge. When Wäinö Sola
became the Grand Master of the recently founded Lodge of St John
No. 4 at the beginning of January 1928, he on several occasions
invited Sibelius to visit the St John sessions. Indeed, Sibelius
did honour the lodge with his presence on the lodge's tenth
anniversary, but there are no records of later visits.
At this stage, the ritual music consisted of eight compositions. A
lodge session was begun reverently and solemnly with the Avaushymni
(Opening Hymn), The Alttarin valmistus (Preparation of the
Altar) is brief and solemn, while the third piece is used for
ceremonial processions and conveys a deep sense of mystery.
Sibelius did not give a name to the fourth piece of ritual music,
calling it simply "No. 4". To the fifth piece he gave
the name Light. Today this work, the most splendid piece in
the ritual music, is known under the name of Sulkemishymni (Closing Hymn), or alternatively Salem. When Sibelius was
writing the piece he may have been inspired by a poem by Viktor
Rydberg, skilfully translated by Samuli Sario. Salem
was performed in 1938 at the opening of the World Exhibition of
New York; the American publisher Galaxy had just published it in
the first American edition of the ritual music.
No. 7 (at this stage still unnamed) was intended by Sibelius for a
Masonic ritual. Viktor Rydberg's poem Arioso was used as
the text. The last piece of ritual music, Marche
funébre, is one of the most impressive compositions in the
suite. It has also been used outside the brotherhood as funeral
music. Later, Sibelius's chorale, Suur olet Herra, was
added to the suite. The pieces Veljesvirsi and Ylistyshymni,
both connected with Finnish Masonry, were to be Jean Sibelius's
brethren received Sibelius's ritual music with enthusiasm. Sola
described the atmosphere in a letter to Berndt Forsblom, the
apothecary of Kiuruvesi, as follows:
"Sibelius's music is now completed and it is truly wonderful.
There is more for the singers than you would think. Sib has sought
words all the way from Confucius and he has discovered lovely
poetic pearls by Rydberg, Schiller and Goethe. That poem by
Simelius which you suggested has received the sweetest expression
of them all.
Sib's compositions can be played either with words or without, and
the funeral march is really marvellous. Suomi Lodge can be happy
to possess this music. - - - I am sure that if it was played on a
large organ in a big church with an orchestra it would cause much
were some copyright problems with opus 113. When the Grand Scribe
of the Grand Lodge of New York visited Finland in 1933 he heard
Sibelius's ritual music for the first time and became very
enthusiastic. A couple of years later the Grand Master Axel
Solitander took a copy of the music as a present to the Mother
Grand Lodge in America, but Sibelius had forbidden publication. As
there were breaks in the flow of information and the American and
Finnish copyright regulations were in conflict, the Grand Lodge of
New York had the score of the ritual music printed in 1937; this
publication did not reach Finland until 1948! However, the next
edition was prepared with collaboration between the Grand Lodges.
The Finnish editions are from 1969 and 1992.
Sibelius's Musique religieuse, Opus 113, is a priceless
treasure of Finnish Masonry. At the same time it contributes to
the worldwide fame of a great Finnish Freemason.
early as the 1920s a considerable amount of non- ritual music was
performed on Masonic occasions. Even before the ritual music was
completed Wäinö Sola had been cherishing the idea of a solo song
or choral version of Finlandia
with Masonic words. He completed a text at the beginning of
February 1937. Sola sent his text to Sibelius without disclosing
the author's name. Sibelius approved of the words and arranged the
Finlandia hymn episode for male choir. At the tenth
anniversary session of St John's Lodge No. 4 a quartet consisting
of Wäinö Sola, Martti Similä, Sulo Räikkönen and A.O. Turunen
performed the hymn to words by Sola for the first time. On this
occasion the Finnish flag was saluted, in the presence of the
occasion saw the founding of a music fund which bore the name of
Sibelius. Wäinö Sola was the first person to contribute a
cheque. This was the cheque that had been promised to Sibelius for
the honour he had conferred on the lodge but which he had refused
to accept. O.J.A Viljanen, the Master of the Lodge, set a basic
sum for the fund and instead of the proverbial widow's mite a
substantial monetary donation was collected for the fund during