Nukuteater Eesti Päevade avapeol. Foto: Rein Lepik
As planned by the organising committee, the diverse programme attracted people of all ages from Sydney and all over Australia plus a few from overseas to enjoy Estonian culture new and old. Here is a brief summary of some of the highlights which will be covered in more depth in subsequent issues of Meie Kodu.
The festival opened with a church service at the grand and historic St.Stephens Church in Macquarie street which featured fine organ and choral music in addition to Estonian hymns sung by the congregation. It was led by Pastors Meelis Rosma Andres Palm and Phillip Haar from the Sydney, Adelaide and Melbourne Estonian Lutheran congregations respectively. The formal opening of the festival followed including a procession of flags of Estonian societies and associations and the passing of the Eesti Päevade flag from Iivo Tuul, president of the organising committee (üldjuht) of the XXIII 2010 festival in Adelaide, to myself, president of the XXIV 2012 festival organising committee.
The "Salt and Pepper" art and craft exhibition of the festival was held at the TAP Gallery near the Estonian Cultural Centre in Darlinghurst and was open from the 27th to the 31st of December attracting both visitors to the festival and passers-by. The curators Külliki Poole (craft) and Virge Nielsen (art) arranged a fine display of the many items submitted to them. The genres included paintings, drawings, photographs, ceramics, weaving, knitting, leatherwork, wood carving and silver jewellery to give a comprehensive coverage of traditional and modern techniques. The opening of the exhibition on the afternoon of the 27th of December was well attended by visitors viewing the display and enjoying a glass of wine.
The first social event was held at the Sydney Harbour-side venue Doltone House which afforded views of the city skyline and Harbour Bridge. The venue included spacious outdoor informal seating as well as conventional dining tables inside to allow the 300 or so patrons to circulate and meet many friends, old and new. A gourmet buffet meal preceeded a first performance by the guest performers from Estonia to the festival, members of NUKU, the Estonian State Puppet and Youth Theatre including soloists Kaire Vilgats and Jaagup Kreem & Taavi Langi, which entertained the audience with a variety of puppetry and song that gave an overview of what they had in store for us through the Festival.
Next morning there were rehearsals for the members of choirs and folk dance groups from Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide, Thirlmere and elsewhere to fine-tune and co-ordinate their performances after their practices in different cities during the preceding year. This was followed by a well earned cold drink and lunch of sandwiches and traditional Estonian patries (pirukad) at the Estonian Cultural Centre for the approximately 130 performers involved. In the early afternoon some people went on a treasure hunt (halli hundi jooks) around the historic harbourside Rocks area of Sydney while others stayed for a well attended poetry reading by members of the Muusajüngrid society.
Late afternoon on December 28th, NUKU gave a performance of "NUKUPIDU" one of their puppet theatre productions from Estonia to an audience of 130 enthralled people filling the auditorium at the Estonian Cultural Centre to capacity. The festival cafe "e-Kafee" then offered traditional Estonian food and the bar offered Estonian Saku beer and cider plus Viru Valge spirits and coolers to refresh visitors before the commencement of "e-Kõrts" club. On this night Kaire Vilgats-Lõhmus and Taavi Langi were the featured act presenting "The Estonian jazz songbook" to an enthusiastic audience.
The stars of the 29th of December were Jaagup Kreem and Taavi Langi from the NUKU troupe who presented in the morning words and music from a renowned Estonian writer Juhan Viiding (who was Jaagup's uncle, allowing for some personal insights about his life and work) and then in the evening, to a packed Estonian Cultural Centre of 150 fans, songs from the well known rock group "Terminaator. In between there was a Sydney Harbour harbour cruise including the less frequented and beautiful waters of Middle Harbour with a most informative commentary for Sydney-siders as well as interstate guests.
A new concept trialled at this festival on the 30th was a folk day which combined the ever-popular folkdance performances with traditional choral music and folk music interspersed with breaks where in the adjacent courtyard and lawns of the Sydney Boys High School Great Hall venue, the over 400 attendees could enjoy good food, drink and investigate items on display at various stalls with traditional craft and newer Estonian merchandise. We were blessed with perfect weather to make a memorable day leading up to the formal closing of the festival.
In reality there was more to come with another eKõrts club night and then a New Years Eve Ball back at Sydney Boys High School where over 200 patrons enjoyed the band and singers from NUKU who performed a wide ranging repetoire including the Men at Work hit, "I come from a land downunder" , clearly learned for this event. The real end of the festival was viewing the midnight firework display from the adjacent park, the singing of the Estonian national anthem and a final bracket bracket of dance music from the wonderful NUKU.
In this brief overview I have omitted to mention various events including the first Estonian Film Festival in Australia, sporting and other events that further contributed to the festival but were important in achieving the breadth of activities we endeavoured to offer.
I whole-heartedly thank everyone who helped make this festival such a success, the organising committee and many helpers and volunteers, the NUKU troupe, the singers and dancers, and especially all those who came to take part from all around the country and overseas.
President of the organising committee (XXIV Eesti Päevade Üldjuht)