“Kojuigatsus” by Stephen Bell (3)
Stephen Bell (M.Mus, B.Mus) is an operatic tenor currently singing as a full time small roles and chorus member with the Canadian Opera Company. In November 2011, he approached the Estonian consulate in Toronto to apply for his Estonian (EU) citizenship.
Although born here in Canada (Vancouver BC 1982), he was interested in maintaining his mother’s Estonian/Canadian heritage. His grandmother, Helmi Lindal, was born in Haapsalu in 1919, and lived in Estonia for 25 years before immigrating to the UK and eventually Canada. He was happy to discover that through his grandmother’s documentation, he was able to apply for his citizenship. It was during this process that he met Ellen Leivat (Estonia Consulate Office Toronto) who asked if he had met Charles Kipper and Avo Kittask - two prominent members of the Canadian Estonian musical scene.
Upon meeting Charles and Avo, he quickly developed a professional rapport and discussed the idea of creating a recording of Estonian art songs for tenor voice (Stephen Bell) accompanied by Piano (Charles Kipper). It was through Charles that he discovered the music of composers such as M.Saar, P. Tammeveski, J. Aavik, and T. Vettik. The music and compositional style of these composers fit his voice well, and Charles and he were both surprised when Avo showed them a recording of Naan Põld. Mr. Põld had recorded a CD of “Eesti soololaule” in 1964 in Hamburg on the Forte Record Label. This recording was re-mastered by Juri Kruus in 1996. Surprisingly Mr. Põld’s voice timbre is ironically similar to Bell’s. Truly, Estonian voice qualities are similar especially for the tenor voice type. 8 of the 13 tracks of “Kojuigatsus” were not recorded for tenor voice. Both Charles and Stephen understand how important this is too create and maintain a legacy of Eesti soololaule, or art songs, for the tenor voice.
They worked steadily on the 13 separate pieces. Since Stephen’s Estonian language is in its rudimentary stages of development, he’s worked hard to practice the pronunciation and vocal diction intricacies of the language. It is interesting how quickly one’s ear picks up the inflection of the language especially with regards to peculiarities of the Estonian island of Saaremaa’s dialect. His grandmother and mother also spoke with this accent since her family originated on the island. Charles Kipper also shares heritage from Saaremaa, making it ironic that both have a similarity in the heritage of language and development of his Estonian.
The title track “kojuigatsus” was recently showcased at the Eesti Vabariigi 95 Banquet in February 2013 at the Estonian House in Toronto Canada, to dignitaries and guests from all over Europe, where it was met with great reception. The album will be released April 1, 2013 on both iTunes as well as hard copy download from www.stephenbell.ca.
The track above is “Ennemuiste”, the second track of this album by M.Saar and text by L. Gross. Below is the translation and lyrics of the song.
Ennemuiste paistis hele päike,
Hõbe helgi säras vete pind.
Ennemuiste õitsesid kõik õied,
Haljas metsas laululind.
Ennemuiste olin sulle armas,
Ennemuiste armastasin, armastasin sind.
Before the sun shone brightly
The silver flare shone on the water.
Before all the flowers bloomed,
In the green forest the songbird.
Before, I was dear to you,
Before I loved, I loved you.