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Estonian Song Celebration timeline

The Estonian Song Celebration (Laulupidu) is a singular occasion, which each 5 years brings together an enormous choir of 25,000 individuals for a weekend in July. Greater than 100,000 spectators benefit from the live shows and sing alongside to the preferred songs.*

The festivals have grow to be the primary anchor of Estonian id. Twice the music celebrations have led to Estonia’s independence.

Within the 19th century, the choirs and track celebrations have been on the core of the national awakening of Estonian peasants, who found the worth of their very own language and cultural heritage by means of singing. The nationwide awakening and establishment of id led to Estonian independence in 1918.

After WWII, in the course of the Soviet occupation, the music celebrations helped hold the national id alive. In 1988, a number of hundred thousand individuals gathered on the Song Pageant grounds and sang for freedom for a lot of days and nights. The Singing Revolution helped end the Soviet rule and not directly led to Estonia’s independence as soon as again in 1991.

The timeline under highlights an important situations of this distinctive Estonian custom.

Song Celebration timeline


The first Estonian Song Celebration was held in Tartu with 878 male singers and brass musicians. All the songs have been in Estonian.

The writer Johann Voldemar Jannsen initiated the Song Celebration as part of the Estonian nationwide awakening motion. Simple peasants found that their traditions could possibly be part of excessive culture. Jannsen’s daughter, Lydia Koidula, whose sobriquet means “Lydia of the Dawn”, was the writer of lyrics for two Estonian songs, “Sind surmani” and “Mu isamaa on minu arm”, each of which are still within the repertoire at the moment. Lydia Koidula, additionally referred to as Koidulaulik – “Singer of the Dawn”, was additionally concerned in the preparations of the scores and fund-raising; fairly an uncommon position for a lady at the moment.


The third pageant was held in Tallinn for the primary time. A yr later, Finland organized its first nation-wide track and music celebration.


At the fourth pageant, combined choirs participated for the first time. Regardless of the efforts by the Russian czar to make sure the dominance of Russian language in public life, more than half of the songs have been in Estonian, among them songs by Miina Härma, Estonia’s first female composer. Singers spontaneously joined in right now’s Estonian anthem “Mu isamaa, mu õnn ja rõõm” by Fredrik Pacius. In the years to return, choral singing remained the only cultural activity carried out in Estonian, because the Russian emperor required all official issues and schooling to be dealt with in Russian.


For the primary time, choirs from Estonian settlements in Russia participated at the fifth pageant in Tartu. The anthem by Pacius was sung again.


Starting with this the sixth Laulupidu, the festivals have been held in Tallinn.


The pageant was held in Tallinn with youngsters’s choirs among the many performers for the first time. Mihkel Lüdig, whose “Koit” (Daybreak) is the present opening track, was the inventive director of the celebration and provided a sophisticated repertoire.


The eighth pageant and the primary one in unbiased Estonia, was held on a everlasting stage in Tallinn, which accommodated 12,000 singers. The primary aerial photograph was taken and the first film of the celebration was shot. With the Song Celebration of 1923, the custom of holding the pageant every 5 years was began.




The ninth pageant was the primary one held in at present’s Song Pageant grounds in Tallinn; the new stage designed by the architect Karl Burman accommodated 15,000 singers.

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Female choirs participated for the primary time; the primary radio broadcast from the pageant.




Within the eleventh Laulupidu, Gustav Ernesaks carried out the choirs for the primary time, and his music was performed. In 1944, he wrote the music for “Mu isamaa on minu arm”, with the lyrics of Lydia Koidula, during his deportation to Russia. 5 days later, the Soviet army bombed Tallinn and destroyed the Estonia opera home, the nationwide broadcasting centre and the conservatory, among many different buildings. In 1944, more than 70,000 Estonians fled the nation to the west, among them many well-known musicians. In 1946, the first giant Estonian Song Pageant was held in Germany; later they have been held in Sweden, the USA, Canada, Australia and the UK.





The twelfth and the primary post-war track pageant, with Gustav Ernesaks as one of the inventive administrators. Regardless of large Soviet propaganda, the repertoire was principally traditional. Individuals have been arrested even on the Song Pageant grounds. Ernesaks’s “Mu isamaa on minu arm” was performed for the primary time. In 1950, one other wave of Soviet repression swept up the Song Celebration inventive directors Alfred Karindi, Riho Päts and Tuudur Vettik.


The darkest chapter within the Song Celebration history. In the thirteenth Laulupidu, Soviet propaganda songs dominated the repertoire; choirs of Soviet miners and the army choir have been among the members. In the course of the dark period of Soviet oppression, choir singing remained one of the few areas the place personal initiative and trust have been nonetheless present. This helped maintain the longing for freedom alive. Regardless of the schizophrenic state of affairs, most Estonians held the Song Celebration pricey as an important national event.

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ErnesaksBy the fifteenth pageant, the brand new Song Pageant stage, by the architect Alar Kotli, had been constructed. Earlier than the concert, “Mu isamaa on minu arm” was faraway from the programme. Nevertheless, choirs began to sing it spontaneously and, after a second’s hesitation, Ernesaks climbed up to the conductor’s stand and started to conduct. Since then, the track has been probably the most anticipated and the “compulsory” finale of the celebration.


