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Key Dates in the History of Military Music

Publication date 21.6.2022 9.13

In the course of their colourful history, military bands have performed in compositions as large as 250 musicians and taken numerous trips to perform abroad.

Finnish military music goes back to the year 1819: on 1 April, three musicians were recruited to the Helsinki Training Battalion in Parola.  At the end of that same year, Josef Thaddeus Tvaryansky became the first conductor of this 12-strong band. In 1824, the band had grown to comprise 33 musicians, and it moved to Helsinki. 

1829  The name Finnish Training Sharpshooter Battalion changed to the Life-Guard’s Finnish Sharpshooter Battalion.  The band was promoted to the rank of “Young Guard”.  The brigade-level unit and its band started to be called the Guard of Finland.  From this year on, the Guard of Finland would spend time in the summer in St. Petersburg, mainly at the Krasnoye Selo exercise camp. 

In 1831- 1832, the Guard of Finland participated, the band included, in the quelling of the Polish Uprising.  Before setting off to Poland, in addition to the conductor, the band was strong of 32 musicians, 9 percussion and 9 wind instrument players and one tambourmajor. 

1837 In Krasnoye Selo, Nicholas I presented the King of Prussia, Frederick William III, with a piece known as “the Guard’s Parade March”, currently called Finland’s March.  In July, the Sergeant Major of the Guard’s band, Erik Erikson was presented with a golden watch by the Emperor.

1848 On Floora’s day, the band of the Guard of Finland participated in the premiers of Maamme- the future Finnish national anthem. In 1849, the band took part, with the Guard of Finland, in the crushing of the Hungarian Uprising. 

27 August 1861 A decree was issued regarding the instrument make-up of the Life-Guard’s Finnish Sharpshooter Battalion Band. For the first time, it was officially a pure brass band. The band was ordered to consist of one conductor, 34 musicians, 12 music students, one battalion signalist and 20 company signalist. 

22 August 1874 The Guard returned to Helsinki from Krasnoye Selo, where the band had been praised by the Emperor for its musical performances at luncheons and dinners.  In September that same year, the Guards band got its first Finnish-born conductor, Adolf Leander. 

24 November 1880  An imperial declaration was given laying down the instrument composition and numbers of musicians of the Band of the Guard of Finland.  In 1968, this date become garrison bands’ common anniversary day. 

1890 sees the establishment of a band for Finland’s Dragoon Regiment in Lappeenranta, but it was disbanded as early as 1901 with the rest of the regiment. 

October-November 1891. Under conductor Adolf Leander, huge concerts were held at the Helsinki Fire Brigade Building and the Guard’s Manège with up to 250 musicians performing.  The Chief of Finland’s Army had ordered the proceeds to be given to people suffering from hunger in Russia. 

1904 The Band of the Guard of Finland, conducted by Albin Lindholm, was the first Finnish wind instrument orchestra in Helsinki to record an album. 

1901 The Guards band’s conductor Aleksei Apostol founded Helsingin Torvisoittokunta (Helsinki Brass Band) recruiting musicians from the Guard and the former Nyland Battalion.  The Life-Guard’s   Finnish Sharpshooter Battalion and its band were disbanded in 1905.  Many musicians got hired by Helsingin Torvisoittokunta, and sheet music and instruments of the Guards Band also wound up in its possession.

In April 1918, Helsingin Torvisoittokunta performed at the Jaeger Brigade’s events and military funerals.  On 12 April, Finland’s flag was hoisted in Sveaborg to the music performed by Helsingin Torvisoittokunta. In early June, the band performed at the handing over of the Vaasa Company with 29 musicians. It remained the White Guard’s Regiment’s band.  The regiment bought the instruments and equipment of Helsingin Torvisoittokunta.  In August, the name of the regiment was changed to the White Guard’s Regiment. 

1919 A band was founded for the Naval Battalion. The band’s first performance on 1 May 1919 was attended by Regent Mannerheim.  After several name changes, the band’s name became the Navy Band in 1990

1919 The White Guard’s Regiment’s name changed to Finland’s White Guard. Apostol was appointed, next to his own duties, Chief Conductor of the Army until Johan Leonard (Lenni) Linnala was appointed Conductor of the White Guard in 1924

1921 he Nyland Dragoon Regiment and Häme Cavalry Regiment merged, and in this conjuntion, the Cavalry Brigade Band was founded. From 1990, the band has been called the Dragoon Band. 

1940 Finland’s White Guard’s Band became the Helsinki Garrison Band. At the beginning of 1952, it became Helsinki Garrison Band I. A separate unit under the Helsinki Military District, it established itself as the Helsinki Garrison Band. 

During the wars, the majority of the military bands’ service duties consisted of fallen soldiers’ funeral ceremonies, perhaps several of them per day. The bands also participated in field church services and national defence celebrations, and helped boost the spirits and defence will of the troops and civilian population. 

In 1964, Arvo Uro became the Defence Forces’ Chief Conductor. Next to his own duties, he started to conduct the Helsinki Garrison Band and the Defence Forces’  Music Student School attached to the band. Arvo Kuikka, appointed as Chief Conductor in 1967, took on these duties. 

On 1 September 1969, the Lapland Military Band is founded under the name Rovaniemi Garrison Band. 

1977 The Luonetjärvi Garrison Band is founded. In 1990, the band’s name was changed to the Air Force Band, and today, it is the only military band in Finland specialised in entertainment and rhythm music.  That year, chief conductor and chief of military band became separate posts. Teuvo Laine was appointed Chief of the Band.  

1984 Esko Juuri was appointed Chief of the Helsinki Garrison Band.  The Music Student School became the Military Music Institute, a military education establishment under the Defence Command’s Assistant Chief of Staff.  

1990 The Helsinki Garrison Band was made a Guard Battalion company and renamed the Guards Band.  That same year, the Defence Forces Conscript Band was founded as a company of the Kymi Air Defence Regiment.  From the beginning of 2015, the band has operated in the Armoured Brigade. 

1993 In the autumn, the Defence Forces’ first Tattoo Tour was organised.  The event was the first of its kind, and its programme was put together by the Guards Band’s conductor Raine Ampuja.

2008 Elias Seppälä was appointed Chief Conductor of the Defence Forces. 

2014 In conjunction of the Defence Forces reform, the military bands of Kainuu, Karelia, Ostrobothnia, Pohja, Satakunta and Savo as well as the Armour Band and the Defence Forces Military Music Institute were disbanded.  The Defence Forces’ current bands comprise the Air Force Band, Guards Band, the Navy Band, Dragoon Band and the Defence Forces Conscript Band. 

2015 Jyrki Koskinen was appointed Chief Conductor and Pasi-Heikki Mikkola the Guards Band’s Senior Conductor (the title changed from chief to senior conductor in 2014).