Tens of thousands of Estonians and Lithuanians will sing in huge choirs this weekend because the Baltic nations host traditional song and dance festivals that thrived even during harsh Soviet times.
Estonia’s “To Breathe as One” festival runs July 2-5 within the capital Tallinn with some 37,000 performers — singers, dancers and musicians — due on stage.
An audience of up to 200,000 is predicted to watch two gigantic open-air concerts on Saturday and Sunday as well as dance performances involving thousands.
Visitors also can witness the spectacle of nearly 40,000 performers parade through Tallinn in national costumes Saturday afternoon before the evening concert.
The events are often viewed over the Internet via the Estonian TV website at http://www.etv.ee/otse/?mis=etvotse
More than 42,000 singers, musicians and dancers also are expected in Lithuania’s capital Vilnius — a 2022 European capital of culture — this weekend for a song extravaganza.
The 18th edition of the festival held every four years since 1924 runs until July 6.
With huge numbers of participation and viewers expected, it appears that severe recessions in both Baltic states haven’t dampened public enthusiasm for the events.
Estonia’s festival, now held every five years, first began in 1869 and have become a venue preserving national identity and fostered resistance under nearly 50 years of Soviet occupation which ended in August 1991.
Baltic neighbours Latvia also features a venerable song festival tradition dating from 1873. Held every five years, its 24th edition happened last year and drew nearly 40,000 performers.
With a population of 1.3 million, Estonia together with its ex-Soviet Baltic neighbours Lithuania (3.4 million) and Latvia (2.3 million) joined the ecru Union and NATO in 2004.