Photo by Peeter Põldre (2021)
Friday, 17 December 2021 19:00
Estonian Life No. 50 2021 - Kaja Parming
On October 17, 2021, Estonian Music Week, an event of VEMU (Toronto-based Museum of Estonians Abroad) live-screened the documentary, “Unustatud rahvaste jälgedes/In the Steps of Forgotten Peoples.”
The accompanying talk featured commentary by conductors Miina Pärn and Endrik Üksvärav, Finno-Ugrist Taisto Raudalainen and folklorist and ethnomusicologist Taive Särg, and conversations with Piret Noorhani, Chief Archivist of VEMU.
The film details a vast undertaking by Collegium Musicale. For three years, this top Estonian chamber choir traveled to Finno-Ugric peoples whom composer Veljo Tormis musically portrayed in his masterpiece, Forgotten Peoples
, which included Livonians, Votes, Izhorians, Ingrians, Vepsians, and Karelians. Collegium Musicale’s aim was to sing the music by Tormis that was based on their own folklore and in doing so, support these Estonian kinspeople’s preservation of their endangered cultures.
Hearing the perceptive discussions, watching the film and listening to the sheer power of this music, transported me back to the first time I heard songs from Tormis’ Forgotten Peoples
. It was not in Estonia. An American-born child of Estonian WW II refugees, at that time I had not even stepped foot in Estonia. Rather, I heard it in Berkeley, California, over thirty years ago, which turns out to have been just one year after the composer completed the six-part cycle that took him over twenty years to compose.
But in that early March of 1990 I’d never heard of Veljo Tormis. It was nearly a year and a-half before Estonia’s renewed independence from their nearly fifty-year Soviet occupants would be declared, and still an exciting rarity to encounter Estonians from the ancestral homeland. But while on my husband’s sabbatical I saw a small notice announcing a concert by an Estonian choir! We had to go, I said, securing one of our first-ever babysitters for our infant daughter.
I will never forget the mystery and transcendent joy I felt at that concert.
(Read more: Estonian Life No. 50 2021 paber- and PDF/digi