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Men's Choirs Mass in Tartu, Beyond

The Estonian National Male Choir
The Estonian National Male Choir Source: Photo: Postimees/Scanpix

This weekend, venues in many parts of the country will host concerts by Nordic and Baltic choirs in part of what may be the largest men's choral festival in the world.

The Nordic-Baltic Male Choir Festival will see a total of 4,500 singers in men's and boys' choirs assembling in Tartu, the city where Estonia's legendary tradition of national song festivals every five years got started.

The idea to hold an all-male festival in an interim year harks back to independence movement figure J. V. Jannsen's original vision for the main festival. It actually wasn't until the fourth festival in 1891 that mixed choirs were invited.

The numbers on this weekend's event are impressive: of the participants, 1,800 singers will be from choirs from the Nordic region, 1,000 from Estonian choirs and 1,700 from boys' choirs. The singers represent 89 men's choirs and 50 boys' choirs.

The headline event will take place at 18:00 Saturday at the Song Festival Grounds in Tartu's Tähtvere district. The massed choir will be composed of men's choirs from Sweden, Finland, Norway, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and the Faroe Islands, with a number of elite performing organizations represented, including Estonia's own National Male Choir.
Highlights will include unprecedented renditions of the "Slave Chorus" from Verdi's "Nabucco" and Sibelius's "Finlandia," by the 3,000-strong combined group.
The Vanemuine Theater Symphony Orchestra will provide musical backing, along with the Defense Forces Orchestra and the Police and Border Guard Orchestra.

Closing numbers will include seminal choral songs by Gustav Ernesaks and Raimund Kull.
Three of the top choirs - Sweden's Orphei Drängar, Finland's Ylioppilaskunnan Laulajat and the Estonian National Male Choir - will perform Friday evening at the Vanemuine Concert Hall in Tartu and on Sunday at the Estonia Theater in Tallinn. The National Male Choir will also perform late Friday night at the St. John's Church in Tartu.

The festival also includes 15 free concerts in regional venues in south and central Estonia as well as in Tallinn.


Kristopher Rikken

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