Estonian Swedes want statue of Roman Toi erected on song festival grounds
In connection with the 100th birthday of Estonian composer and choral conductor Roman Toi on June 18, the Estonian National Congress of Sweden (REL) submitted a proposal to the Estonian Government to commission and install a statue of him next to the iconic statue of fellow composer and conductor Gustav Ernesaks on the Tallinn Song Festival Grounds.
Roman Toi’s activity as a choral conductor, composer and organizer in Germany’s postwar DP camps, in exile in the Canadian cities of Montreal and Toronto and at international ESTO festivals has been compared to Ernesaks’ decades of contributions in occupied Estonia, the congress told Estonian online news portal ERR.ee.
The REL pointed out that the two composers were both honored by being chosen as the honorary conductors of the first free song festival to be held again in 1990, as the occupation of Estonia was ending. “Toi brought with him to Estonia not only his [Toronto-based] mixed choir ‘Estonia’ but also the Juhan Aavik chorale ‘God Save Estonia’ (‘Hoia, Jumal, Eestit’), which had been previously banned in Estonia, and which the public demanded be sung again a total of three times,” wrote the congress.
According to the Estonian Swedes, the statue of a contemplative Ernesaks on the song festival grounds symbolizes the indomitable spirit of the song festival tradition during difficult times, and they found that Toi personified the enthusiasm, joy and brilliance of the steadfastly patriotic and democratic song festivals of Estonians in the West.
The REL found that it would be highly appropriate for a statue of Toi to join that of Ernesaks on the song festival grounds, particularly in recognition of Estonians being scattered across the globe and the emotions experienced upon meeting one another once again.