TALLINNA MUUSIKAKESKKOOLI NOORTEKOOR (The Youth Choir of Tallinn Music High School) will be participating in America Cantat VIII in the Bahamas August 21-25, 2016. We invite you to enjoy their pre-festival (August 18 and 20) and post-festival (August 27 and 28) performances along the US east coast. Admission is free.
(The following is an interview with Ingrid Kõrvits, choir director, conducted by email by Lisa A. Mets, Estonian Honorary Consul, St. Petersburg, FL; firstname.lastname@example.org; floridaestos.wordpress.com)
The Youth Choir of Tallinn Music High School (Tallinna Muusikakeskkooli Noortekoor) will be on tour in August 2016. Tell us about the school, choir, tours, and awards.
Tallinn Music High School (TMHS) is unique both in Estonia and Europe. From 1st to 12th grade pupils learn both regular academic subjects and music. There are about 300 students at the school, who all learn an instrument, singing, conducting, music theory or composition as a specialty. Students have several individual lessons each week: at least two lessons of their chosen specialty, plus piano, ensemble, and accompaniment with piano. They also have group lessons: solfeggio, rhythmics, music theory, music history, different choirs and orchestras. The students have quite busy schedules with all their schoolwork, practicing their instruments and performing. There are tests to enter the school and school is free for students. The purpose of TMHS is to raise future professional musicians who will continue their studies in the Estonian Academy of Music and Theatre or in a foreign music college. The Youth Choir of TMHS has grown out of the same school’s children’s choir and it has been an active youth choir since 2008. Girls aged 14-19 sing in the youth choir. The choir is very active with concerts, interesting side projects with professional musicians, choirs and orchestras, e.g., the Estonian National Symphony Orchestra, Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir, Estonian National Male Choir, among others, which are led by conductors such as Tõnu Kaljuste, Mikk Üleoja, Nikolai Aleksejev, Andres Mustonen, among others.
Once a year we like to participate in an international choir festival or competition. Our travels have taken us to Germany, Spain, Austria, England, Hungary, Cyprus, Greece, and Italy. This is our first trip to the United States. The choir has been successful in several festivals and competitions. In recent years they have met with the following success: First prize (I) in the category of youth choirs and conductor’s prize in the International Choral Competition Tallinn, 2011; first prize (I) in the categories of children’s and youth choirs in the International Euroradio (European Broadcasting Union) Choral Contest “Let the Peoples Sing” in Salford, England, 2011; Grand Prix in the International Cantemus Choral Competition in Nyiregyhaza, Hungary, 2012; first prize (I) in the category of female choirs and conductor’s prize in the International Choral Competition, Tallinn, 2013; participation in the international Sacred Music Festival in Patmos, Greece, 2013; and first prize (I) in the category of female choirs and II prize in category of 20.–21. Century music in the Guido d’Arezzo International Polyphonic Competition in Italy, 2014.
The choir will be performing at America Cantat VIII in the Bahamas, which takes place mid- to late August 2016. What made you decide to take the choir to this festival? What sources of financial support make a trip like this possible?
The proposition to participate in America Cantat VIII in the Bahamas came to us from the Estonian Choir Association, who was in turn contacted by the leadership of Europa Cantat. This is a great honour and a challenge to perform at such a renowned festival where choir conductors and choir music lovers gather from all over the Americas. We have been financially supported by The Cultural Endowment of Estonia, the Estonian Ministry of Culture, as well as income from our previous concerts. A large amount of the financing also comes from the singers’ parents.
The choir is bookending its tour with free public performances in Annapolis, MD (August 18) and New York City (August 20, dedicated to the 25th Anniversary of Estonian Independence from the Soviet Union, co-presented with the Estonian Ministry of Culture and Scandinavia House) and in Miami, Florida on August 27 and 28, 2016. The choir will also be performing informally in a children’s hospital in Washington DC. How did you choose those cities?
These are attractive concert destinations that fit best in our travel schedule when visiting the Bahamas. Also, we chose locations that have active Estonians, members of the Estonian diplomatic corps, and Estonian honorary consuls who have been very helpful in organising our trip.
Tell us about the musical programs you have planned for your various audiences. What awaits us?
Our programme contains very different pieces of music, from Estonian folk song arrangements to American gospel arrangements. We will also be performing music from Finnish and Swedish composers. We have chosen pieces that would speak to the audience and offer an exciting listening and visual experience (several songs are choreographed).
What is it like for you and Jaanika Kuusik (choirmaster and vocal pedagogue) to travel with 30 young women?
We are already used to it because we have travelled quite a lot with our choir. It has given us the experience and knowledge to handle situations. In general we’ve had smooth travels, with no particular incidents. We usually travel with a bit more people, usually about 40 singers. In those cases we’ve also had more teachers, usually four.
It is widely recognized you are an extraordinary choral director. How many choirs do you direct? Also, Estonians are widely known for their love of music. Where does your passion for choral music come from?
I am a conductor of three choirs: The Children’s Choir of TMHS as well as The Girls Choir and Ellerhein Girls Choir, with whom I also spent July in a concert tour in the United States this year. My passion for choir music has developed over the years. This has not been a childhood dream, but something that has grown with me and with my choirs and has blossomed into a love for music and choir music.
How can we stay up-to-date on you and your choirs’ activities? What’s next?
The most up-to-date information about the choir’s activities are on the “Tallinna Muusikakeskkooli Noortekoor” Facebook page. We also have a website at http://tmkknoortekoor.edicypages.com. Our next project is participating in a concert of modern Estonian choir music with several other well-known Estonian choirs. We will perform 13 new choir pieces from Estonian composers. With The Estonian National Symphony Orchestra and conductor Andres Mustonen we are preparing for the performance of Liszt’s “Dante Symphony.” But we also have our regular scheduled concerts that we are preparing for.
Ingrid, thank you for participating in this interview and for choosing to come to the east coast for the choir’s first tour to the United States. We encourage all those traveling to Estonia to keep their eyes on your choirs’ schedules so they may enjoy your performances at home. Most of all, we wish you and your choirs continuing success!