The Estonian president, Kersti Kaljulaid, opened the country’s cherished Song Celebration with a speech in which she emphasised that singing had historically brought Estonians joy and courage and made people feel free; Estonian World publishes Kaljulaid’s speech in full.
Dear people of Estonia,
Our first Song Festival took place 150 years ago. Had the Tsarist powers at the time known what the festival would do to the Estonian people, it is unlikely that it would ever have been allowed to take place. Song brings Estonians joy. Song gives Estonians courage. Song makes Estonians free.
Even when we largely only hummed along with our mouths closed, then the Song and Dance Celebrations still made us feel a bit more Estonian. We were all thinking the same when we sang – there was happiness, there was joy, there was laughter, there was tears.
True, the festivals held under Soviet occupation were scarred with foreign songs. But we also sang “Koit” and “Isamaa” (Estonian songs – editor). We danced the Viru waltz, and the sun sank below the horizon. We understood without saying a word. And we survived. May it sing with us here today, our past, and of course our present and our future as well!
The future of the Song Celebrations, incidentally, fidgets here before us in the front rows of the stage. Where they tread, the earth trembles – just as our tireless dance teachers would have it, pressure step at the floor. This is the smile-dimpled world of the little Estonians today.
They are already singing about the land they love. They are also singing about the fact that happiness only comes to you when you grab it by the tail. These are the songs of Estonians: a glimmer of hope in every moment of sadness and a note of caution on even the happiest of days.
It is time to sing. Stand with us. Sing with us with courage! Our conductors are your conductors, and this weekend the power is entirely in their hands.
Cover: Kersti Kaljulaid in front of the 82,000-strong Song Celebration crowd on 6 July 2019. Photo by Rein Leib. Read more on the Song Celebration: Estonian Song Celebration timeline and Meet the Estonian expat and foreign choirs performing at the Song Celebration and Gallery: Estonian Song Celebration 2019.