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Audio Dubbado: Retuperän WBK represents firefighter-like dignity and good manners

In an interview for the 'Walk in my shoes' series, Audio Dubbado, the artistic misleader of Retuperän WBK, tells how he went to a Retuperä gig in Smökki without any rehearsals or sheet music, and then didn't dare to leave.
Retuperän WBK:n Audio Dubbado, kuva: Atte Mäkinen.
Photo: Atte Mäkinen.

Why is The Retuperä Voluntary Fire Brigade Band important to you?

Before I moved to Otaniemi, I used to see Retuperä on the hill in Ullanlinna, and I used to participate in the fire brigade concerts. Retuperä has always been both close to my heart. When Retuperä is there, there is also a festive atmosphere.

What inspires me about Retuperä is that quite a many orchestras spend a lot of time on intonation and playing in tune. We don’t spend time on those things in Retuperä, and that's why Retuperä is able to make music much more than many other inferior orchestras.

What was your path to Retuperä and Aalto?

I'm coming up on seven years in the fire service, and three years at Aalto as a student of information networks. A friend of mine played in Retuperä seven years ago, and we were at a mutual friend's birthday party. Late in the evening, she was leaving for a Retuperä gig, and I asked if I could come along. I didn't have an instrument or anything else with me.

We went to a gig in Smökki, I put on a robe and helmet, took a horn from the wall, and played without sheet music. And it wasn't the first or the last time a new player would come to Retuperä without practice or sheet music.

I never dared to leave Retuperä. And after I had played in the fire brigade for a few years, I thought that maybe it would be good to have some excuse to spend so much time in Otaniemi. I decided it was time to apply to study at Aalto.

I studied French horn professionally before moving to Aalto. When I was doing my military service in the conscript band, there opened an opportunity to take a conducting course. It went quite well, and a couple of years later the artistic misleader of Retuperä was about to retire. I was interested, and in the end, I was selected.

What's it like to walk in Audio Dubbado's shoes?

I can be seen walking from backstage to the concert stage. Everything is ready at that point, from rearranging the music to rehearsing the orchestra to selling tickets. I can just walk in and enjoy myself, there is no more stress. It's really rewarding. During the concert, we can concentrate on making newer French horn music.

But that walking also involves the many rehearsals in Smökki. The hardest part is maybe a few months before the concert, when everything is still in the works, and tickets are not on sale yet. That's where we see all the effort and pain of getting the orchestra to play as well as possible. That's when it can get a bit tense.

I can be seen walking from backstage to the concert stage. I can just walk in and enjoy myself, there is no more stress.

Audio Dubbado

When do you feel a stone in your shoe and how do you take it off?

We play in old boots every now and then. Really old boots will have the soles off, and the nails may stick out of the bottom. It's probably even a bit worse than just having a stone in your shoe.

The solution is to put a new insole or wool sock in the boot.

What is the concrete story about Audio Dubbado that you like to tell the most?

Three years ago, the then conductor of the Joensuu City Orchestra, Eero Lehtimäki, invited Retuperä to Joensuu to perform a joint wappu concert. The idea was that Joensuu would play first, then Retuperä, and finally there would be a couple of joint numbers. It sounded good, and at the same time we agreed that Retuperä's national rearranger Simeon Suihkutsalo would arrange a couple of joint songs.

After Suihkutsalo had done the arrangements, I sent them to Eero Lehtimäki. I thought that he would conduct the symphony orchestra. But Eero Lehtimäki replied that it all looked good, good luck with the gig. It turned out that he was going to conduct the Lahti orchestra at the same time, so Joensuu would then be mine to conduct. It was quite an exciting situation. I had no previous experience of conducting a symphony orchestra. But we went there, and it all went quite well. At least I had a good time in front of the orchestra, and Joensuu seemed to enjoy it too, although it was obviously quite different from what they were used to.

What could Aaltonians learn from Retuperä?

The purpose of Retuperä is to cause outrage in serious-minded circles. We are making a parody of classical music. It takes a certain indifference of a fireman or a player to dare to play the newer French horn music.

There is also much to learn from our music. It is very educational to go to our concerts. On the other hand, when you see us performing, you can observe a fireman-like dignity and good manners.

As a community, we are a tight-knit bunch of about 25 firefighters and musicians. We see each other about three times a week, always with the same group. I'd say you should have fun with each other no matter what you are doing; playing music, or even playing board games. There are lots of opportunities and you have to do different things, so you don't get on each other's nerves. Although, of course, that doesn't happen in Retuperä.

It takes a certain indifference of a fireman or a player to dare to play the newer French horn music.

Audio Dubbado

Tell us something about the Retuperä’s wappu?

For a firefighter, wappu time means freedom from the shackles of everyday life. It also means quite a few gigs. First thing on the morning of wappu eve, we go to wake up the President Ilkka Niemelä at sunrise. We drive the fire truck to wherever he lives and hope the fire truck makes it all the way there. We play a little gig there, and year after year the president and his family are really surprised to see us. For some strange reason, there may also be a little catering for the firefighters.

It's a fun tradition, it's been around as long as the Wappu. After the show, we give thanks, and head to the next wappu gig.

How can you get to Retuperä?

There are roughly 25 active players in the band, there are constant changes in the band. New auditionees are usually freshmen, and there are only three criteria to join the orchestra: you must own an instrument, be a good person and make a successful audition on the hosemaster's phone number. The instrument can make a difference, however. After all, we are a brass band with percussion instruments.

As for who's a good person, the hosemaster determines that. I don't want to step into his shoes.

What does Retuperä's world conquest look like?

Last year we were on a world tour in Italy, Norway and Jyväskylä. In Italy it was the wedding of a true fan, and the trip was also a recreational trip for the firefighters. It was quite memorable. 

In Norway there was the Natom event for Nordic academic wind orchestras, where we were guests of the local Strindens orchestra.  We also played a concert there. In Jyväskylä, Finland, there was an event of Finnish academic wind orchestras called Puhallus, where we had to go on the same bus with Humpsvakar.

Interview and text: Tiina Aulanko-Jokirinne

Akseli Äikäs played several years at Retuperän WBK before starting to study information networks as Aalto

Akseli Äikäs is a third-year student of Information Networks and is also known as Audio Dubbado, the artistic misleader of the Retuperän WBK.

Read the student story of Akseli Äikäs aka Audio Dubbado:
Akseli Äikäs. Kuva Oona Hilli/ Aalto-yliopisto

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