Thursday, 10 August 2006

Tallinn diary

Finally, here's a summary of what London Concord Singers got up to on their recent trip to Tallinn, Estonia.

The advanced party from the choir arrived in Tallinn on Thursday 27th July to find the old town delightful but full of tourists (at least we’d have a potential audience). The scene of our Saturday evening concert, the Lutheran Cathedral on the top of Toompea hill, proved to be even more fascinating and delightful than appeared in the website. The walls are covered in the coats of arms of the German merchants for whom it was built, but the high boxed pews made us wonder whether we’d see anything of our audience apart from the tops of our heads.

More of the choir arrived on Friday, coming by various means. Whereas the Thursday crowd all came on the same Estonian Air plane, the Friday arrivals came by various means including bus from Riga, plane from Helsinki and ferry from Helsinki. One had even managed a quick trip to the Savolinna opera festival to see the Bologna opera company doing Donizetti’s ‘La Fille du Regiment’. Friday was free time and then in the evening we all went out for a communal meal. Wandering around town we were please to note that a number of our flyers were up in the churches and the tourist office.

Come Saturday afternoon we had to stop feeling like tourists and start being choristers again. Its always tricky getting back into rehearsal mode when away on these trips. Our rehearsal in the Lutheran Cathedral was enlivened by the presence of large numbers of tourists, but the building is big enough to accommodate both us and the sight-seers, we might even have got some extra audience.

As it turned out, we need not have worried, we got an excellent audience both in terms of attentiveness and size. The programme was a typical London Concord Singers one, motets by Parsons, Bassano, Merulo, Byrd plus Britten, Richard Rodney Bennett and Urmas Sisask. It lasted about an hour and was well received. Afterwards the organist of the church presented the choir with a commemoration plate.

Afterwards we retired to a neighbouring hostelry to celebrate; but not for tool long, because we had to be up and about next morning.

Sunday morning we sang at the huge Charles XI church. Built in the late 19th century it was the centre of the Estonian National Lutheran church. Impressive and classically plain inside with just a fresco over the alter, we sat in the balcony in front of the organ. Communication was tricky, as we had to speak German to the organist and the service sheets were only in Estonian. Still, we managed to fit 5 motets into the service and the church was most helpful arranging for us to fit in as much music as possible. We managed to join in the service with the help of hymn books, service sheets (both in Estonian) and a rudimentary knowledge of Estonian gained in order to sing Tormis’s ‘St. John’s Day Songs’ in our London concert.

Most of the choir were familiar with Anglican and Roman Catholic services, quite a number of us sing at them. But it was fascinating to participate in a Lutheran service; much of it similar in structure but much of it not. Not speaking the language, we missed out completely on the Sermon.

Service once over, the formal part of the weekend was over. We concluded with a group meal in the evening at a Russian restaurant and then went our various ways.

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