Baltic 2011

Baltic 2011

Saturday, July 16, 2011

DAY 11 - 16 JULY Last Day of Europa Cantat junior Festival!

A free morning, followed by warm-up and rehearsal for the second Kreek Requiem performance in the wonderful Pärnu Concert Hall. Another great performance in front of the other participating choirs!

All of us pack before dinner in anticipation of our early departure on Sunday. Two funny Estonian clowns start the performance! All the Festival participants come together for the last concert, featuring the opera chorus, water songs, songs from musicals, and African music Ateliers. Everyone sings 2 of the favorite songs from Open Sing. Singers are exchanging contact information and hugs in the lobby afterwards – the end of a fantastic singing week!

Tomorrow, we’re on our way to LATVIA!

Friday, July 15, 2011

DAY 10 - 15 JULY AYS Performs Kreek Requiem in Submarine Factory in Tallinn!

We left this morning for Tallinn to rehearse and then perform the Kreek Requiem with 2 other choirs and conductor Tõnu Kaljuste in a huge, old submarine factory with amazing acoustics!

The factory was built in the early 1900s and still has a few big pieces of equipment and lots of eerie rooms, with a Soviet poster or two. The space is very raw, with lighting grids added and plywood under the chairs. The orchestra is very good, especially the organist and French horn players!

After rehearsal, everyone gets some time in Tallinn Old Town again, and we get dinner away from the Festival for a night (nice change of pace).

There is a big crowd attending the performance, and the first piece (with the composer in the audience) is sung from the audience seats. Our performance goes very well – bravo to all for a fabulous performance in a fabulous space!

Tomorrow, we sing our second performance and go to the final concert of the Festival!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

DAY 8 - 13 JULY Festival Free Day!

We wake to a beautiful day for our trip to a Kurgja Farmhouse Museum.

After a bus ride through the countryside beyond Pärnu, we arrive to greetings from our wonderful guide Naite, a Ukrainian woman who speaks English very well as her fifth language. The farm is lovely, with dozens of well-preserved buildings, a small museum detailing the life and work of Carl R. Jakobson and the National Awakening in Estonia, wonderful flowers, groves of birch trees, and nesting storks!

Everyone gets to help make rich black Estonian bread with an elderly baker woman, taste both everyday and special bread, and hear the story of the pig-shaped loaf saved by Estonian farming families for the first day that the animals returned to the fields. Naite gives us 8 loaves to take with us :)

We also learn how to make twisted yarn bracelets and hairties, as well as whittling animal toys from trees found on the farm.

Back to Pärnu for our lunch and AYS rehearsal, followed by free time – visits to the grocery store to find interesting things, walks to the beach, rest in the hotel room, etc. – until dinner and the evening concert.

The evening concert was great, as they have all been! All 3 Belgian choirs performed together tonight, the Estonian young women’s choir did some nice pieces with interesting movement, and the French choir performed a powerful, moving opera about a government plan in the 1800s to gather up all the orphans and children in poverty to “educate and train” them.

We had an impromptu rehearsal outside, working on the songs for our Open Sing duty tomorrow with the different OS conductors as they walked by. Singing through the streets on the way to our beds :)

Tomorrow, our evening VIP (very important performance) in the Concert Hall!!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

DAY 7 - 12 JULY Our first performance at the Festival!

A fairly heavy rainstorm overnight into morning has cooled off Pärnu – woohoo!

Maestro Kaljuste is back with us in the Atelier rehearsal, pushing all of us to add the needed nuances, dynamics, and balance. We are all enjoying the hard musical work.

Following lunch, we rehearse again for our evening performance, iron our informal shirts (!), and enjoy free time in small groups of friends.

In the evening, we listen to lovely performances in Beach Park by a lively Estonian girl choir, a sweet children’s choir from Taiwan, a lovely Belgian young women’s choir. AYS is up next!

The audience bends in excitedly to hear us, getting more into it with each song – they are clapping along and singing with us on our last piece, Au Revoir les Bateaux!! The hard work during rehearsals has really paid off – beautiful solo and ensemble work, the best yet! Every Singer is proud and smiling, with new fans congratulating them for their wonderfully engaging performance. Can’t wait for the next one on DAY 9 :)

Tomorrow, a free day to relax and visit a farm museum!

Monday, July 11, 2011

DAY 6 - 11 JULY Europa Cantat junior Festival!

We love Hannele! She has been so helpful, and is translating for us whenever we need it.

