Taking place every five years and involving thousands of choir singers and dancers dressed in colourful national garments, the roots of this lively outdoor festival stretch back as far as 1869, the dawn of Estonian national movement. While the first song celebration took place in Tartu (1869), the growing interest and popularity meant that the festival soon needed a place to call its own. From 1928 onwards the home of the much-loved festival has been the Tallinn Song Festival Grounds in the midst of the scenic pine grove on the coast of Tallinn. Dance celebration is a more recent tradition dating back to 1934 and today the two traditions are seen as inseparable by the modern audiences.
Estonian Song and Dance Celebration traditions
As the song and dance celebration tradition grows older, the festival still proves continuously popular among the young and old alike, with the 2014 festival hosting a record of 150,000 guests.
The festival traditionally kick-starts with the performers' march through town, welcomed by cheerful spectators. With the Song and Dance Celebration proving extremely popular among the locals, it would be difficult to find an Estonian who has never taken part in this age-old tradition with 90% of all Estonians believed to have attended the festival at some point in their lives.
Estonian Song and Dance Celebration programme features choirs of all shapes and sizes, from the local childrens' choirs to the few international choirs that have the honour to partake in this national highlight.
Song Festival Grounds
Tallinn Song Festival Grounds boasts unique architecture and serves as a symbol of freedom and independence thanks to the many national song celebrations held here since the beginning of the 20th century. Unique in Europe, this impressive construction is situated with its rear to the bay while the audience gather on a green grassy slope rolling down to the stage. If you are eager to experience the Song Celebration spectacle to the fullest, make your way to the top of the hill to enjoy some great views of the glistering Tallinn coast.
During the Song and Dance Celebration, more than 20,000 singers and instrumentalists perform under the massive arch to an audience of roughly 100,000 people. In 1988, the Song Festival Grounds was the centre of the famous Singing Revolution. The Night Song Celebration held here attracted hundreds of thousands of people in support of re-establishing the Republic of Estonia. These days, Song Festival Grounds also hosts a separate Youth Song and Dance Celebration as well as the world's first Punk Song Celebration in 2007 and equally inaugural Digital Song Celebration in 2010.