This is a pose up with Dimitri and Anastasia, both from Moscow, who played along with me at the Euphoria Hostel venue, Dimitri wanted to learn the chords for the outro of Hey Jude, (the na, na na, na na, hey jude bit), and Anastasia who played oboe and piano wanted to play Riders On The Storm, the Doors song that I used to know and I jammed along – it’s a cliché but true about how music is the international language.
On the Saturday a parade of the choirs leads off from the city centre to the showgrounds and it went on for hours with all the beautiful costumes. On the Sunday was the main event. I found a spot and stayed there for 7 hours from 2pm to 9pm with my pack of food and drink, binoculars and sunnies, and was completely enchanted. I had no idea what was going on because I don’t know a word of Estonian. There was a massed children’s choirs, a huge wind ensemble of about a 1000 players, an orchestral feature with what looked like three combined orchestras, a male choir, female choir and finally, all together with a 22,000 piece choir. Talking to people afterwards I learned the music is secular and non political and to my ears the music is quite sombre, it’s not ‘light pops’, and many of the songs date back to the middle ages, there are also premiers of new choral works. The song festival was initiated about 150 years ago when the Germans occupied Estonia and continued during the Communist period and is now a big national day with plenty of flag waving. The Estonians finally own their country and many of the older chorusers were very emotional, the big LED screen showed their faces – as a country they have been through so much to get were they are today. Interestingly, there were no soloists, it’s a people’s event, there are no star performers or celebrities apart from the conductors. This event happens every 4 years and I felt privledged to be a able to experience it.