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The choir from farthest away: an American Estonian helps us learn lyrics

For years the Song Celebration hasn’t been just the Estonians’ playground. Already for several years there have been foreigners singing in our melodic language, who might not even fully understand the words they are singing.

At this year’s celebration there are foreign choirs coming from all over the world. Singers are coming from Finland, Germany, Norway, and even from farther places like the United States of America and Japan. The most exotic choir the Wakayama children’s choir from Japan. It is a choir of 47 singers, who perform every year in the USA and Europe. Even though the choir is singing in Estonian at the Song Celebration, they also love to sing in English and have won many international choir competitions in Germany, Hungary and Austria.

The choir traveling the longest distance is California-based Piedmont children’s choir. The Piedmont choir’s founder Susan Rahl told Postimees, that her children are participating in the Song Celebration for the fourth time and have a big interest in the event. This time they have learnt 14 Estonian songs.

«Since Estonian isn’t our mother tongue, the hardest part has been learning the lyrics and correct pronunciation for all 14 songs,» she explained. Rahl said, that the song «Üksi pole keegi» has a lot of words, which is why that song has been the hardest for the children. Piedmont children’s choir’s favourite song is Tõnis Mägi’s piece «Ilus oled, isamaa». Despite the difficulty of learning the songs, the children and choir conductors don’t have to figure out the pronunciation by themselves. Rahl said, that already for 15 years Saima Kint, an Estonian living in Oakland California, has been helping them with Estonian. She has been living in the USA since the Second World War, when she was forced to leave her home country. Rahl explained the reason that keeps on bringing them back to the Song Celebration: «The Estonian people’s story is an inspiring reminder of what humans are capable of». According to her, singing in Estonian is a positive experience for the children as they have already gotten used to singing in this difficult language.