I Participated on Tartu Song Festival Yesterday

As a member of the Estonian largest choir (112 members) I participated on Tartu song festival yesterday — a festival, where at the top moments, more than 8000 people (including me) from choirs all around Tartu and Tartu County were singing together on the same stage, defying a heavy driving rain at the same time. Below are some photo shots of the event and some taste of Estonian singing culture.

The Photo Shots of Tartu Song Festival

The first shot here is taken from the rehearshal of the children choirs on stage. The children here are the younger ones, from kindergarten and first grades of scools. Rumours tell me, that it was first time in Estonian history to have the kindergarten kids on song festival stage. On this stage the kindergarten kids make up the first three rows.

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It was a heavy driving rain during the day, throughout the rehearsals that started already in the morning, pre-performance procession, and the performance in the evening. People were wearing raing coats and defied the hard conditions. When I finally got onto the stage for the official performance, I looked like this:

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Here is the shot of the kids on stage giving the official performance (this was the time when I had a chance to take it from the back rows of the watchers):

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And here is how the crowd looked from the stage:

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Some Taste of Estonian Singing Culture

Las time I participated on a major song festival at summer, 1990, in Tallinn, on the Estonian general song festival. The 1990 one was the so called first free song festival after the breakdown of Soviet regime. Those song festivals happen once in each 4 years and have been an Estonian tradition and part of its culture since year 1869. During Soviet times the tradition survived despite of its controversial nuances. Soviet regime tried to exploit the event for its own propaganda, but at the same time for Estonian people, the tradition had still some hidden connotation of aspiration towards freedom, self-awareness, and national identity.

One of the most famous masterpiece that survived all this political winds was the “Mu isamaa on minu arm” (“My Fatherland is My Love”, an awkward translation by me), written by Lydia Koidula, musically composed by Gustav Ernesaks. It has been considered an alternate Estonian hymn, even during Soviet regime — when that song was on, everybody stood up. It has been the mandatory piece and soul of all the song festivals. During Soviet times, at 1960, the authorities forced to leave it out of the programme, but performers on stage just started singing it spontaneously, without the director, after the official programme was over. The author, Gustav Ernesaks, then stood up in the middle of the singing and directed it. After that, the song has been officially part of the programme, as the last or one before the last song. It feels like if someone would have managed to avoid people singing it, it would have been equal to breaking the backbone of the song festivals and the related culture.

On 1990, Gustav Ernesaks (lived at 1908-1993) himself directed the singing of it by the union of all choirs, close to 30 thousand people (including me) on stage, 100 thousand people watching. Can you imagine that? To give you some minor taste of how it looked, I found this video from YouTube (that would never give you the awesome impression you would get from being personally there, especially on stage):

The next general song festival is going to happen this summer, 4-5 july in Tallinn.

Update: the general Estonian Song Festival is also over now. I wrote the post about this: I Contributed My Tenor Voice to the XXV Estonian Song Festival

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