22.07 Veljo Tormis “Forgotten peoples” in Mustjala festival in Saaremaa

Collegium Musicale


22.07 Veljo Tormis “Forgotten peoples” in Mustjala festival in Saaremaa

22 July at 19.00 we will sing different parts of Veljo Tormis choral cycle “Forgotten peoples” in Mustjala music festival in Saaremaa. Conductor Endrik Üksvärav.

Forgotten Peoples by Veljo Tormis is a choral cycle comprising six parts:
– Livonian Heritage
– Votic Wedding Songs
– Izhorian Epic
– Ingrian Evenings
– Vepsian Paths
– Karelian Destiny.

The cycle was composed in 1970–1989 and is based on traditional (runo) folk songs of six Balto-Finnic nations. Veljo Tormis has said that Forgotten Peoples was written at a time when these nations had disappeared and possibly even been forgotten by all of us. On February 27 and 28, 1989, Forgotten Peoples was first performed in Finland over two nights by the Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir conducted by Tõnu Kaljuste. At that moment, A Lullaby – the last song of Karelian Destiny, and thus the whole cycle – had not been composed yet. The complete cycle was first performed by Chamber Choir Collegium Musicale on November 4, 2013.

The older type of Balto-Finnic folk song that serves as the basis for this composition reflects a worldview that Tormis has described as continuous flow. It is something characteristic only to our oral folklore and the more dominant written language becomes within a culture, the faster this type of cognition disappears. It may be still be spotted when listening to the recordings of the last traditional folk singers whose songs are never really interrupted. All the six parts of Forgotten Peoples end in the disappearance of the people in question, their integration into other cultures. The last song of Karelian Destiny, is a true Lullaby, which, in the words of the composer, lulls the people to their eternal sleep.

Veljo Tormis finalised the Forgotten People in 1989. By now, all the folk singers whose songs he used in his work are dead. Several Balto-Finnic peoples are on the verge of extinction, some of the languages are spoken only by a couple of people. But Veljo Tormis grants all of them an eternal life in music and will not let us, the listeners, forget that once, in their songs, these languages have aspired to live for ever.

Veljo Tormis (born 7 August 1930 in Kuusalu) is an Estonian composer, regarded as one of the greatest living choral composers and one of the most important composers of the 20th century in Estonia. Internationally, his fame arises chiefly from his extensive body of choral music, which exceeds 500 individual choral songs, most of it a cappella. The great majority of these pieces are based on traditional ancient Estonian folksongs (regilaulud), either textually, melodically, or merely stylistically.
His composition most often performed outside Estonia, Curse Upon Iron (Raua needmine) (1972), invokes ancient Shamanistic traditions to construct an allegory about the evils of war. Some of his works were banned by the Soviet government, but because folk music was fundamental to his style most of his compositions were accepted by the censors. More recently, Tormis’ works have been lionized in worldwide performances and several recordings by Tõnu Kaljuste and the Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir. In the 1990s, Tormis also began to receive commissions from some of the pre-eminent a cappella groups in the West such as the King’s Singers and the Hilliard Ensemble. Tormis has famously said of his settings of traditional melodies and verse: “It is not I who makes use of folk music, it is folk music that makes use of me.” His work demonstrates his conviction that traditional Estonian and other Balto-Finnic music represents a treasure which must be guarded and nourished, and that culture may be kept alive through the medium of song.