Joint Choirs Performing at Laulupidu Song Festival

During July 05-07, 2014 the XXVI Laulupidu (Song Festival) and XIX Tantsupidu (Dance Festival) took place in Tallinn, Estonia, attracting altogether more than 150 000 people. Such festivals are organized every 5 years and the first Song Festival took place in 1869. This time the title of the festival was “Touched by Time. The Time to Touch” and it travelled musically through the Estonian choir song tradition from the 19th century to the present.

Laulupidu takes place at Lauluväljak (Song Festival grounds, photo on the left), featuring a gigantic stage specifically designed for singing by huge choirs of thousands of people. The stage features an arc-like roof, which also acts as a sound box helping to direct the music towards listeners.

Song Festival Procession

Laulupidu starts with a procession lasting for several hours where the participants walk through the streets of Tallinn to the Song Festival grounds. The songs performed have been written by Estonian composers and some of them have become extremely popular and are performed at every Laulupidu, e.g. Mu Isamaa on minu arm (My Fatherland, my love), Põhjamaa (A land in the north), Ta lendab mesipuu poole (Flying towards the beehive). Different songs are performed by different choirs (children’s choirs, Male choirs, Female choirs, Mixed choirs). More than 900 individual choirs participated. In order to be admitted as performers to Laulupidu, all choirs had to pass a stringent selection process.

Boys Singing at the Song Festival


The culmination of the event is traditionally in the end of the second day when the so-called joint choir sings the choir songs most loved in Estonia. This time more than 20 000 singers were singing, conducted by the best Estonian choir conductors and supported by tens of thousands of listeners who were singing along. The overall number of people on the Song Festival grounds during the joint singing was around 100 000. The number of individual choirs that participated in that singing was beyond 600.


Song Festival Listeners (who also sing!)

Such joint singing is extremely emotional and is much, very much, more than just songs performed by numerous singers. When participants are asked about their feelings then usually they find it impossible to put in words the overwhelming feeling happiness, joy, solidarity between people, etc. Many people are almost weeping when singing. Laulupidu is certainly the most powerful force uniting Estonian people (who otherwise are notorious for their individualism) and for many people the highest and purest form of expressing the identity of Estonians as a nation. The video below gives an example of joint singing from this Laulupidu.

Throughout the Estonian history the Song Festival tradition has been decisively important in the formation of Estonians as a nation, in the birth of the first Estonian republic in 1918 and, especially, in regaining the independence in 1991, via the so-called “Singing revolution”.

All this put together makes Laulupidu by far the most important and impressive cultural event that can be experienced in Estonia. Laulupidu has been included in the UNESCO’s List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.



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