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SONG AND DANCE CELEBRATIONS AFTER THE RESTORATION OF INDEPENDENCE

1994– thefirst celebration after the restoration of independence.

1999–young children’s choirs participated for the first time. President Lennart Meriwas quoted as saying “Song celebration is not a matter of fashion. Song celebrationis a matter of the heart.” – even though Estonia was independent now and thecultural identity was not threatened by foreign powers people still consideredthe song celebration a matter of pride and joy that needed to live on.

In 2003 Estonian, Latvian and Lithuanian Song and DanceCelebrations were listed as UNESCO oral and intangible heritage. In 2004Estonia joined the EU and NATO.

2004– thestatue of Gustav Ernesaks was opened at the Tallinn Song Festival Grounds. Dueto heavy rain the official procession was cancelled but singers and dancersstill spontaneously joined the march.

2009– “Tobreathe as one” – from now on next to music also a message of values was set infocus, this time it was the connection between generations. “Breathing as one”became a new idiom in Estonian language. Singers started a wave of raisinghands travelling from the top of the stage to the end of the audience rowsresulting in an ecstatic melting together of the performers and audience. “To Breathe as One” isalso the title of the film by Jim Tusty that was released in the USA this year.

2014 – “Touched by Time. The Timeto Touch.” A record breaking number of participants – 42 000 singers, dancersand musicians filled three days of celebration with dance and music.

2017 – “Here I’ll Stay” Youth Song and Dance Celebration was a chance for young people to join the nearly 150-year tradition. All participants and most composers and conductors were “children of freedom” – many born in or after 1991, the year Estonia regained independence. It was fascinating to see the young energy and their dedication to keep their heritage alive, adjusting and defining it in a new fresh way.

2019 – the 150th jubilee of the Song Celebrations “My Fatherland is my Love” brings together 35 000 singers and 10 000 dancers, a record-breaking number of participants.