Quality requirements for Estonian choirs in the emigre communities appear to have become stricter ahead of next summer's national song festival, filling some Toronto choirs with worry that they not make the cut.
Twenty-one choirs with 800 singers are vying for a place under the famous acoustic arch at Tallinn's Song Festival Grounds where they will join thousands of other voices in the nation's most famous culture event, held every five years.
Two of the children's choirs abroad failed to get a green light on their first audition in October. "It was a shock to the kids and parents that our choir wasn't considered worthy the first time around," Toronto-based filmmaker and parent Marcus Kolga, who is making a documentary about the choir's road to Tallinn, told Postimees. "People have made travel plans already."
Local organizers make clear that they don't think there should be any affirmative action in place for foreign choirs and stress the need to maintain quality. In Estonian communities such as Toronto, however, the song festival is considered a vital link that keeps the younger generation interested in their ancestral homeland.
Organizers say there is no cause for undue concern. "No foreign-based Estonian choir has received a no, but several of them were given additional advice, recommendations and they can resubmit a recording by January 1 with the same songs or later if needed," said the song and dance festival organizer's communication director Sten Weidenbaum.
There is a trend toward more rules for performers at the event. Earlier this fall, the maximum age limit was lowered for folk dancers.