In Järva County, auditions are underway for this summer's 13th Estonian Youth Song and Dance Festival. While all the singers and dancers are finding their repertoires challenging, no one is considering the possibility of not making it to the festival.
At Paide's Hammerbeck Primary School, despite the challenges of rehearsing during the last few years caused by the coronavirus pandemic, 12 groups of children are determined to reach this summer's 13th Estonian Youth Song and Dance Festival.
With their first audition set to take place in a week, the groups have been working hard to hone their dance routines since the fall. One thing is clear, getting to the festival is really important for everyone.
However, it certainly will not be easy. "There's still a lot to do," said Malle Anton, folk dance and choir director at Paide's Hammerbeck Primary School.
Leene and Robin, who are both dancers in the school's 7th-9th grade mixed group said, that the auditions will show how much they have progressed. However, both agreed, that if they don't make it through to the festival, everyone will feel sad.
According to headteacher Helen Turg, it is not only the dancing and singing which is providing a challenge ahead of this year's festival.
"We also have financial worries. We are not sure at the moment whether we will have any transport money available to go to Tallinn," said Turg.
At Koeru Secondary School, there are more than 300 children, half of whom are hoping to take part in the festival this summer. As opportunities to sing together were limited during the height of the coronavirus pandemic, and the repertoire for the festival is quite difficult, the choir singers have had to work hard to learn their five songs.
"We have a two-part choir, however, perhaps the last (group of) children who practiced in a two-part were those (now) in the fourth grade. The little first and second-graders don't have that experience, because last year and the year before, when it was the year of the coronavirus, we chose the simplest possible repertoire, so that we could keep some kind of continuity," explained Liana Kullasepp, choir teacher at Koeru Secondary School.
On Friday evening, Koeru Culture House was full of local youngsters, practicing the traditional Estonian folk dance "Oige ja vasemba" together. However, even though the dance moves may now be clear, it is still not known how folk costumes will be found for all those taking part.
"How do you get the right clothes for the right children?" asks Kirsika Ilmjärv, head of Koeru Secondary School's recreation department. "At the moment, we have a lot of loose ends to tie up and are looking to find solutions to these problems with the local government in Järva Municipality," said Ilmjärv.
Nevertheless, for some, including Jaak Tammik and his family, performing at the festival would be a dream come true and, according to his mother Ragne, there has never been such a good chance. "Now the children have put in such a good effort," she said.
Preparations for Estonia's 13th Youth Song and Dance Festival involve 1,500 folk dance and singing groups, who are currently halfway through their preliminary auditions. The festival itself is set to take place at the Song Festival Grounds (Lauluväljak) in Tallinn from June 30 to July 2.
Editor: Michael Cole