Starting from the back top row: Koidula Suurmagi [VT], Eiki Martinson [FL], in the center: Ene Piirak [VT], artistic director Richard Riley and Estonian Ambassador Eerik Marmei, Uku Meri [VT], Kiku Martinson [FL] and Heli Kubja [ Mexico], Kadi Piirak [Syracuse, NY] and Aili Dalton [VT]. From the left: Margit Sirgo [VT] with her daughter and 2 grandchildren, in front Vaiki Kreckovic [VT] and knee-ling Piret Komi [Toronto], present but missing from photo Aarne Vesilind [NH]Aili and Taivo Milles[VT), I. Vanderer [NJ] and Anna Kalfus[VT]
On Friday, November 20, the Burlington, Vermont community had the happy experience of hearing a program of Estonian music presented by the Burlington Choral Society.
BCS is a mixed choral group of 75 singers, directed by Richard Riley. A string orchestra consisting of seventeen members accompanied the chorus and performed two orchestral pieces. Featured in the program were works by Arvo Pärt: “Silouans Song,” “Magnificat,”and “Cantus in Memory of Benjamin Britten.” “Kreek’s Notebook,” a compilation by Cyrillus Kreek of Estonian folk hymns that have been arranged for chorus and orchestra by Tõnu Kõrvits, were part of the program.
Kõrvits is a contemporary Estonian composer who was recognized by the Estonian Choral Association as the Choral Composer of the Year in 2014. Also on the program was the world premier of “An Estonian Diary,” written by Lembit Beecher, a young composer of Estonian descent who grew up in the U.S. Finally, three songs usualy performed at Eesti Laulupidu were included in the program: “Mu Isamaa on minu arm,” “Tuljak,” and “Mehed ja Naised.”
There was tremendous interest in this program of music, resulting in a sold out performance, with additional 75 seats made awailable for lines of people who were unable to purchase tickets at the door due to robust advanced sale of 325 tickets.
The choral group had set out diligently to learn pronunciation of the Estonian language. They met the challenge of complex music and complicated (to the unaccustomed ear) pronunciation. As told by the Estonians in the audience the Choral group sounded as true Estonians.
In the process, they were exposed to a slice of history and to a country few knew very much about prior to this program. By the time of the concert the majority of the chorus members had viewed “The Singing Revolution.” Several commented on how moved they were by the story of the Estonian people who retained their identity through song. One member mentioned that she was giving her adult children “The Singing Revolution” on DVD as presents for Christmas!
Burlington does not boast a large Estonian population and does not have an organized Estonian community. Nevertheless, word of mouth resulted in the appearance of close to 20 Estonians, some of whom had traveled quite a distance from out of state to hear this program. The celebration was further enhanced by the presence of Eerik Marmei, the Estonian Ambassador to the United States, who made the trip from Washington, D.C.
The evening concluded with a stirring reprise of “Mu Isamaa…” The performance was received with great enthusiasm. It can be concluded that the evening was a resounding success for performers and audience alike.