Rev. U. Petersoo invited me in the early 1980’s to be the choir director of St. Andrew’s Church. It was a calling that I enjoyed for a very long time.
At that time, the choir had 40+ members, enthusiastic and eager to sing. Rehearsals, which took place Monday evenings, were attended faithfully and therefore we were able to work on some very challenging compositions by Estonian as well as international composers.
Major international works St. Andrew’s Choir performed include: Vivaldi: Gloria; Dubois: Seven Last Words of Christ; Schubert: Mass in G; St. Saëns: Requiem Mass; Bach: Christmas Oratorio (excerpts); Handel: Messiah (excerpts). These works involved soloists, and choir with organ accompaniment.
The repertoire also included many of the “classical” Estonian composers such as R. Tobias, A. Topman, G. Ernesaks, J. Aavik, and A. Virkhaus to name a few. Cantatas and compositions by R. Toi, K. Raid and L. Avesson also featured prominently. The choir performed two selections once a month at the church service. However, the musical highlight of the choir’s was a concert in Advent as well as on Palm Sunday.
On Christmas Eve, the choir, alternating with solos by L. Avesson on the organ, performed Christmas music as the congregation gathered for the service. The church was full of people; it was standing room only.
Very memorable were the many choir trips. Over the years, a favourite destination became Sault Ste. Marie with a Saturday performance in Sudbury en route. After the Sudbury performance and lunch, we were back on the bus driving through Ontario’s scenic north country. On Sunday, the choir performed at the church service in the Soo and again we were treated to a delicious lunch. Many friendships were formed on these trips and the long distances were filled with songs, stories and laughter.
One very special trip occurred in 1986. I had the privilege of conducting a united, mixed choir (including many members from St. Andrew’s) at the European Estonian Song Festival in Heidleberg, Germany. The following day, the choir performed at the historical Heidleberg University Church. The soloists on this occasion were Tamara Norheim-Lehela and Irene Loosberg.
Over the years, as the age of the singers increased, the size of the choir naturally decreased. However, there is still a core of faithful choristers, with the participation of some younger voices that rehearse on Mondays and perform several times during the year in church as well as at the Estonian retirement home, Ehatare. At Christmas and during Lent, the St. Andrew’s Choir, under the direction of Heli Tenno, continues to provide special music that is appreciated by the congregation.
The choir fervently still sings their motto composed by Lembit Avesson, “I will praise the name of God with a song and magnify Him with thanksgiving”.
The congregation will be commemorating its 70th at the Sunday, October 6th service, at 1.30 pm. The service will be followed by a celebratory luncheon in the hall of Agricola Church.
DIGITAL Estonian Life No. 20 - May 22, 2020
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