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Posts Tagged ‘Estonia’

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Photo: estonianworld.com
The Estonian Song Celebration every five years brings together a huge choir of up to 30,000 people for a weekend in July.

How do you get 30,000 people to sing together and hit the same note at the same time? It’s not easy. But if any group of people can do it, it’s the Estonians. They’ve had a lot of practice.

Writes Estonian World, “The Estonian Song Celebration is a unique event, which every five years brings together a huge choir of up to 30,000 people for a weekend in July. Approximately 100,000 spectators enjoy the concerts and sing along to the most popular songs.

“The first Song Celebration was initiated in 1869 by newspaper publisher Johann Voldemar Jannsen and celebrated freedom and the 50th anniversary of the end of Estonian serfdom at the hands of the Russian tsar in 1819. The first singing event was held in Tartu, with 878 male singers and brass musicians. All the songs were in Estonian and Estonians – mostly peasants and farmers at the time – discovered the value of their own language and cultural heritage through singing. …

“After the Second World War, during the Soviet occupation of Estonia, the song celebrations again helped keep the national identity alive. In the summer of 1988, several hundred thousand people gathered at the Tallinn Song Festival Grounds and sang for freedom for many days and nights. Dubbed ‘The Singing Revolution,’ it indirectly led to Estonia’s independence once again in 1991.

“The 27th Song Celebration [features] 1,020 choirs, which include over 35,000 singers. The youngest participant is Emma Kannik (5) from Musamari Koorikool (Tallinn) and the oldest is Aino (90) from the New York Estonian Choir.

“The smallest choir of 12 singers is Kauksi Primary School Choir and the largest is the European Estonian Choir, with 123 singers. The latter is not the only expat choir – 25 Estonian choirs from abroad and 17 foreign choirs are performing at the celebration.

“The emotional celebration kicked off with a traditional parade on 6 July, during which the performers walked along a five-kilometre route from the Tallinn city centre to the Song Festival Grounds, where 82,000 people later watched them perform old and new Estonian choral songs and other classical pieces. …

“Tickets sold out on Sunday as 95,000 people came to Tallinn’s Song Festival Grounds for the second day of the 150th anniversary of the Song Celebration, Minu Arm (My Love). … There were more singers, more choirs, more tickets sold, and there had been more dancers than ever before at dance festival earlier in the week. The festival organisers said there were 1,020 choirs, 35,000 singers, and 11,500 dancers. …

“[Song Celebration’s artistic director, Peeter Perens] noted his ideas for the song celebration had been built on the Finno-Ugric culture, which the Estonia language comes from, and the European culture which brought the singing festivals to Estonia more than 150 years ago. The programme was created three years ago and since then more than 300 rehearsals took place. …

“[Marju Lauristin, professor emeritus at the University of Tartu,] discussed her research that shows that 48% of the Estonian population has, at some time in their lives, taken part in the song celebration and is one of the remaining activities that is enjoyed by the whole of society.

“Discussing the history of the song celebration, she said, ‘Through 150 years these people have the same memories, coming together in winter, through snow, in times when there were no cars, no internet, walking 10-15 kilometres to school or place where they would gather and have a singing society, all over the country.’ …

“Lauristin added that the atmosphere of the song celebration had changed over the years from one of bitterness during the Soviet occupation, to one of joy today.

“[Composer Riho Esko Maimets said] that the experience of being at the celebration felt ‘very selfless, [like you are] existing as one little particle in a great mass of your nation.’  More here.

I’m impressed that so many people can sing together. I gave up on our town’s Christmas tree carol singing because the people on one side of the tree were always at a different place in the song than the people on the other side. And that leader was trying to keep together fewer than 100 people, not 30,000!

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The Atlantic magazine says Estonia is the new Finland, meaning that it is doing a bang-up job with quality education for all. Educating the poor turns out to be a salient strength of the system.

Sarah Butrymowicz writes, “In 2012, Estonia’s 15-year-olds ranked 11th in math and reading and sixth in science out of the 65 countries that participated in an international test that compares educational systems from around the world (called the Programme for International Student Assessment, or PISA).

“In addition to beating out western nations such as France and Germany and essentially tying Finland in math and science, Estonia also had the smallest number of weak performers in all of Europe, about 10 percent in math and reading and 5 percent in science.”

In comparison, the United States hovers in the middle of the pack.

“While there is less income inequality in Estonia than in the United States—and, with 1.3 million people, the country is significantly smaller—the Baltic nation also has its share of cultural diversity.

“When it achieved independence from the Soviet Union 25 years ago, Estonian became the official language and the language of school instruction. Yet about a fifth of its students come from families that still speak Russian at home, and they have historically lagged behind their native speaking counterparts on tests such as PISA. …

“Marc Tucker, president of National Center on Education and the Economy in Washington, D.C., visited Estonia last year to find out what they’re doing right. He said that after the fall of the Iron Curtain other former Soviet satellites, such as Hungary and the Czech Republic, transitioned to a system preferentially suited to the needs of its elites. Estonia, however, kept giving equal opportunities to students of all backgrounds. …

“There are many factors that may contribute to Estonia’s success on PISA beyond their focus on equality. Education continues to be highly valued. Teacher autonomy is relatively high, which has been shown to be related to better test scores. Teachers stay with the same students in grades one to three – or sometimes even up to sixth grade – allowing deep relationships to develop.”

Maybe we could learn something from this small Baltic state. Read more here about why Estonian students are so successful on tests and whether they are happy with the system and why the country is trying to encourage more individuality and creativity without losing rigor.

Photo: Ints Kalnins / Reuters
First graders take a computer class in Tallinn, Estonia.

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As usual, John has a pretty good idea of the kind of story that really floats my boat. Mysterious green balls washing up on the beaches of Australia, Anyone?

The Science Alert website reports that on the weekend of September 20, “thousands of peculiar green balls appeared on Dee Why Beach near Sydney in Australia. About 6 centimetres in diameter, these squishy little spheres are living organisms – seaweed balls known as ‘marimo’.

” ‘They’re actually a really unusual growth form of seaweed, because seaweeds mostly grow on the rocks but occasionally they get knocked off and rolled around in the ocean forming these beautiful little balls,’ Alistair Poore from the University of New South Wales explained to 7News.’It’s quite an unusual phenomenon, it’s only been seen a handful of times around the world.’

“First discovered in the 1820s by Austrian botanist Anton Eleutherius Sauter, and named by Japanese botanist Tatsuhiko Kawakami in 1898 (‘marimo’ roughly means ‘bouncy play ball’ in Japanese), colonies of these little balls have only been seen off the coast of Iceland, Scotland, Japan, Estonia and now Australia.”

See videos at Science Alert, here.

More on the green balls at Wikipedia and at Smithsonian.

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