Laulupidu: Estonian Song Festival

Laulupidu is an event which takes place every five years in the Estonian capital Tallinn. There’s an overview of the history of the event here, and it’s deeply rooted in Estonian culture and their sense of national identity. It’s part of a weekend-long festival which incorporates dancing and choirs both adult and junior. We were there to watch our daughter, whose school choir had been accepted as participants.

The day started at 09:30 as all the choirs gathered in Freedom Square in the city centre. The bears arrived early.

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It was a grey day so many people came wearing transparent plastic ponchos, but the rain held off.

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The parade made its way through the centre of the city and down a wide road towards the festival grounds, about 5 kilometres away.

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Apart from the impromptu singing from some groups (other saved themselves for the actual concert) the main attraction for me were the traditional costumes.

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I wasn’t the only one taking photos.

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I’m not really sure what the large yellow ball signifies, but many people at the head of their group had them. There were choirs from all across Estonia present, plus some from Canada and the US.

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Several people had these large circular metallic brooches.

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That’s the Estonian flag. The colours represent sky, earth and snow.

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At the grounds themselves the crowds gathered. We had seats quite close to the front. Those on the slope in the background were standing or sitting on blankets.

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And there are the singers. Thousands of them.

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There was a brief ceremony at the start with an Olympic-style torch.

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And then the singing started. For the first few songs everyone sang together, which made quite an impression.

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Then some left the stage and a certain number of children’s choirs (including my daughter) sang five or six songs, all in Estonian. here are extracts from my favourite two.

 

 

 

Although this kind of event can never have the same significance or emotional charge for someone not raised in that culture, it’s still powerful and moving to see and hear that many people singing in harmony. If that whet your appetite, you can see full coverage of the parade and the concert on the website of the national TV broadcaster.

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