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25 February 2014

It’s worth saying that Estonia is a lovely country with lovely people. They also have one helluva a choral tradition there.

I had the great fortune to find myself back in the Brandon University Chorale for six months, part of the deal being a trip to Estonia and Latvia to take part in a series of concerts and workshops organized by the Chorale’s director Dr. AndrĂ©e Dagenais. To make a long story short, she was thin on tenors and needed an additional voice to fill out the section a bit more and balance it with the choir – having just sold a guitar, I had some extra coin on hand, so I said, “Sure, why not?” This year’s edition of the Chorale was a group of wonderful people who obviously enjoyed singing together, and who generously welcomed me into the ensemble. Awesome people to tour with, in an awesome place to visit.

A bit of background: the Baltic countries of Estonia, Lativa, and Lithuania won their independence from the crumbling Soviet Union in 1990, and (in the case of Estonia, at least – less so the other former Soviet republics) did so with very little bloodshed. One of the biggest motivating forces behind Estonia’s push for independence was their established and revered musical tradition – for more on this, look for a movie called “The Singing Revolution”. This is a country born in song – their love of singing sustained them under the Soviets (and then under the Nazis, and then under the Soviets again) and nourished the spirits of the educated folks lucky enough to escape Stalin’s purges and live in exile until the winds of change started blowing in the late 1980’s. It should thus come as no surprise to learn that their school system teaches music (particularly choral singing) remarkably-well (They also take the teaching of foreign languages – especially English and Russian – very seriously, but that’s not really surprising for Europeans, for whom multilingual communication is far more of a daily reality than it will ever be for most North Americans).

Had a great time – nice to be back at work, though. Time to see if my fingers still know how to play guitar…

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