Saturday, June 2, 2012

The Estonian Singing Revolution

Seeking a quiet moment away from the pre-concert frenzy at Podium 2012, Canadian liaison for the Tartu Ülikooli Akadeemiline Naiskoor choir, Andres Raudsepp, discusses with me the role of music within the Estonian choral community and choir tour so far. As a choir girl who is constantly seeking international outlets to expand my choral experiences, it always perplexes me when choirs choose to tour Canada. Raudsepp describes the appeal of Canada and the relationship between the Estonian-Canadians to Estonians from Estonia. He attributes this appeal to the fact that Estonian-Canadians have always contributed back to their home country in field such as medicine and dentistry, as a result, “Estonia gives back its music.” An excellent example of cultural mutualism.

The Estonian choral community has a rich cultural heritage. Since 1869, Estonia hosts a song festival, “Laulupidu” every five years where over 25 000 singers join together in song. Raudsepp emphasized that this song festival was a formative event in Estonian history because “it established the identity of Estonian choral music… the song festival became an expression of the mentality and desire of Estonia,” and created a “singing revolution.” The reflection of Tartu’s Estonian heritage is also reflected in their repertoire choice at Podium, which was mainly Estonian folklore. Raudsepp remarks this is the case because “the tradition of women as messengers of Estonian's consciousness through folksong over countless centuries is reflected in the current devotion of their country's women singers to their art.” Therefore, the female voices of the group have become a cultural conduit for Estonian sentiments.

Raudsepp remarked that the success of the group is dependent upon three factors. Firstly, the choir has always attracted the best conductors, in this case, Triin Koch. Secondly is the desire amongst the singers. Raudsepp takes a contemplative moment at this point in the interview before continuing: “But there is a third element, and that is a human element, that some conductors don’t realize. Conductors that express gratitude towards their singers get more out of the choir. [Triin Koch] is grateful after every song. You can see that in her face and the faces in her choir.” Oftentimes, it is easy to forget to acknowledge the shared musical genesis that occurs between conductors and choristers. It was clear that the presence of the Tartu Ülikooli Akadeemiline Naiskoor's tour to Canada was not only to sing music, but to share a part of their choral heritage that influenced the development of their nation. From the standing ovation seen following their Podium debut, they clearly succeeded.


An interview post part of a Podium 2012 Series cross-posted on Sound and Noise and the ACCC Choral Bytes Blog

1 comment:

Avocational Singer said...

Thanks for calling some attention to the Estonian choir music. Our choir, Schola Cantorum on Hudson, performed a concert of Estonian music last year and we have established a relationship with the local Estonian community, which may lead to our participating in the festival you mentioned.

There is a wonderful film about how the Estonian people used their singing to express their voice and win their independence as a country. We used the film in our concert, a kind of multi-media event and sang with portions of the film. You can view a preview of the film here: