On Sunday, April 22 at 2:00 PM at St. Peter’s Estonian Lutheran Church, Toronto’s Estonia choir will present Awake, My Soul! a concert of sacred choral music from Estonia. This is a rare and unique opportunity for Torontonians to enjoy and celebrate the sacred music of a country which was colonized by Teutonic knights during the Northern Crusades of the 13th century. Estonia has always been a land on the periphery of Europe, bordering, and for much of her history, occupied by followers of the Byzantine Christian faith, the Russians. It was only during the Protestant Reformation that Estonia became a Lutheran nation within the Swedish Empire. It is this from this religious tradition that most of the featured compositions in this concert are derived.
Ingrid Silm, Sam Barton and Jaan Medri will conduct pieces by composers spanning from the very beginning of Estonian professional composition (Rudolf Tobias (1873-1918)) to the Canadian premiere of a Taaveti Laul 131 (Psalm of David No. 131), which I composed three years ago when I lived in Tallinn. In a county as small as Estonia, it is inevitable that each composer will inspire and influence another and this theme is thoroughly examined in this comprehensive program of music by Estonian composers living both in Estonia and right here in Toronto.
Among the many highlights is Dona nobis pacem by Ester Mägi (b. 1922), a perfect example of Estonian musical simplicity and elegance. Although she is often overshadowed by her male contemporaries, Mägi’s music has a very special place in the hearts of Estonians who have just recently feted her with concerts of her works on the occasion of her 90th birthday. She studied composition with Mart Saar (1882-1963), who, together with Cyrillus Kreek (1889-1962) were pioneers of Estonian music.
Kreek’s beloved Taaveti Laul 141 will be conducted by Sam Barton, a promising young conductor who is completing his Master’s degree in choral conducting at the University of Toronto. His instructor is Dr. Hilary Apfelstadt, Associate Professor, Choral Conducting and Director of Choral Activities, who has found time in her busy schedule to visit and work with the Estonia choir on this very repertoire. Sam, who was born and raised in England, came to Canada to study choral conducting and in his two years here has ingratiated himself into the local Estonian community as a passionate advocate of Estonian music. In addition to his work with the Estonia choir, Sam directs the St. Peter’s Estonian Evangelical Lutheran Church Vocal Ensemble who will perform as our special guests at this concert.
Additional highlights include the work of Roman Toi (b. 1916), the Lauluisa (“Father of Song”) of Estonians abroad. His Palve (Prayer) for choir and organ was composed in the 1960s, when Estonia was still languishing from the traumas of the Stalinist repressions. Toi, both a talented composer and charismatic conductor, founded several of Toronto’s Estonian choirs including Estonia, as well as influenced generations of composers that followed him.
Among them is his longtime friend and colleague René Eespere (b. 1953). Estonia, with soprano soloist Kristina Agur, will perform his Ave Pater (from Two Jubilations) which was written in 1986 at the very start of Perestroika. Eespere, a pillar of the contemporary Estonian music scene, is a professor of composition at the Estonian Academy of Music and Theatre and prolific composer of vocal, chamber and orchestral music. Among his many students are Urmas Sisask (b. 1960) and myself. The music of Urmas Sisask is making a great impact in choral circles throughout the world and his piece Heliseb väljadel (Ringing over the Fields from 12 Songs in Honor of the Holy Virgin Maria, Op. 41) will no doubt be an audience favourite.
These are but a few of the many threads that weave this colourful musical tapestry. Be sure to join us on Sunday, April 22 and enjoy these works along with music from Mart Siimer, Mart Jaanson, Charles Kipper, Kaljo Raid and more. Tickets are available at the ESTOre, Estonia Choir members and at the door. For information contact Asta Lokk at 416-485-5559 or .
Awake, My Soul!