SONG AND DANCE CELEBRATIONS DURING THE ERA OF SOVIET OCCUPATION
1947– Gustav Ernesaks was one of the artistic directors. In spite of massive Soviet propaganda the repertoire was still mostly traditional. People were being arrested even at the Song Festival Grounds. Ernesaks’ “Mu isamaa on minu arm” to lyrics of Koidula was performed for the first time. In 1950 another wave of Soviet repressions included Song Celebration artistic directors Alfred Karindi, Riho Päts and Tuudur Vetik.
1950– the darkest chapter in the Song Celebration history. Soviet propaganda songs dominated the repertoire; choirs of Soviet miners and army were among the participants. During the dark era of Soviet oppression choir singing remained one of the few areas where private initiative and trust were still present. It helped to keep the longing for freedom alive. In spite of the schizophrenic situation most Estonians held the Song Celebration dear as the most important national event.
1960– the new Song Festival Stage by architect Alar Kotli was built. Before the concert “Mu isamaa on minu arm” was removed from the programme, however choirs started to sing it spontaneously and after a moment’s hesitation Ernesaks climbed up to the conductor’s stand and started to conduct. Since then the song is the most anticipated and “compulsory” finale of the celebration.
1969– celebrated the first centennial of the song celebrations with the flame being lit for the first time in Tartu, the birthplace if the celebrations and carried through Estonia to Tallinn. The repertoire was a lot more traditional compared to the Soviet propaganda filled celebrations before and after. “Koit” (Dawn) by Mihkel Lüdig became the traditional opening song.
In 1972 exile Estonians organized the first ESTO with a worldwide Estonian Song celebration at its focus in Toronto, Canada. Estonian dissidents sent a letter to the United Nations demanding the restoration of independence. In the end of 1970s Soviet army invaded Afghanistan, many Estonians were drafted.
1980– celebration was part of the cultural programme of the Moscow Olympic games that was boycotted by most of the free world. The soviet powers increased pressure on dissidents, well-known Estonian musicians Arvo Pärt and Neeme Järvi emigrated to the West.
In 1988 Alo Mattiisen’s “Five Patriotic Songs” were performed at Tartu Pop Music Days in May; in June the singing revolution started at Tallinn Song Festival grounds. Thousands of people flocked to the spontaneous singing gatherings night after night, in the end there were many hundred thousand people. In August 1989 two million people in Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania joined hands in 600 km long human chain to protest the soviet occupation of their countries.
1990– the Song Celebration although formally still in the Soviet Union was carried by traditional symbols and repertoire. The concert finished with “Mu isamaa, mu õnn ja rõõm” – the former and current Estonian anthem that was banned by the soviets. Estonia’s independence was restored a year later on 20thAugust 1991.