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SONG AND DANCE CELEBRATIONS DURING THE ERA OF SOVIET OCCUPATION

1947– GustavErnesaks was one of the artistic directors. In spite of massive Sovietpropaganda the repertoire was still mostly traditional. People were beingarrested 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 ofSoviet repressions included Song Celebration artistic directors Alfred Karindi,Riho Päts and Tuudur Vetik.

1950– the darkestchapter in the Song Celebration history. Soviet propaganda songs dominated therepertoire; choirs of Soviet miners and army were among the participants.During the dark era of Soviet oppression choir singing remained one of the fewareas where private initiative and trust were still present. It helped to keepthe longing for freedom alive. In spite of the schizophrenic situation mostEstonians held the Song Celebration dear as the most important national event.

1960– the newSong Festival Stage by architect Alar Kotli was built. Before the concert “Muisamaa on minu arm” was removed from the programme, however choirs started tosing it spontaneously and after a moment’s hesitation Ernesaks climbed up tothe conductor’s stand and started to conduct. Since then the song is the mostanticipated and “compulsory” finale of the celebration.

1969– celebratedthe first centennial of the song celebrations with the flame being lit for thefirst time in Tartu, the birthplace if the celebrations and carried throughEstonia to Tallinn. The repertoire was a lot more traditional compared to theSoviet propaganda filled celebrations before and after. “Koit” (Dawn) by MihkelLüdig became the traditional opening song.

In 1972 exile Estonians organized the first ESTOwith a worldwide Estonian Song celebration at its focus in Toronto, Canada.Estonian dissidents sent a letter to the United Nations demanding therestoration of independence. In the end of 1970s Soviet army invadedAfghanistan, many Estonians were drafted.

1980– celebrationwas part of the cultural programme of the Moscow Olympic games that wasboycotted by most of the free world. The soviet powers increased pressure ondissidents, well-known Estonian musicians Arvo Pärt and Neeme Järvi emigratedto the West.

In 1988 Alo Mattiisen’s “Five Patriotic Songs” wereperformed at Tartu Pop Music Days in May; in June the singing revolutionstarted at Tallinn Song Festival grounds. Thousands of people flocked to thespontaneous singing gatherings night after night, in the end there were manyhundred thousand people. In August 1989 two million people in Estonia, Latviaand Lithuania joined hands in 600 km long human chain to protest the sovietoccupation of their countries.

1990– the SongCelebration although formally still in the Soviet Union was carried bytraditional symbols and repertoire. The concert finished with “Mu isamaa, muõnn ja rõõm” – the former and current Estonian anthem that was banned by thesoviets. Estonia’s independence was restored a year later on 20thAugust 1991.