Doctoral Dissertation

17.5.2019 FM Pirjo Nenola (Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, ethnology)


17.5.2019 12:00 — 15:00

Location: Seminaarinmaki , S212
FM Pirjo Nenola defends her doctoral dissertation in ethnology "Kuorolaulaminen Suomessa: Etnografinen tutkimus performanssista".

Opponent researcher, docent, FT Marjaana Virtanen (University of Turku) and Custos senior lecturer Jukka Jouhki (University of Jyväskylä, Department of History and Ethnology). The doctoral dissertation is held in Finnish.


This dissertation examines the performance of choral singers in Finland. The study shows the performance of choral singers when rehearsing, performing in front of an audience, and spending their leisure time together. The dissertation explores how they perform in the mainly ritualized field of choral activities, and what kind of meanings they give their performance from the practical, symbolic and ideological points of view.

The theoretical framework of the study is Performance Studies in general and, specifically, Performance Theory as understood by Richard Schechner. Schechner submits that every performance is restored behavior and that the performance process can be studied as a time–space sequence. The primary data of the study consists of written responses to two surveys in 2010 and 2011, but equally important is the material produced by the author’s participant observation during the period 2011–2014. The data also includes five interviews conducted in 2010 and 2012, and three texts written in 2013 reflecting on aspects of space. The secondary data is newspapers, magazines and online material.

The data was analyzed qualitatively within the methodological framework of close reading. The findings of the study suggest that choirs in Finland participate in the reproducting and renewaling of the nation and the centuries-old choral tradition. The nationalism is, however, to some extent banal nationalism. Today’s choirs reflect a wide variety of images of Finnishness. Singers today are looking to choirs for a way of avoiding everyday stress, depression and loneliness, in addition to producing joy, enjoyment, energy, and self-esteem.

When practicing, choral singers have a goal they are aiming for together. They value the rehearsals and performances, in which they are able to concentrate on what they are doing, but the social interaction is also important to them. In concerts they must be confident that they know the songs and cross themselves, otherwise they cannot achieve the best possible experience that encourages them to go on with their hobby. Feedback from the audience, the leader of the choir and fellow singers is important. Choirs are often spoken of as places where everyone is equal, but they are in fact hierarchical structures, institutions.

Keywords: choral singing, choir, performance, performance studies, ritual, ritualization.

More information

Pirjo Nenola

Department of History and Ethnology

040 094 9323