The ability to think and feel on a conscious level is what makes us humans differ from other species on earth. This is also what Cecilia Damström (b.1988) tries to achieve with her compositions; to make people think and feel.
Born into a multicultural family in Helsinki, languages and the possibility of combining languages, have always appealed to her while composing. With a background as a classical pianist and with theatre as an interest, also harmony, direction, a sense of drama, and expressivity are always present in her music.
Since graduating in 2014 she has constantly been working on commissions for various ensembles and festivals. Her compositions have received several national and international composition prizes 2009-2022. With the piece ICE commissioned by the European Green Capital Lahti 2021 she won the Teosto-Prize 2022. Her fairytale opera Dumma Kungen won the award for “Children opera of the year” in 2018. In 2019 she made her debut with the Finnish National Opera with her school opera Djurens planet. Her works for orchestra have been performed by the Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra (2020), Colorado Springs Philharmonic (2020), the Ostrobothnian Chamber Orchestra (2023), Vaasa City Orchestra together with Seinäjoki City Orchestra (2023), Norrlandsoperan (2022), Tapiola Sinfonietta (2022), Kymi Sinfonietta (2022), Lahti Symphony Orchestra (2021), Oulu Sinfonia (2021), Lohja City Orchestra (2021 & 2023), Joensuu City Orchestra (2021 & 2022), Kuopio City Orchestra (2019 & 2022), Jyväskylä Sinfonia (2016 & 2018), Gävle Symphony Orchestra (2018), Helsingborg Symphony Orchestra (2018) and Avanti! (2011) as well as at festivals such as Young Nordic Music Days in Aarhus (2016) and Tampering (2014, 2015 and 2017). Since 2019 she is signed with one of the biggest music publishers in the Nordic countries, Gehrmans Musikförlag.
Damström’s broad catalogue of compositions includes chamber music, choral works, orchestral works as well as four chamber operas. Her music has been performed in the USA, Canada, Germany, England, The Netherlands, Spain, Switzerland, Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Iceland and the Czech Republic. Her music is regularly performed in Finland and Scandinavia at different concerts as well as at festivals such as Musica Nova Helsinki (2023), Korsholm Music Festival (composer in residence, 2023), Tallin Chamber Music Festival (2023), Oulu Music Festival (2023), Kokkola Winter Accordion (2023), The Baltic Sea Festival (2022), RUSK Chamber Music Festival (2022 and composer in residence 2017), Joensuu Winter Music (2021 and 2022), Sång- och Musikfesten (2016 and 2022), Latosoitot (2022), Sibelius in Korpo (2022), Luosto Soi (2022), Our Festival (2021), Kauniainen Music Festival (2021), Hetta Music Days (2021), Nurmes Summer Concerts (2021), Mänttä Music Festival (2021), Lemi Music Festival (2021), Lux Musicae (2021), Pellinge Festival (2020), Time of Music (2019), Tampering Festival (2014, 2015, 2017 and 2019), Music By the Sea (2019), Kumaus Festival (2019), Helsinki Winds (2017), VocalEspoo (2014 and 2016), Summer Sounds in Sysmä (2015), Summer Sounds in Porvoo (2011) and also at the Kokonainen Festival, where she is composer in residence (2016-2020). Her music has been radio broadcast in the USA, Sweden and Germany and is regularly broadcast in Finland.
This season’s 2023-2024 highlights include the world premiere of Extinctions commissioned by the Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra and the world premiere of the accordion concerto Permafrost with soloist Sonja Vertainen and the Ostrobothnian Chamber Orchestra , as well as ten performances in Germany of her string quartet Letters by the Elaia Quartet.
Her pieces have gotten a lot of media attention, for example her 30 minute global warming themed Requiem for our Earth for female choir, electronics and video projection (by Marek Pluciennik) was described in Helsingin Sanomat with the words “sounded marvellously from the beginning to the end while shaking all of humanity” and called “the most important music I have seen in a long time” by Hufvudstadsbladet. Also the premiere of Nixus got big acclaim in the tabloid Karjalainen: “Damström’s use of the orchestra is impressive. Thus, it is also reminiscent of what a spectacular “instrument” the symphony orchestra is in skilled hands. There is so much gunpowder in Damström’s musical language that there even is to spare. Like it or not, the essential thing is that Nixus is not meaningless music but leaves a mark of remembrance. That is the thing that matters.” After her debut with the Radio Symphony Orchestra the biggest Finnish tabloid Helsingin Sanomat wrote “You could call her the Greta Thunberg of music”.
Damström studied composition with Doctor Hannu Pohjannoro at Tampere University of Applied Sciences and graduated in 2014. Her master in composition she studied at Malmö Academy of Music for Professor Luca Francesconi. She has also gathered much inspiration by travelling to master classes around Europe with Brian Ferneyhough, Samuel Adler and Kaija Saariaho among others.
Damström is working full time with commissions for musicians, ensembles and orchestras. In the past season 2021-2022 she was artist in residence at Internationales Künstlerhaus Villa Concordia in Bamberg, Germany, a life achievement award rewarded by the Free State of Bavaria. The Finnish Cultural Foundation, The Swedish Cultural Foundation in Finland and Alfred Kordelin Foundation have supported her artistic work.