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THE BEGINNING, 19th CENTURY

1869 – the firstEstonian Song Celebration was held in Tartu with 878 male singers and brassplayers. Publisher Johann Voldemar Jannsen initiated the Song Celebration aspart of the Estonian national awakening movement. Simple peasants discoveredthat their traditions can be part of high culture. His daughter, Lydia Koidulawas the author of lyrics for two Estonian songs “Sind surmani” and “Mu isamaaon minu arm” that are still in the Song Celebration repertoire today. She wasalso involved with the preparations of the scores and fund raising – quite anunusual role for a woman at that time. All songs were in Estonian.

1880– the SongCelebration was held in Tallinn for the first time. A year later Finlandarranged the first nation-wide song and music celebration.

1891– in Tartumixed choirs participated for the first time. In spite of Russian Tsar’sefforts to force the domination of Russian language in public life more thanhalf of the songs were in Estonian, among them songs by Miina Härma, the firstfemale composer. Singers spontaneously tuned into today’s Estonian anthem “Muisamaa, mu õnn ja rõõm” by Fredrik Pacius. In the years to come choir singingremained the only cultural activity in Estonian as the Russian emperor requiredall official matters and education to be handled in Russian.

1894 – for thefirst time choirs from Estonian settlements in Russia participated at thecelebration in Tartu. Pacius’ anthem was sung again.

1910– the Celebration was held in Tallinn with children’s choirs among theperformers for the first time. Mihkel Lüdig, whose “Koit” (Dawn) is thestandard opener today, was the artistic director of a celebration with acomplicated repertoire.