Youth Song Celebrations

Youth Song Celebrations


Most of you have heard about strange northern people Estonians who come together every five years, sing ecstatically for a day or two, even cry a little, and then go back home. We call it with a strange name LAULUPIDU or in English - song celebration or song festival. But it is not just another festival. It is rather one’s inner need, a way of living and bandage between generations. Estonia and Song Celebration – these two belong together like Norway and skiing, Russia and bears or England and the Oxford-Cambridge boat race.

Once upon a time there was awakening time in Estonia. At that time, in 1869 gathered 878 people, all men, in Tartu to sing together. Thus was the tradition of Estonian Nationwide Song Celebration born. The first Song Celebration was both a musical and political event. At the time this was seen as the first attempt at national self-determination, manifested before the Baltic-German rulers: See - we can do something too!

First choirs on the Song Celebration were male choirs, 22 years later joined mixed choirs and first female choirs sang on the 10th celebration in year 1933.

Last year we celebrated 135th anniversary of Estonian Nationwide Song Celebrations, it was 24th in a row. The total number of performers in the last Song and Dance Celebration in 2004 was 34 000. They performed before an audience of 200 000 in one concert, 600 000 followed public broadcasts in radio and television.

In the beginning of the 1960ies the number of youth choirs, orchestras and folk-dance groups and their participants had increased to such a level that there arose a need for a separate festival. The first Youth Song and Dance Celebration was held in 1962. The next, 10th Youth Song and Dance Celebration will be held in July 2007. Both nationwide and youth song celebrations are traditionally held in Tallinn in every 5 years during the 1st weekend of July.

As the tradition of the Song Celebration has developed, the types of different choirs have become more numerous and the number of participants- singers/musicians has grown as well. There are always more performers than actually fits the stage. Only the best choirs get the chance to perform at Song Celebration and this guarantees celebration’s high artistic level. In numbers – 10 % of Estonia’s inhabitants run for the festival, but only 5 % get the permission to participate in the festival.

Today Estonian Nationwide Song and Dance Celebration is a part of UNESCO Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity.

When we talk about song celebration we also talk about a combination of educational and cultural process. The goal is not just good singing on the celebration, it is much wider. The goal is rather to develop our culture, especially culture of choral and instrumental music, and find new out-puts for choral and instrumental music and education.

We encourage young composers to write music especially for song celebrations. Our aim is to engage music lovers from very early age to elderly people and arrange music event equally interesting for all of them. Laulupidu is a way of thinking and unique meeting point for different people and different cultures.

If we talk about Estonian Youth Song Celebration, then we are talking about:

*Toddler’s choirs (age 6-10)
*Children’s choirs and boys’ choirs (age 11-15)
*Youth choirs (age 16-25) - youth mixed choirs
- youth male choirs
- youth female choirs
*Youth string orchestras, symphony orchestras, wind orchestras and folk instrumental ensembles.

How does it work?

Song Celebration preparing time for a choir is approximately one year. It starts with learning the music, and then there is a period of pre-rehearsals where all choirs from one region come together and rehearse under conducting of the festival’s chief conductors. During pre-rehearsals festival chief conductors examine all choirs, because not all choirs who register have automatically access to the celebration.

Final song celebration concert is like puzzle game – we put it together piece by piece for quite long period of time and only on that one concert the songs gain their real sound and power. Producer of the celebration is Estonian Song And Dance Festival Foundation. The actual preparing time for one song celebration is approximately three years. It all starts with finding the combining idea on an open competition. Next step - artistic director chooses his team. Artistic director’s closest allies are 7 conductors (like 7 dwarves), each of them representing different type of choir or orchestra. We call them choral category leaders. They choose conductors to their own teams and all together we start a long journey from the idea to song celebration concert.

In addition to Estonian choirs there have always been foreign choirs on the Song Celebration. Therefore we invite both visitors and musicians from your countries to the 10th Youth Song and Dance Celebration in Tallinn in 2007. The combining idea and theme of the festival is World Tree.

Come and join something extraordinary!

*You can sing in the world’s biggest joint youth choir
*You can sing very good choral music
*You can meet friendly people in a friendly country
*Believe or not – it’s all in Europe