LOS ANGELES — From August 9 through 12 the twenty-eighth West Coast Estonian Days were action-packed, — just like a good film — set in the beautiful Biltmore Millennium Hotel in downtown Los Angeles, the hotel being an earlier haunt of the Hollywood elite in 1923 through the '40's. The early Oscar ceremonies were held there. Noted for its old world charm, this artisan hotel boasts elaborately decorated ceilings, brilliant-coloured carpets and sumptuous curtains. Fresh bouquets of roses, gladioli, daisies and orchids brightened each event venue.
Cradled in such elegance, two chamber choirs from Oregon, the Clackamas Community College, and Unistus under the passionate direction of Lonnie Cline solidly entertained at the song festival, an impressive feat considering the music director and the choirs are non-Estonian speaking. Nevertheless, Mr. Cline's enthusiasm for Estonian music could well be unmatched. His advice to the attendees was that anyone not on intimate terms with the music of composer Veljo Tormis should be!
Other highlights were the theatre performance of "The Betrothal" held at the Barnsdall Gallery Theatre and also the open-air downtown location of the folkdance concert featuring folkdance groups: Kuljus (Tallinn), "Tulehoidjad" (Portland), "Tuhandest tuulest (Seattle), "Kilplased" & "Keerutajad" (Vancouver) and "Kivikasukad" & "Gypsy" (Los Angeles), directed by Eeve Sork.
The gala ball held in the Biltmore Bowl was a dazzling affair drenched with celebrities-for-a-night in dark sunglasses pressed to sign autographs by clamouring Estonian children posing as die-hard fans at the entrance. Oscar night was the theme and on each table sat a gold statuette. Two bands played and during the breaks we were entertained by soprano Kristi Roosmaa and the multi-talented baritone, Matti Riivald. Nominated to host the next West Coast Estonian Days were Portland, San Francisco and Seattle. Votes in, the sealed envelope was opened to reveal that the winner was Seattle, and the days are to be held on the last weekend of August 2009.
On the last day (Rahvapidu) we were bussed along the picturesque Pacific Hwy to Calamigo's Ranch for a choral church service followed by a luncheon of grilled corn, chicken and hotdogs under the shade of large old pistachio trees. A bon voyage party was held at the L.A. Estonian House afterward.
Heartfelt thanks to Jüri Tint, Chair, the EOLL Board of Directors and to all hard-working detail-oriented volunteers, and to all participants who made this a memorable and classy festival. Extremely well done.
(a.k.a. EVA VABASALU)
XVIII West Coast Estonian Days