On Friday afternoon a fellow alto passed along an email about a documentary called The Singing Revolution. Since it was about Estonia's quest for independence from the Soviet Union, I was very interested, since not only have I sung Estonian music before and know they have a rich choral tradition, but my first trip overseas was to Estonia & the USSR in June 1990, one year before the USSR dissolved, and only months after the Estonians' first attempt at declaring independence. I remember hearing that news in Spring 1990 about how Moscow was NOT pleased in the least and wondering if our June trip would still happen? We went and were fine, nothing out of the ordinary as far as we could tell, except the true Estonian white, black & blue flag was flying everywhere even though we were told it was still against Soviet law to fly it. I bought a flag pin & a small Estonian flag because it sounded like they were important times. In passing we met some Estonian students who wanted to trade flag pins or badges with us, and I was disappointed I had nothing with the USA flag to trade. The only other evidence of tension was since we were traveling with the Estonian Chamber Choir and Orchestra, en route from Leningrad to Helsinki, Soviet customs examined instrument cases and everything before allowing any Estonians into free Finland!
Kevin was interested in seeing the documentary, so he & I went to see it tonight. Amazing, impressive and heart-warming, even if you're not a singer or Estonian. Kevin was so impressed he wants to buy the DVD for sure. The trailer below and on the website does an excellent job of portraying the essence of the film. I got misty-eyed a couple times but never actually cried. I wish I had heard on our trip about all of this. I don't remember if maybe we had a Russian tour guide perhaps, which would explain why they only pointed out the giant dome outdoor amphitheater for the song festival of 30,000 singers on stage at the same time, and didn't happen to mention when there were over 100,000 there singing for their country's independence for an entire week only 2 years before! It was very moving to hear the story from the people who lived it, and successful independence from the Soviets without bloodshed is impressive in itself. We had the extra bonus of seeing a show where the husband & wife director team was there for questions after the film, which was interesting hearing about how they started the project, how to decide what to cut, and even deciding on a "normal" documentary format to let what they hoped was the fair and balanced story come through. Since this is such recent history for the Estonians, they cannot distance themselves enough to be objective, so they were open to outsiders telling the story. They said that some of the leaders of the different resistance movements will still not talk to each other to this day. They showed the initial rough cuts to each of the leaders, receiving input about what they thought was unfairly represented, researched to see what reality was and changing things if warranted, then the final cut was shown to all sides and all agreed "that is what happened." The directors were proud and compared that reaction to making a documentary about the 2000 US election and having Al Gore & George W both agree!
So, definitely see The Singing Revolution if you have the chance! Limited engagement through Thursday in San Francisco & San Jose this week, which could be extended if they get enough ZIP code entries on their website to show demand, and possibly other cities depending on the ZIP codes registered on their website. It will be out on DVD sold on their website in August or so, then hopefully TV broadcast later as well. At least see it sometime since it is definitely worth watching. I think you will be impressed and inspired.