1890 – Variety shows at Kämp
In keeping with the European grand hôtel tradition, the entertainment on offer at Hotel Kämp was cosmopolitan and out of the top drawer. Already by the early 1890s, Kämp had become Helsinki's leading light entertainment arena, with only the best artists being permitted on its stage. The aim was to make the hotel & restaurant business a profitable concern, and the models were again drawn from the big European capitals.
Dinners with musical accompaniment were arranged even in Carl Kämp's time. Programmes that have survived from that era indicate that the tafelmusik fare was typical for the late 19th century: light classical pieces by Rossini, Bach, Gounod, and Wagner among others. The programme often featured brass ensemble compositions, opera overtures, romances, marches, or airs.
One aspect of life in the big city was the rise of the variety show as entertainment, and Carl Kämp was a pioneer in getting this up and running in Helsinki. Kämp became a center for entertainment and music in the 1890s, when Finnish and foreign artists were brought to Kämp Upstairs, with song, dance, and ensemble music performances.
As today, the performances were advertised in the press and they were also written up by the critics. Consequently, word traveled fast and the best and most popular shows would be sold out for weeks on end. The variety performances that came to Finland were essentially watered-down versions of the artistic cabaret shows that had become immensely popular in Europe, featuring fashionable "low culture”, musical entertainment, and assorted stage acts.
In the Finnish experience of the day, "cabaret" more often than not meant slightly risqué variety acts, dancing-girls showing off plenty of leg, songs to sing along to, and assorted musical numbers.
The stories are compiled from Laura Kolbe's book Kämp – The Hotel and Its City (2015). Get your own copy at the hotel reception.