This was my very first time singing in an Estonian Laulupidu …. What an experience! Estonians from across North America, Estonia and other parts of the world came together to celebrate their culture and community, this time in Portland, Oregon.
I am still new to all this as I have only been singing with Toronto’s Estonia Koor for the last two years. In that time I have become truly impressed with the strong sense of community within the choir. Coming together on a weekly basis for our rehearsals does not just improve the musical skills and sound of the choir but, more importantly, strengthens Estonian language, customs and culture, and consequently relationships within that community.
LEP 2011 did this on a much larger scale. It was inspiring to watch people come together from around the world to embrace each other and Estonian culture. Old friends got together to trade stories. I was fortunate to meet many people who had been coming to these events for many years since leaving Estonia and came to understand why these get-togethers were so important to them. For long periods of time, these events were, they felt, the best way to stay in contact with their mother country – a home away from home. Listening to their stories personalized the history of their country.
Our first massed choir practice at Clackamas College was also an experience. As the first meeting, before the festival actually started, choir members were greeting old friends and enlarging their community with new friends. I had heard of the Clackamas Community College Chamber Choir (CCCCC) and their director, Lonnie Cline but hadn’t realized that he himself, like me, is not Estonian nor are most of his choir members. He, and his choirs (there is also a CCCCC alumni choir Unistus who are dedicated to singing Estonian repertoire), are helping to keep Estonian culture alive in all parts of the world. Singing alongside these young people and watching them perform Cyrillus Kreek’s Requiem at the opening ceremonies, and at the church service in the most amazing outdoor setting, The Grotto, also added to the experience. It is not just ‘native’ Estonians who are helping to keep their culture alive … it is many others who have become enthralled with the music, folk dancing and culture of Estonia.
Laulupidu 2011 is an experience I will not forget. I am looking forward to going with Estonia Koor to the next Lääneranniku Eesti Päevad in San Francisco in 2013 and, of course, to Üldlaulupidu in Estonia in 2014.
I encourage you to come and join me! Estonia Koor rehearses Thursday nights from 7 – 9:30 p.m. at Toronto’s Estonian House. Our first practice takes place Thursday, September 8. For more information contact Ingrid Poom, 416-465-9379 or .
Lääneranniku Eesti Päevad 2011, 3.-7. august 2011 Portland, Oregon