From The Imagination To The Heart: In Celebration Of Tarja Turunen

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As part of our continued celebration of Internatipn Women’s Day, Our very own Claire has nominated Tarja Turunen as a women who inspires her.

Not only has Turunen pioneered an entire Metal genre, inspired countless bands and singers in metal and classical music and blessed us with her out-of-this-world vocals, she’s also shown how you can rebound from life-changing moments and disappointment with strength, poise and grace.

15 years is a long time ago but you still can’t fail to be moved by that fateful Nightwish Hartwall Arena show way back in 2005, which sees Turunen battling through illness to chillingly and unknowingly deliver what would be her last Nightwish show. 

On one hand, it’s a thrilling end and a vocalist going out on top, giving absolutely everything into a performance that’s captured on DVD forever and ever. On the other, it’s an awful watch. You’re seeing someone singing their heart out only to be told they’re being cut from the team after the show ends and the entire band knows it before the concert began. 

Just imagine being in that position for a moment. One day you’ve headlined the biggest show of your career in your home country to a sold-out crowd, the next you’re no longer in a band you’ve helped create for the best part of a decade and have been cut in the cruellest possible way. How do you even move on from that?

Many other artists would surely quit music altogether but Turunen didn’t. Instead, she moved forwards in the face of adversity with the courage and conviction to dive headfirst into a new musical direction. She was bold in her approach taking risks, being creative in her sound and never settling for second best. 

During her solo career, you can clearly see she’s put in a huge amount of hard work to hone her craft in many areas. Not least as a songwriter. This must have been a huge learning curve at the beginning given how her role in the composition side of music whilst with Nightwish was limited with Tuomas Holopainen being the sole composer in the band. You can see her journey with each album she releases adding new elements, exploring new sounds and even turning her had to handle production duties on recent albums. You only have to listen to the differences between songs on My Winter Storm (2007) to In The Raw (2019) to see how far she has come as an artist.

But it isn’t just the song writing that’s inspiring. Despite already being an incredibly gifted singer, she’s still made time to improve her voice even more. You can see in recent years that she’s challenged every critic that ever said she was a one-trick pony that could only do classical singing and anyone in the classical world who didn’t take her seriously, by exploring new styles and techniques some twenty plus years into her singing career. 

Performances in recent years have seen her try out new styles and incorporate these into her songs and repertoire. Whether it’s breathing a new life into Nightwish classics like Ever Dream, putting her own spin on Muse’s Supremacy or making appearances on Angra and Within Temptation tracks. A true testament to her diversity as an artist. 

But it isn’t just a path carved within Rock and Metal that she’s embarked on that’s pushed boundaries. Not one to be typecast she’s also delved into the classical world performing with full orchestras from Nightwish classics like Swanheart to arias from the likes of Puccini, Dvorak and Bizet. Whilst acknowledging she is not an opera singer if you compare her opera singing in 2008 to that in 2015 on the Beauty & The Beat tour or a stunning cover of the Andrew Lloyd-Webber song Pie Jesu in 2017, you can hear how she’s succeeded in refining her technique in this realm too. 

Where Turunen may have ended up had she not met her now ex-Nightwish bandmates Tuomas Holopainen and Emppu Vuorinen in 1996 remains to be seen. You can’t help but wonder that had this encounter not occurred whether she’d have made the venture towards additional studies to become a fully-fledged opera singer in her own right. She certainly seems to have all the potential to have made it big in the classical and opera realm too alongside the Anna Netrebeko’s and Angela Gheorghiu’s of the world. But perhaps we should be counting ourselves lucky she’s chosen to bless the metal and rock world with her vocals and unique material rather than singing dead guys music from centuries gone by. 

Unfortunately, my musical experience of Tarja is limited to just one gig. But it’s probably a gig that moved me the most. I’ve seen the Sharon Den Adel’s Simone Simons’ and Floor Jansen’s of this world countless times over but out of all the classically influenced vocalists out there Tarja’s voice is the only one that made me cry. 

She is truly in a class of her own.

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2 COMMENTS

  1. Can you tell me exactly how she’s a ‘pioneer,’ seeing as how there were symphonic metal bands before Nightwish who had female vocalists?!

  2. I love Tarja and her unique Operatic sound in Symphonic and Power metal songs , with Nightwish their sound was so large and so much better than mostly everyone else ( no offence intended ) and Tarja voice was so majestic with those Guys , Maybe it’s just me however I miss that sound these days , it was an absolute unique sound and it got to me thru my soul . I like her songs as just (Tarja ) , it’s her symphonic metal that I really miss the most , it was that sound that got to me in the first place , I miss her singing in the (Operatic voice w Metal ) , I still can’t believe they gave it all away .

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