Today, our Atelier rehearsal is with the woman conductor of the Estonian youth choir. She has a beautiful singing voice and amazing vocal range. After lunch, we rehearse in the Concert Hall side lounge again, preparing for our 2 AYS performances (in addition to two of the Kreek Requiem) during the festival.

During our afternoon free time, we learn how to make glass jewelry (necklaces) at this cool art studio located at the Red Tower, a portion of the 15th century town wall.

The daily Open Sing is again great fun – we learned songs in multiple languages and one by King Henry VIII, leaving early to walk to a soundcheck at the Beach Park tent.

After dinner, we walk back to the Beach Park for a concert featuring two young Estonian choirs and one from Belgium. A quick walk to the beach afterwards to play on the funky equipment, dip our toes in the Baltic (!!!!), and goof off in the sand a little before heading back on one of the local buses (free with our Festival nametags).

Tomorrow, our first tour performance!

Sunday, July 10, 2011

DAY 5 - 10 JULY Pärnu, ESTONIA and the first full day of the Europa Cantat junior Festival!

Our first breakfast in Pärnu at the Georg Café next to Hommiku Hostel, cafeteria style with many options. Hannele, our wonderful guide/translator, meets us for the walk over to the Concert Hall for our first rehearsal with Maestro Kaljuste with both an adult and youth Estonian choir.

After a rigorous, interesting rehearsal, we go to the Festival food building for lunch – there will be lots of potatoes (and noodles), meat in sauce, and salads with lots of cabbage, with lots of unusual desserts to try. We rehearse in one of the side lounges in the Concert Hall and then break into groups to explore the Old Town shops and cafes (and ice cream vendors!).

The first Open Sing is great fun – two funny talented Estonian directors run the Open Sings with a different guest choir every day. We have been asked to do this on DAY 9. Today, we learned several songs from Estonia and one from South America (with dance moves).

The evening concert is a bit mind blowing, with great performances by the Estonian National Opera Boys Choir and Ellerhein Girls’ Choir. Our Singers are amazed by the young, featured boy soloist and also by the terrifying, otherworldly stage presence of the EGC – we won’t forget them for a very long time!

Hopefully, a better night’s sleep is in store – the weekend is over!

Saturday, July 9, 2011

DAY 4 - 9 JULY Tallinn, ESTONIA and the first day of the 6th annual Europa Cantat junior Festival!

A very early start, eating breakfast and checking out of our hotel for a 7AM bus to the ferry terminal – the broad daylight helps ;)

All of our ferry tickets have our names on them (very cool to the Singers). We board the enormous Tallink Superstar! Some enjoy the deck, many enjoy a card game in the huge lounge or exploring the 5 floors of the ferry.

Arriving in ancient Tallinn is wonderful – we get to meet Aime Mark, our representative from the BaltoScandia tour company, in person at the terminal. Our guide Katrin is super, giving us a tour of the upper and lower Old Town and telling us very interesting stories about the towers Fat Margaret and Tall Herman! Helsinki is probably 500 years younger than Tallinn, so we see totally different sights and architecture. A GREAT view from the top of the highest hill looks out on the many red roofs of Old Town.

We also visit the famous Singing Festival grounds (also the site of the Singing Revolution in the 1980s), where 25,000 singers performed for over 90,000 audience members just last week. How cool is that?!?

Lunch is fun in lower Old Town, wandering in small groups through the old streets, trying delicious food, and enjoying/buying the interesting Estonian crafts and souvenirs.

Then a sleepy bus ride (with a brief rainstorm) south through the Estonian countryside to Pärnu for the 6th annual Europa Cantat junior Festival, where we see several choruses walking in gaggles. Checking in at the Concert Hall, we get our passes, nametags, Open Sing songbooks, and programs – there’s the AYS name in print! We meet our cute, wonderful translator/companions Hannele and Eveliis – thank goodness we have them :)

Our communal soup dinner is followed by a fun Estonian choral and dance performance in the outside amphitheatre in Beach Park. 900 Singers are attending from Catalunya, other parts of Spain, France, Belgium, Estonia, and Taiwan!!

Our hotel is much more rustic than our Finnish one, fitting with the summer vacation town atmosphere, and is situated on the edge of Pärnu’s Old Town. It is also right next to a big late-night bar with live music (Linda Ronstadt’s Blue Bayou, as sung in Estonian by a man with an almost-Willie Nelson accent, anyone?) – we may be passing out earplugs to our Singers for the rest of the week! ;)

Tomorrow, our first Atelier to rehearse the Cyrillus Kreek Reekviem with conductor Tõnu Kaljuste!