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Finnish vocal ensemble to give final HBPA concert of the year

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NORTH NEWTON, KAN. -- According to the six members of the Finnish vocal ensemble Rajaton, their name says it all. The word (pronounced rah-yah-ton) translates as "boundless," and Rajaton tries to push the boundaries of what human voices singing unaccompanied can accomplish.

Rajaton is making only two stops in the United States on its current North American tour, and one of them is in North Newton, where the group will appear on Tuesday, April 5, at 7:30 p.m. in Memorial Hall as the final event in the 2004-05 Hesston-Bethel Performing Arts series.

Rajaton, which performs a cappella, has sung everything from spirituals to pop hits at jazz festivals, churches and concert halls. Founded in Helsinki in 1997, the group currently consists of Essi Wuorela (soprano), Virpi Moskari (soprano), Soila Sariola (alto), Hannu Lepola (tenor), Ahti Paunu (baritone) and Jussi Chydenius (bass).

Rajaton’s objective, according to its web site, is "to enrich the international a cappella scene with its fresh approach to choral music. Individuality and teamwork go hand in hand as all the members are experienced choral singers as well as distinguished soloists with diverse musical backgrounds" that range from classical music to folk, pop and rock.

In its native Finland, Rajaton is a bona fide pop phenomenon after rising to number 2 on the album charts and going platinum with its latest release, "Joulu," a Christmas collection featuring both original compositions and highly original versions of seasonal standards. "Joulu" was nominated for a 2004 Contemporary A Cappella Recording Award for best a cappella Christmas album--competing in that category against the most recent HBPA featured artists, the King’s Singers.

Rajaton made its international debut in 2000 at the Cork (Ireland) Choral Festival and since then has performed in more than 20 countries, including France, Spain, Italy, the United Kingdom, Canada, Japan and Tanzania. Rajaton sings mostly in Finnish and in English, as well as, occasionally, Latin and Medieval Irish. The group will release its fifth album in late April 2005.

Besides performing music composed by group members, Rajaton receives commissioned pieces from top Finnish and international composers. Given the crossover backgrounds of the artists, the group’s repertoire is vast and varied.

Individual tickets for HBPA events range from $12 to $15, with discounts available for students and senior citizens. Call (620) 327-8158 for reservations. Tickets may also be purchased at Thresher Bookstore in the Schultz Student Center on the Bethel College campus, phone (316) 284-5205.

Rajaton is presented in part with funding from the Kansas Arts Commission, a state agency, and the National Endowment for the Arts, a federal agency.

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