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The Singing Revolution opens in New York
by Mimi S. Daitz for Vocal Area Network
Posted December 9, 2007

The Singing RevolutionEven those of you who have not been to Estonia (and many have) or heard one of the Estonian professional choruses here in the USA will be fascinated by the intertwining of singing and political action, which helped Estonia gain independence from the Soviet Union in 1991. A full-length documentary film entitled The Singing Revolution, five years in the making, is opening for a limited engagement at City Cinemas--Village East, 181 Second Avenue at 12th Street, on December 14.

Using archival footage, contemporary interviews with Estonians who lived through the “Singing Revolution,” and scenes from the last, huge United [Choral] Song Festival, the film shows how back in 1869 choral singing already had a political subtext--at that time in relation to the Russian Empire and the Baltic German overlords who administered their country. The viewer later hears the music sung by thousands of Estonians as they defied the Soviet government by singing the banned unofficial national anthem, “My isamaa on minu arm” (My fatherland is all my joy) over and over again in the 1970s and 80s at the end of the Song Festivals, held every five years in Tallinn, the capital city. Another style of music that played a vital role in the independence movement was the rock songs of classically trained composer Alo Mattiisen, whose song refrain “I was born Estonian, I am now Estonian and it is Estonian I shall ever remain” became the battle cry of a bloodless revolution.

Actual footage of the human chain of two million persons, which wound its way along 370 miles of all three of the Baltic nations (Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania--countries with strong traditions of choral music) is only one of the historic events shown in the film. That demonstration on 23 August 1989, fifty years after the signing of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact (in which the Nazi Germans secretly handed over the Baltics to the Soviet regime), is seen as a moving example of popular participation in an area of the world not used to such open political protest.

The film will be shown in New York City December 14 through 20 with a matinee opening on December 14 and three screenings that evening. On Saturday and Sunday, December 15 and 16, there will be five showings per day. The following Monday through Thursday, there will be three showings per day. The filmmakers James and Maureen Tusty will do Q&A with the audience following the main show (approximately 7:30) on Friday and Saturday night.  For precise times, phone the theater at 212-529-6998, after December 10.

Even if you can not get to City Cinemas--Village East, you can see clips of the film and read lots of background information at  www.singingrevolution.com, and if you live too far from New York, the producers would like you to request, via their web site, that it be shown in your community.

Mimi S. Daitz is the director of the Riverdale Choral Society.

Content Contact: Mimi S. Daitz.
Revision Date: December 10, 2007.
Technical Contact: Steve Friedman.

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