Photograph on the cover: Gage Skidmore/Flickr

When guests began to arrive at the inauguration of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris on early Wednesday evening Finnish time, the United States Marine Band played an extract of the “Finlandia Hymn.”

“Those who listened carefully might have heard some Finnish #Sibelius being played in the #Inauguration2021 yesterday! Many Finns were very happy to hear the familiar #Finlandia,” Helena Liikanen-Renger, press secretary at the Embassy of Finland in the U.S., said on Twitter.

Finnish-American conductor Aku Sorensen heard the same thing, and commented on his discovery on Twitter:


“For a moment there I could have sworn the Marine Band was playing Finlandia! (Maybe some American march that borrows from the hymn?). Anyway, just tuned in and the inauguration already gets an A+ from me.”

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A piece of “Finlandia Hymn” can be heard in the inauguration video below. It starts at 12.55.

“Finlandia Hymn” is a tone poem for orchestra, composed by Jean Sibelius in 1899. It premiered in Finland and reached an international audience the following year. Its first performances under that title were given by the Helsinki Philharmonic at the Paris World Exhibition of 1900.

The hymn begins with brass and timpani setting a tense and ominous mood. A darkly regal atmosphere is created by the gradual addition of strings and woodwinds.