Tuesday, August 20, 2013

The Night of Songs

We had to go to Tartu today to hand over the rest of the paperwork so I could get my identity card to prove that I am allowed to be in the country. After we did that, I would be going to a rehearsal of my mothers chorus and then stay for the performance. With all this in mind, I stocked my briefcase with the things I would need and got ready to go.

Before we left, we took Adeele to her vanaema's house and left her there. This was the first time she had been left with her vanaema, so there was a lot of crying and screaming involved.

After returning to the house for my bag and the music my mother had to print out, we left for Tartu. At the police station we handed in the remaining paperwork and hoped that was what was needed, but apparently we still need more because the signatures were more than two months old. The rest can be sent by email.

We then went to the place of the rehearsal and performance. What I had expected was a small concert in the town square or something similar, instead we walked into a humongous amphitheater with an orchestra warming up in the top section, stalls selling food and trinkets, and security guards in orange manning the gates.

What I hadn't realized, was that the next day, today, was the date of Estonia declaring its independence from Russia twenty two years ago. This performance was the Song Night Festival that starts at eight and continues until early the next morning. It is a commemoration of the Estonian people singing their way to freedom.

Eva and I went around to the back of the stage and got a packet with wristbands for all of the people in her chorus and me. Then we went back to the benches in the audience seating and started giving them to the women. My mother told me that the performance would have a thousand people singing in the chorus and it would last for hours.

We listened to the rehearsal for a while, got ice cream and listened some more and then it began to rain. Eventually, we ended up standing in the middle of the chorus with my aunt and her and my mothers friends. Suddenly, I was part of the chorus and singing along to the lyrics as best I could. At some point my mother had to leave for a meeting and I stayed with my aunt.

A little while later, we went to eat and while I was eating Erick's host father came up and talked to me. Apparently, they had just gotten back from London and come right there. I never did locate Erick though, we were standing on opposite sides of the stage, with the raised platform in the middle.

Soon it was time for the concert to start and the amphitheater was full to bursting, with thousands upon thousands of people crammed into it. We weren't singing in all of the songs, just about a quarter of them. The soloists of all the songs were Estonian pop stars ranging from early twenties in age to over seventy. Lines of lights running through the audience pulsed and flashed and changed color to the throbbing beats of the music.

When we sang as the chorus, the music swelled and burst forth as a show of passion and pride. Estonian flags waved frantically from crowd and chorus alike and several large flags swooped back and forth above the crowd. As each song began, the crowd screamed wildly, and never more so then for Kuula, a song that won sixth place at a competition including thirty six countries. When it finished, the crowd and the chorus screamed for an encore and conductor broke down and lead us through it one more time.  It was easy to tell the most popular singers and songs because ever single person would jump to their feet to cheer and sing and dance.

During the concert I learned that one of the pop stars is the daughter of a woman from my host rotary club and another was the classmate of my stepsister. I also learned just now, as I watch a replay of the festival, that the president of Estonia is the friend of my mother's friend.

Many of the songs last night were songs of national pride and freedom. One lady sitting next to me explained it


  1. by telling me about the history of country. Unlike America, where we have had freedom for hundreds of years, so long that it is become a given in the lives of its citizens, Estonia has only been free from Russia for twenty two years, and most of the people in the country remember living under the rule of the Russians. The Estonians freed themselves through the Singing Revolution, and so singing about their country and their freedom is a very fundamental part of living.

    We stayed long enough to hear the president speak, and then went home to Elva at about two in the morning, so much for going to bed early.

    This morning I learned that my mother and I were on TV because it was broadcast for everyone who couldn't come or those who were turned away for lack of space. Apparently one the cameras happened to turn our way at one point.

  2. What an amazing experience! That is one that will stay with you forever. Thanks for sharing!

  3. Molly--
    You write so well! Thanks for taking us along on your EXCELLENT ADVENTURE through your blog. We feel that we already know your new family and that our family has just gotten bigger as a result. It is wonderful to have your as our eyes,ears, and hearts out learning that people are people their world over. Keep on exploring and learning.

  4. This sounds like a very cool experience.