Colorado Children’s Chorale 2015 Concert Tour of Sweden, Estonia, Finland and Russia
by Deborah DeSantis, Artistic Director, Colorado Children’s Chorale
US Ambassador to Finland Bruce Oreck takes a selfie with the Colorado Children’s Chorale in the Rock Church in Helsinki, Finland
The Colorado Children’s Chorale has been touring exclusively with ACFEA since 2002, and our 2015 Baltics tour now lives in our memories with even more extraordinary experiences both on and off the stage. Our 36 young performers, 18 boys and 18 girls, reveling in the fact that they were NOT sitting in their respective middle school classrooms, embraced every moment of this fact-filled, fun-filled, performance-rich adventure.
We kicked off the tour in the beautiful auditorium at Kungsholmens Gymnasium in Stockholm, Sweden, for a packed house of high school students. The following day we met many new friends at the Adolf Fredrik’s Music School, where we were hosted by students the same age as ours.
We visited the Vasa Ship Museum and the Skansen Open-Air Museum. From the Sami Camp, complete with grazing reindeer, to the working village, there was plenty to see. And thankfully, there was time for shopping, as we had Swedish kronor weighing heavy in our pockets!
On our overnight cruise to Estonia, we watched the sunset as we drifted through the Stockholm archipelago. We woke up in Tallinn and toured the city with a wonderful local guide who shared the history of Estonia, land of the Singing Revolution. Having been a part of the demonstrations and celebrations as Estonia fought for its independence just over two decades ago, she truly brought history to life. At the Song Festival Grounds we climbed to the top of the ‘bowl’ and offered our own singing revolution. At Rakvere Castle, we jousted, climbed walls, shot arrows, made gun powder, sang in the dungeon and enjoyed a medieval feast.
In the center of the wonderfully preserved Old Town, we saw the 15th-century Town Hall, where we then performed the next evening. We sang and danced with abandon to an audience of sweet, very reserved ladies and gentleman. One woman put her hands up during every song, clapping along quietly with the most delighted, shy smile on her face. Following the show, many came to tell me they were “moved to cry” more than a few times and would “never forget”, unable to let go of my hand as they spoke. And this is why we tour.
The impetus for this tour was a residency in Turku, Finland, where we were hosted by the Turku Conservatory of Music, including workshops, homestays for our singers, and a joint performance in their beautiful performance hall. We were so graciously hosted, both on stage and off. Homestays provide such an extraordinary experience to learn about a culture on a very personal level. We embraced every moment, from delicious Finnish delicacies including bacon-wrapped reindeer, pulla and salmiakki, to the evening sauna. And always, the music. We learned to play the kantele, along with several Finnish folk songs. Our joint performance was a joyous event.
We reluctantly left our Turku families and moved on to Helsinki, and were delighted when many of them showed up that evening for our concert in the Rock Church! What a perfect venue for a choral concert, acoustically and visually stunning. We shared the stage with yet another excellent choir, the Chameleon Youth Choir, and our warm, receptive audience included the US Ambassador to Finland, Bruce Oreck. We had the honor of visiting, and singing for, President SauliNiinistö and his wife at Mäntyniemi, their private home. It was beautiful and they were such gracious hosts, chatting with us for quite some time. Most importantly, we managed not to spill the delicious, very red lingonberry juice on the baby blue carpet and white furniture!
At twilight in front of the Winter Palace in St. Petersburg, Russia
And then, St. Petersburg. We arrived by train, then drove straight to the Pushkin Cultural Centre for rehearsal in the charming, albeit challenging, hall. Small proscenium stage filled with a grand piano, large, heavy platforms, and a four-foot drop to the house with no stairs. Two local men patiently pushed and pulled that piano, inch by inch, until we found the sweet spot where the accompanist could see, with room for 36 singing and dancing kids. And, magically, two large red-carpeted step units appeared! We staged the show both on and off the stage, much to everyone’s delight, opening with the Russian national anthem. The audience fiercely clapped along at every opportunity.
Stunning architecture, colorfully gleaming in the sunlight; borscht and potato pancakes; a tour of Gatchina Palace; a glorious final performance in St. Peter’s Lutheran Cathedral; a celebratory farewell dinner; and I am out of words. Except to say, once again, “Bravo, ACFEA!”
To learn more about Sweden, Estonia, Finland and Russia as possible concert tour destinations for your ensemble, please visit our Scandinavia, Baltics and Russia destination pages, or contact us.