Lasse Pohjola – first concertmaster of WSO (story and image)

At the Cleary auditorium, showing four members of the Pohjola family, Ruth, (left, rear), Lasse (front, left of conductor), Shelley (right, 2nd cello) and Larry (far right, double bass)

At the Cleary auditorium, showing four members of the Pohjola family, Ruth, (left, rear), Lasse (front, left of conductor), Shelley (right, 3rd row, 2nd cello) and Larry (far right, double bass)

You never know where research will take you, nor when stories really begin, or end.  My colleague, Rebecca Canty, and I had divided up the research on the three organizations that we celebrate in this website.  I was coming to the end of my part of the research about the Windsor Public Library, when I found a beautifully-written letter to the Windsor Public Library Board in 2012.  Andrea Drummond wrote to let the Board know about the great work and customer service provided to her by the library staff.

Knowing that Windsor Public Library staff members go out of their way when a quest for information is underway isn’t new to us, but Ms. Drummond’s story caught my attention in particular.  Andrea Drummond is the youngest daughter of Lasse Pohjola (pronounced PoHOLa), the Windsor Symphony Orchestra’s first long-serving concert master.  He died when she was very young, and she hoped to find any recording of her father playing.  The library staff did find a very rare recording of her father playing in an old radio broadcast, converted to CD, and Ms. Drummond was thrilled.

I loved the confluence of information about two of our organizations, and desperately wanted to incorporate it into our story, although the copy for the WSO had long been completed and approved.  I called Ms. Drummond to ask her permission to use the letter somehow.

Not only did she grant permission, but she and her daughter promptly stopped by the library with precious family photos and clippings in hand.  One article from the Ford Motor Co. newsletter features Mr. Pohjola and his wife Ruth, who also played for the Windsor Symphony Orchestra on piano and percussion.  In spite of his busy music schedule, which also included the Essex Kent Scottish Regimental Band, Pohjola also worked full time for Ford’s.  There was a photo of the Scandinavian Orchestra of Detroit boarding an airplane in 1950.  They were on their way to Europe for a tour, and Pohjola was the only Canadian on the trip.  On the back is taped a letter of congratulations from Paul Martin Sr., then Minister of National Health and Welfare.  Sadly, the clippings cannot be scanned for the web.

However, family photo albums for the Pohjolas must include full orchestra photos, because apart from the younger children, the orchestra was a family affair.   The photo of the early Windsor Symphony Orchestra at the Tivoli on our site features Lasse Pohjola as concertmaster, and Ruth Pohjola on percussion.  On the photo shown in part here, Ms. Drummond identified her parents again, her brother Larry (aged about 17) on double bass, and her older sister, Shelley aged about 14 on second cello!   The whole family is musically inclined and Shelley had studied in Saltzburg.

Lasse Pohjola’s background was very similar to that of Matti Holli, and the two shared their Finnish heritage and love of music with mutual respect.  Sadly, they died within two years of each other  – each just before they were about to play in a concert.

Our thanks to the Pohjola/Drummond family for this information.

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