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The Ellerhein Girls' Choir: A Half-Century Of Intricate Estonian Harmonies

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John Floridis talks with Ingrid Korvits, the director of Estonia's acclaimed Ellerhein Girls’ Choir. Estonian choral music is a reflection of the country’s centuries-old singing tradition, one that sustained Estonians through the brutality of WWII and the fifty-year Soviet occupation. Even though Estonia overflows with choral music, the Ellerhein choir stands out; they’ve won competitions around the world and have made numerous major-label recordings. Founded in 1951 as the Tallinn Children's Choir, the Grammy award-winning ensemble was featured in the movie, "The Singing Revolution," which documents the role of music in Estonia's nonviolent struggle for independence from the Soviet Union. Their sound is ethereal and mythic, while simultaneously modern, almost literally transporting the listener. 

From the producers of "The Singing Revolution:"

Music has been central to Estonian culture for centuries. Although Estonia is one of the smallest countries in the world, it nonetheless has one of the largest collections of folk songs. But Estonians have historically used music as a political weapon as well. It is said that song was used in protest of the German invaders of the 13th century, and also in resistance to the Russian occupation under Peter the Great in the 18th century. In the 19th century, Estonians started a song festival tradition called Laulupidu, where choirs from around the country come together to sing for days. 25,000 to 30,000 people sing on stage at the same time. But the founding of Laulupidu was as much an expression of the desire for self-determination and independence as about song. In the late 1980’s music was once again used as a unifying force when hundreds of thousands gathered to sing forbidden Estonian songs, demanding their right for self-determination from a brutal Soviet occupier. To truly understand Estonia, one must understand Estonian music.

(Broadcast: "Musicians' Spotlight,"  09/01/16 and 11/17/16. Listen weekly on on the radio Thursdays, 7:30 p.m., or via podcast.)

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