LISBON — The 10-member A’chording to Kantele will perform a Christmas concert at 6 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 10, at St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church on the Hill off Route 196.

The free concert includes coffee and desserts.

“St. Matthew’s is offering Mid-Coast Maine an opportunity to celebrate Christ’s birth with Finnish and traditional carols,” said the Rev. W. Beau Wagner, rector.

The kantele is a traditional Finnish lap-harp with a 2,000-year history rooted in the folklore of the “Kalevala,” the national epic of Finland. Finns consider it an important symbol of their culture and it is played in their schools, universities and concert halls.

The audience will hear six different types of kanteles: 10, 11, 15 stringed ones along with 11 +4 strings, 15 + 4 strings, and 38 string concert kanteles.

To Chris Frazier, Lisbon Falls resident, fifth-grade teacher and a founding member of the group, the kantele’s sound is “just a wonder.” She first heard its sound 11 years ago when a fellow teacher played at a staff meeting, then offered to teach the instrument to anyone who wanted to learn.

“The sound was unlike anything I’d ever heard. It seemed to move right into me. I was totally captivated,” said Frazier, who instantly signed up for lessons.

When she first played her large 36-string kantele the day it arrived from Finland, her fingers hurt “so-o-o badly. But I was determined to get the beautiful sounds out of that instrument that I knew were in there,” she said. “I simply could not get past that kantele on the dining room table without stopping to try it again. It was as though something in me needed to reach in and coax it out. Now I play a concert kantele and can feel its enchantment as strongly as the first day I heard its sound.”

The group began in November 2000 when a group of 30 people met in the basement of a local Lutheran church to learn how to play “Ode to Joy” on the kantele. The players became a performing group known as the Maine Kanteles. A’chording to Kantele is part of the Maine Kanteles.

Their sacred music includes such familiar tunes as “Amazing Grace” and “Simple Gifts.” However, they also perform Finnish pieces such as “Konevitsankirkonkellot,” which means church bells of the Konevitsa monastery (an Eastern Orthodox church).

St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church, founded in 1906, brings together contemporary worship with ancient ritual, Bible-based preaching, expressions of the Holy Spirit and service to others.

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