150th anniversary of the song celebration

Photos: Kert Kõivik

Song is the cement in the foundations of Estonian culture: it has connected us and through it we achieved our freedom. That is why HAAGE Natural Mineral Water pays such store by music and is so willing to support Estonians and their cultural memory. This summer we had the great honour and pleasure of sponsoring the Tartu Song Festival. The first all-Estonian song festival took place in Tartu in 1869. The Song Celebrations which began all those years ago have been added to the UNESCO List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. They now take place every five years.

Although the festival officially ran from 20-22 June, those who were part of it are still buoyed by it. A major part of the anniversary celebrations was the restoration of the song festival church, for it was at St Mary’s in Tartu that the dress rehearsal for the first ever Song Festival was held a century and a half ago. A special concert was held at the newly renovated church on 20 June, with music by the Estonian National Male Choir and the Academic Women’s Choir of the University of Tartu. They were conducted by Triin Koch, Mikk Üleoja and Kaspar Mänd, with texts performed between the songs by actor Riho Kütsar from the Vanemuine Theatre.
On 22 June, festival-goers had the chance to attend a number of events: a mass in the ruins of the Dome Church in Tartu; a series of era-based concerts in the courtyard of the Song Festival Museum, at the university stadium and at Raadi Aircraft Hangar; and a special dance performance entitled ‘Here to Stay’ in Kassitoome Valley. The celebrations culminated in the main concert of the festival, at which more than 8500 singers from kindergarten age through to their grandparents’ generation performed music by Arvo Pärt, Veljo Tormis, Gustav Ernesaks, Miina Härma and others at Tartu Song Festival Grounds.

Many thanks to the organisers, participants and attendees for such a wonderful festival. We hope the event finds its way back to its spiritual home many more times in the future.