This summer, Resounding Achord (with members of Peninsula Cantare) had the pleasure of joining San José State University and West Valley College singers in the Baltics for an amazing tour of the region and to perform Mozart’s Requiem. We had a great time, and are rejuvenated as we start rehearsing for our 2018-2019 season. Here is a recap of this once in a lifetime tour and our performances.
The trip began in Helsinki, Finland, where we experienced the incredible Sibelius Monument. Born in Finland in 1865, he was most known for his symphonies and tone poems, however there were some great choral works scattered throughout his body of work as well. He died in 1957 and the monument was erected in 1967. The steel pipes in the monument actually sing excerpts from his works. It is surreal!
Then it was off to Estonia on a ferry. Once we arrived we got straight to rehearsing the Requiem with San José State and West Valley. We immediately knew the sound was glorious! In between rehearsing, we were able to squeeze in some sightseeing in the beautiful Medieval city of Tallinn, Estonia. And the three groups also gave a “spotlight concert” at St John’s church. Tallinn is the best preserved Medieval old town in Europe, and it is easy to see why! In addition, it is home to one of the oldest operating pharmacies in Europe, considered to have opened in the year 1415.
We witnessed the remnants of Soviet occupation, which was prominent throughout the Baltics and an important, yet tragic, part of their history. At the Song Festival grounds, we stood where the Singing Revolution began which eventually ended the Soviet occupation of the Baltics. In 1988, over 100,000 Estonians gathered under Soviet rule for a music festival that ended with the crowd spontaneously singing Estonian patriotic songs. This first act of peaceful protest started the Singing Revolution that ended in 1991 with the Baltic countries claiming their independence.
We performed Mozart’s Requiem to a full house in the Estonia Concert Hall in the middle of Old Town Tallinn. The crowd was so pleased with the performance that they demanded 3 encores. All of the audiences we sang for began clapping so vigorously that when they began to synchronize their claps that meant they wanted an encore. This is not something we were familiar with in America, and we eventually had to call it a night, because we actually ran out of pieces to sing!
To fully immerse ourselves in the local culture, we had the privilege of visiting a children’s home beautifully situated in the heart of the Estonian countryside. We removed a fence from the property and had a great time in the process. After the hard work was done we did a musical exchange where the children sang for us and we sang for them.
After Tallinn, we made our way to Riga by way of the beautiful Baltic coast and stopped for a picnic in a bog along our route. Once in Riga we enjoyed the beautiful Art Nouveau architecture of the city and also saw how the old town rebuilt after bombings during the second World War. We were pleased to join our Latvian choir member, Mara, who sang with us for our concert in Riga.
Our concert in Riga was an exchange with the University of Latvia’s Dziesmuvara mixed choir. The concert ended in a joint performance of Dziedot Dzimu, Dziedot Augu from our Passages concert, roughly translated from Latvian to “I was born to sing and I will always sing.” A sentiment everyone can was able to get behind for our closing tour performance.
After Riga we traveled to Vilnius for the conclusion of our tour. We visited the song festival grounds here as well, and we gave an impromptu performance for ourselves and the park-goers who were riding their scooters and bikes in the summer heat.
Having the opportunity to travel abroad while doing something we all love is an incredible privilege. From the drinking songs during dinner to the sky-bar excursions taking in the sunsets at 11pm, we truly had an amazing time ”building community through song” across the globe.