The Toronto Estonian Male Choir celebrated warmer weather and sunshine with their annual spring concert on Saturday, June 1st. It was pleasing to see a good turn out, with audience members in high spirits and awaiting to hear what the choir had prepared over the past few months. These performances are always a social event as well, where you can enjoy beautiful music along with acquaintances you may not see otherwise. Witty and occasionally funny Enno Õunapuu provided commentary and short stories between songs as the master of ceremonies for the afternoon.
Following the traditional choir motto, performed at the beginning of every concert, the choir started off with a song fittingly titled “Teretus” or “Welcoming.” It was a strong beginning to a joyful and pleasant concert. To keep with the spring theme of the performance, the next two songs “Kevade tunne” and “Sirelite aegu” were celebratory of the refreshing season. “Sirelite aegu” was an important addition to the program as it was honouring the late conductor of the choir Charles Kipper, who was also a composer and penned this song. The first half of the concert came to a close with a performance of “Kodukotus” by Anna Haava and Tuudur Vettik. The piece featured a melodious and moving duet with soloists Elli Kipper and Erik Holmberg while the choir provided a well-balanced backdrop, allowing for the stars to shine.
After a short intermission, the second half of the concert began with “Mu armas isamaa,” a song proclaiming love for the homeland which was a secondary theme throughout the afternoon. But what would a Toronto Estonian Male Choir performance be without the inclusion of so to speak “breadwinners” that the audience has come to love and appreciate over the decades? The beautiful “Kuu” by Tuudur Vettik was one of these, along with “Noktürn” by Kersti Merilaas and Tuudur Vettik, and the operatic classic “Orjade Koor” from Nabucco written by none other than Giuseppe Verdi. The aria featured a great opening solo by Elli Kipper, who was accompanying several songs on the piano throughout the concert. As an avid fan of opera myself, I can proclaim this as my favourite piece of the afternoon. Not to cast aside the fact that the choir is now headed to the Song Festival in Tallinn at the beginning of July, a couple of songs were chosen and presented from that repertoire as well. One of these was “Mu arm,” one of the more important pieces for this year’s Song Festival, written by our very own superstar composer Riho Esko Maimets. Seeing as the festival is titled “Minu arm,” this could also be considered the unofficial anthem for the celebrations. The second song from the festival repertoire was “Isad ja pojad,” a jazzy, modern, and upbeat piece that the choir visibly enjoyed performing and that the audience was energized and pleased by. A foot-tapping accompaniment for the song was provided by a jazz duo featuring Elli on piano with bass Toomas Heinar doing double duty on the double bass.
Just as the performance started with a fitting welcome, it also came to a close with an piece appropriately titled “Hakkame, mehed, minema” translated as “Let’s be on our way, fellows” by Gustav Ernesaks. And just like that, our songbirds are on their way to the 150th Song Festival filled with song, joy, and happiness. It was clear just how much hard work, practice, and dedication the choir put into learning these songs and all of this paid off and was greatly appreciated by the audience with resounding applause as the concert came to a close. Current conductor Avo Kittask did a commendable job working with the men and leading them well throughout the concert. Here’s wishing a good journey to Estonia for the Toronto Estonian Male Choir and more excellent performances in the near future!
Kati Kiilaspea, Toronto