The first centennial of the music celebrations with the flame being lit for the primary time in Tartu, the birthplace of the celebrations, and carried by way of Estonia to Tallinn. The repertoire of the seventeenth pageant was much more conventional compared with the Soviet propaganda-filled celebrations earlier than and after. “Koit” (Daybreak) by Mihkel Lüdig turned the normal opening track.




Exiled Estonians organised the primary ESTO, with a worldwide Estonian Song celebration as its focus, in Toronto, Canada. Estonian dissidents sent a letter to the United Nations demanding the restoration of Estonia’s independence. On the finish of 1970s, the Soviet army invaded Afghanistan and lots of Estonians have been drafted.


The nineteenth pageant was a part of the cultural programme of the Moscow Olympic Games, which have been boycotted by a lot of the free world. The Soviet authorities elevated strain on dissidents, and the well-known Estonian musicians Arvo Pärt and Neeme Järvi emigrated to the West.



The 20 th pageant saw the participation of male, combined, female, boys’ and Russian choirs, in addition to brass orchestras, violin ensembles and choirs of Russian warfare veterans. Of the 82 songs on the programme, only 48 have been written by Estonian composers.



Alo Mattiisen’s “Five Patriotic Songs” have been performed at the Tartu Pop Music Days in Might. The Singing Revolution began on the Tallinn Song Pageant grounds in June. Hundreds of people flocked to the spontaneous singing gatherings night time after night time; in the long run, there have been many hundred thousand individuals.


Although formally nonetheless within the Soviet Union, the twenty-first Song Celebration was dominated by traditional symbols and repertoire. The concert finished with “Mu isamaa, mu õnn ja rõõm”, the previous and current Estonian anthem, which was banned by the Soviets. Estonia’s independence was restored a yr later, on 20 August 1991.


The first celebration after the restoration of independence. The pageant celebrated its 125th anniversary.


Younger youngsters’s choirs participated for the first time. President Lennart Meri was quoted as saying, “The Song Celebration is not a matter of fashion. The Song Celebration is a matter of the heart.” Although Estonia was unbiased now and the cultural id was not threatened by overseas powers, individuals nonetheless thought-about the Song Celebration a matter of satisfaction and pleasure ,which wanted to reside on.


The Estonian, Latvian and Lithuanian Song and Dance Celebrations have been listed as UNESCO oral and intangible heritage.


The statue of Gustav Ernesaks was unveiled on the Tallinn Song Pageant grounds. Resulting from heavy rain, the official procession was cancelled, however singers and dancers nonetheless spontaneously joined the march following the decision of the maestro Eri Klas.

Gustav Ernesaks sculpture


The American filmmakers, Maureen and James Tusty, started a documentary about Estonian music festivals and the Singing Revolution. On 1 December 2006, The Singing Revolution premiered on the Black Nights Movie Pageant in Tallinn, Estonia.

The authors stated: “We had made the film for the rest of the world, but we could think of no better venue for our international premier. We were deeply touched by the fifteen-minute standing ovation the Estonian audience gave us. It is not just a story about Estonia – it’s also a story about humankind’s irrepressible drive for freedom and self-determination.”


“To breathe as one”: beginning with this pageant, apart from music a message of values was established, with the first being the connection between generations. “Breathing as one” turned a brand new idiom within the Estonian language.

Singers began a wave of raised palms travelling from the highest of the stage to the final row of the viewers, leading to an ecstatic melting together of the performers and audience.

Photo by Mait Jüriado III

Photo by Toomas Tuul


“Touched by Time. The Time to Touch.” A record-breaking variety of individuals – 42,000 singers, dancers and musicians – crammed three days of celebration with dance and music.

The primary live performance of the Song Celebration, on 5 July, took the viewers on a musical journey by means of the history of the celebrations, from 1869 to current day. The second live performance, on 6 July, introduced classical items along with new repertoire commissioned for this celebration in a seven-hour musical marathon.

Photo by Mait Jüriado


The XXVII Song and XX Dance Celebration is entitled “My Fatherland is My Love”. Collaborating in the Song Celebration are 1,020 choirs, which embrace over 35,000 singers. The youngest participant is Emma Kannik (5) from Musamari Koorikool (Tallinn) and the oldest is Aino (90) from the New York Estonian Choir.

The smallest choir of 12 singers is Kauksi Main Faculty Choir and the most important is the European Estonian Choir, with 123 singers. The latter is just not the one expat choir – 25 Estonian choirs from abroad and 17 overseas choirs are performing on the celebration.

The Dance Celebration includes 713 dance teams – together with 15 Estonian expat teams – with 11,500 dancers. That is the most important Dance Celebration of all occasions.

Cowl: The Song Celebration in 2014. * This text was initially revealed on 4 July 2014, in collaboration with Life in Estonia journal. It was calmly edited and amended on 4 July 2019.