Kaili Kinnon. Photo: Elis Jaansoo (2020)
Friday, 25 September 2020 19:00
Estonian Life No. 38 2020 - Vincent Teetsov
Just like a musical score, Estonian Music Week took it “from the top” to celebrate the occasion of Tartu
College's 50th birthday. For this first show of the new Live-Stream Concert Series presented by EMW, Tartu College, VEMU (the Museum of Estonians Abroad), and the Estonian Studies Centre, Kaili Kinnon performed on the roof of Tartu College. On this pinnacle of Bloor Street West, views reached across the historic campus grounds of the University of Toronto and into the city’s rising skyline.
You might recall The Beatles’ famous 1969 concert on the rooftop of the Apple Corps Limited building in London. But this concert wasn’t signalling the end, as with The Beatles. Rather, it signalled a long and winding road for Tartu College in its 50th year, and all the artists associated with Estonian Music Week.
Sebastian Buccioni, Executive Director of Estonian Music Week, said that the rooftop show was “inspired by one of our favourite artists here at EMW: NOËP, who rang in the end of the lockdown in Estonia from the top of the TV Tower in Tallinn. We wanted to salute from the top of Tartu College from the other end of the Atlantic for this special celebration.”
Sebastian continued, “Kaili has one of those incredible voices where you know from the first note you’re listening to something very special.” Having watched her Soothing Sundown Sessions over the past few months, Sebastian and the whole EMW team “couldn't resist asking Kaili to sing from our 19th floor.” He concluded “We’re delighted she agreed to our crazy idea.” Returning this time to the virtual stage, though Kaili’s music typically resides in sophisticated jazz clubs, here it was out in the open, facing the warm sky of the golden hour, with pedestrians and traffic below.
The driving, classic electric piano tone she played with on a small keyboard brought us back to the invigorating soul and r&b of her past shows. However, for this concert, the simplified live setup (keys and vocals) that she utilized led audiences to focus on her pure vocal aptitude.
To start, Kaili played through two crowd favourites of hers, “Tenderness” and “Come Be Near”, both projected with conviction. Never one to leave her fans out there feeling alone, she involved the audience with the words of the latter song's refrain, drawing us in close.
In between songs, Kaili spoke about the tale of the mystical fern flower called the “<i>sõnajalaõis<i>.” The word <i>sõnajalaõis<i> itself was declared to be the most Estonian word in April 2019, after a vote organized by ERR, coming from a legend about a flower that lovers searched for on the occasion of the summer solstice. This was the catalyst for her song “Be So Sweet”, which was embellished with a shimmering key change and flourishing vocal runs.
The music of Kaili Kinnon often speaks directly to other people, almost as if she were writing a letter by the light of candles. Which correlated well with a song she brought to us, inspired by the words of her cousin, a pastor and teacher who told her “Alati on midagi veel” (“There's always something more.”) Kaili brought to mind the process of “finding yourself, losing yourself, going through the long dark night, and then emerging out of it.” With somber verses and exultant choruses that burst out like a champion, she honestly acknowledged turmoil while equipping us for personal victory. This is intrinsically tied to the uplifting gospel cadences she structures her songs around.
At the end, Kaili treated us to an Estonian-language encore, which softly and reassuringly brought in the night.
You can watch Kaili's concert in conjunction with Tartu College's 50th birthday party video on YouTube(https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xhXZFZKuMvM&ab_channel=VEMU
); or, to see just the concert, visit Estonian Music Week's Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/1324121201027503/videos/1033836797052318
To stay in the loop about upcoming live-stream concerts, sign up to Estonian Music Week's email newsletter (https://www.estonianmusicweek.ca
) and follow Estonian Music Week and VEMU on Facebook—we sincerely look forward to you being able to enjoy these shows!
Written by Vincent Teetsov
Poster design by Laani Heinar (2020)