Hi. I am finally back to normal life, ready to start writing about those things I promised to write about, oh, about two weeks ago. Thanks to all those who continued to stop by while I was gone!
Some of pictures I featured in my last post were from the Song and Dance Festival I mentioned in an earlier post. I participated in the Song Festival– which was held during the first weekend in July– singing in the ranks of the mixed choir I joined about a year and a half ago. My choir made up just a tiny portion of the full mixed choir, which numbered almost 9,000 singers, and that number was just a part of the massed choirs, which numbered over 25,000 singers (including children’s choirs, boys’ choirs, men’s choirs, women’s choirs, etc.). So… yes. I stood before an audience and sang as just one of 25,000 voices, all under the control of a masterful conductor, taking part in a tradition that is such an essential part of Estonia’s history. It’s kind of hard to even describe what it’s like. It’s huge, and wonderful, and moving.
That’s the stage, a giant arch with steps underneath it… imagine it PACKED full of people!
And speaking of moving… as you can imagine, getting 25,000 people from one place to another is a logistical nightmare. I’m not gonna lie– the Laulupidu experience involves a lot of being squished together with other people, as well as a lot of standing and just waiting for something to happen. Sometimes we had hours of time to kill, sometimes we had to rush through the crowds to get to the proper place at the proper time, sometimes we had to stand through three and a half hours straight of rehearsal. I was starving after that last one. There was free food offered for the performers in the festival– soup, bread, and kohukesed— but after that one rehearsal I think all 9,000 mixed choir singers had the same idea, and the lines for free soup were unfathomably long. So my friend and I decided to partake in some grilled meat šašlokk, which was ubiquitous at the festival. Every second stand you walked past was grilling some meat, so I think the smell of it will forever bring up memories of the Song Festival for me.
I didn’t get a picture of my skewer of grilled pork chunks, but it was served with greasy potatoes and sub-par ketchup (watery and sweet, blech). In general, eating during those festival days was sporadic and took place whenever it could. I carried snacks with me like pirukad, apples, and some yummy PowerBar product my sister had brought from the States (it was like a chocolate peanut butter candy bar!) (it may have been this one). One day I shared this snack of pelmeni with my sister.
For some people, this was the main snack of choice:
…but I mostly stayed away from it during the festival (at least right before I had to sing). I wanted to stay lucid and stable, and besides, there’s no way to get to a bathroom when you’re crammed on the stage with thousands of other people.
Many of the singers enthusiastically waved the national tricolor…
While the massive audience watched and listened (and check out that sky! Estonia has the most picturesque sky sometimes.)
By Sunday evening, the end of the weekend and of the festival, I was drained. My feet hurt and I was ready for a hot sauna and as much sleep as I could possibly get. But, lest this post sound somehow negative– it was so, so worth it. Going to all those choir rehearsals through the cold, dark winter was worth it to stand up there with 25,000 fellow singers, not needing to glance at my song book at all, just being carried away by the feeling of the music and the movements of the conductor’s hands. And all the people! While that was one of the more frustrating parts, it’s also the most wonderful part. On Sunday there was a total of 100,000 people at the festival grounds, including the performers. Only about 1.3 million people even live in Estonia– think about it! Those are incredible numbers. This festival means so much to so many people, to this country as a whole, and I am so grateful that I got to take part in it.
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