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Instead of one, two fantastic Festivals of Song

PHOTO: Tairo Lutter / Postimees

«Song Celebrations, this is the heartbeat of the Estonian,» says composer Tõnu Kõrvits whose «Puudutus» – The Touch – was esteemed as most beautiful by singers talking to Postimees.

On this 26th occasion, it so happened that we had two song celebrations over one and the same weekend.

The Saturday one was not too everlastingly long, but preceded by six hours of a procession. Whatever one would seek after, at the Celebrations – the peak patriotic songs, seas of blue-black-and-white, the hand-waves up and down the audience, and the tears of those deeply touched – was all there, on Saturday night already. Especially when, at the special moment, thousands of mobile phones lit up to «Koit» – The Dawn – in the darkness that descended upon the Grounds.

The other song celebration happened on Sunday – with a differing repertoire, even more singers, and all the abovementioned traditional ingredients.

Was that too much, perhaps? Female choirs chief Triin Koch thinks deeply, in the Saturday darkness: the emotion having been so strong, is there any left over for tomorrow? But it all happened again, just the same. The same familiar-new way.
While singers, choirmasters and the rest of the musicians had no option but to show up, both days, the audience had it voluntary. And show up they did – sitting, drinking it in, meeting the once-in-five-years buddies, sharing the feeling.

Ms Koch the conductor has arrived at a conclusion: «Let it be too much, then – so rarely can we feel it!»

Concert quality feast

Among the audience, there stands a former choir singer, up for work at 5 this morning and here, straight from the job. Convinced the emotion will triumph the tiredness: «Just the opposite! Here, one receives so much!»

«The first day, the historic flight thru the times, that was a wonderful idea!» enthused composer René Eespere. For him, all that was missing was giant screens – for those far up the hill to partake of emotions exuded by choirmasters, only beheld by front row VIPs.

«The screens could’ve helped share the celebrations history, like the old handwritten notes and pictures of the founders,» thinks Mr Eespere.

But what makes the 26th one special?

«The quality, with all types of choirs!» says female and mixed choirs’ conductor Raul Talmar without hesitation. The same is echoed by other musicians and conductors.
«This was a concert-level feast; no difference with concert hall performances,» said Lydia Rahula, responsible for boys choirs. «My own singer-kids came and said it was the most beautiful thing they’d seen, thanking me for keeping them at it, for injecting the feeling,» said the lady, visibly moved.

Ms Rahula says all instructors do deserve heaps of thanks. Also, she praised the organisers for taking the trouble to have almost all the toddler-choirs to take part, whoever so desired.

«This is a giant leap forward,» Ms Rahula exclaimed addressing the Song and Dance Celebration Foundation.

«Growing up, you’ll go to middle of the grounds, and you will sit and listen for hours on end – right now, you are little yet,» said a Father, addressing his small son brought along for his initial festival experience, as done by thousands of mothers and fathers. For the time being, the boy was sitting on Daddy’s shoulders, at the side, on the lawn.

But then, at the very front, a girl a bit older was taking courageous steps towards the very President Toomas Hendrik Ilves, boldly facing the important man. Then, stretching out her arms, she up and gave him a hug. Caught by surprise, Mr President awkwardly held her in his arms for a while, and set her back on the ground. Then getting a repeat of the embrace.

The Baton

Only at Song Celebrations... regarding the above hug. An atmosphere created, as if, to bring down any barrier.

As also evidenced right before «Isamaa» (Fatherland), the final song of the event. Again climbing to the conductors’ tower, Eri Klas performed an act definitely not dreamed about by 26th celebrations art director Hirvo Surva. For the fantastic event, Mr Klas passed Mr Surva the conductor’s baton once owned by Father of Estonian Choir Music Gustav Ernesaks – given to him by the latter at his 70th birthday.

And as the «Isamaa» was done and a jolly march was playing to see everyone walk off, history again repeated itself. As many times before, and especially so at the 1969 jubilee celebrations, the choirs lingered, begging to do this, that and the other song one more wonderful time. So the conductors were kept climbing the same old stairs and helping them along.

And as for the blue-black-and-whites – not handed out for free I might add – with these the festival grounds seemed as good as covered.

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