2018 Report on ECA Europa Cantat - Tallinn, Estonia

by EVTA President Susan Yarnall Monks

Europa Cantat XX Festival of collective singing in Tallinn Estonia, is a huge event 4500 singers plus hundreds of conductors, composers, agents and yes, us EVTA Singing Teachers! It is a wonderful feeling to see and hear so many singers of all ages and from 51 different countries across the world, all enjoying the hospitality and the myriad opportunities to perform and sing and learn from gifted musicians and talented choral directors.


For the first time EVTA had a real presence and I believe it was much appreciated. We did the daily warm-ups for the choir ‘Conductors and Composers Programme’ as well as running the Voice Clinic each afternoon. We are enormously grateful to have been given the opportunity by ECA-Europa Cantat and we hope that in future events similar opportunities will be available.

Voice Clinic

18_europa_cantat_5A detailed report on the content of the EVTA Voice Clinic can be found in the left menu.

Our Clinic attracted a balanced number of male and female singers, and once a whole choir and their conductor, all ages from adolescent voices through to older singers with a wide variety of questions. The weather was very hot and humid and our classroom was rather small but everyone was open in sharing their challenges, asking great questions, willing to learn, following demonstrations and eager to find out more about singing.

Wednesday in the Voice Clinic we had questions related to singing with nodules, and also a singer with one vocal fold, the kinds of questions the average choral conductor would find difficult to answer! Thursday was our busiest day yet in the Clinic and I was on my own, but everyone was very patient and willing to listen and learn. So many different questions and yet so much of our solutions were, “Release, don’t push, let go, enjoy, feel your body is easy but energised!”


The daily warm-ups for the choir ‘Conductors and Composers Programme’ have been going very well. Participants seemed to appreciate that I themed the warm-ups to specific vocal requirements throughout the week that I presented so they never got a repeat and Sarah’s and Antra’s complemented them very well. We have been hearing about some wonderful composers from across the globe including South Africa, Slovenia, Poland, France etc.


18_europa_cantat_2Highlights included ‘Sing outside the Box Concert of Estonian Atmospheres’ with all ages of choirs, a wind band, lighting, sound effects and video, beautifully choreographed, plus an excellent EXPO of music scores, the Swingle Singers at the Night of Choirs, a video/talk of a talented Hungarian improvising choir with a concert on ‘Taboos’ dressed in amazing costumes again with choreography, lighting etc. It made me realise how choral music now involves so much more than just a conductor and the ‘team’ spirit this engenders seems to encourage the leaders and participants to be open to new ideas, literally thinking outside the box! 


We also heard about the ‘SingMeIn’ project which ECA has been running for the last 3 years, encouraging migrant/refugee children and young people to become part of a collective music making that respects their culture, music,religion and identity but also helps to build confidence of their place in a new society. Heartwarming stuff! And a great example of how EU funding can make a difference to real people in Europe today. Lots of tips and pitfalls to note but very positive on the whole.


The history of Estonia and the Singing Revolution of 1989 is so close to the present time and it was moving to be shown around the Museum by a young and passionate Estonian man who knew the turbulence of that history first hand in his own family. We must never take our ‘Peace’ for granted and it made me feel even more a fervent believer in European co-operation, networking and the work we do with the EMC/IMC, ECA-Europa Cantat,  and with our own EVTA vision.


18_europa_cantat_3The 100th Happy Birthday Celebrations for Estonia at the SongFest grounds (the place made history with the singing revolution, the 150th anniversary next year will have 28,000 people plus) - we made do with 6000! - featured choirs made up from the Ateliers/Workshops as well as professional choirs, traditional dancers, military bands and speeches from the great and good! The next Europe Cantat is in Ljubljana, SLOVENIA 2021and promises to be as great as Tallinn!

Networking and meetings

There was an evening reception by ECA and another opportunity to network! The evening concert I chose was Collegium Musicale who I had seen in October and again they were fabulous, this time singing songs of Forgotten Peoples.


Then Friday, after the ‘Attack and agility’ warm ups I went back to the Science School for a meeting about SingTank, which was an interesting group of ECA friends and board members. We were invited to offer contributions and I said I felt the Voice Clinic had been a great success and we would hope to be able to offer that again to any event or Festival involving singers! I also suggested that if they really wanted to think outside the box they should invite non-musicians to create new pathways for the future, dancers, sculptors, jugglers, scientists, boat builders! You don’t get sucked into circular arguments that way and often new ideas emerge - however they have already sorted their ‘experts’ but we shall see.


18_europa_cantat_4Then I went to a fundraising lunch for the friends of ECA and that was held close to the Song Festival grounds in the new History Museum, a wonderful building and restaurant and by the sea, with cool breezes! Heavenly after the heat! Interestingly I sat with Karin Mueller (EVA) who I knew from LeoSings project and a Danish conductor and I said I presume you know that PEVOC is in Copenhagen next year and showed him the link on the Internet. He was truly shocked, he had no knowledge of it yet it is at his University; he knew none of the names involved and yet it is about the Voice! So networking is SO important, spreading the word of what is out there and building the links where we have real gaps in our knowledge. As our dear friend Stéphane Grosclaude reminds us “MIND the gap!” 


Talking of networking, I did not actually meet any Estonian or Lithuanian Singing Teachers but I gave some of my cards away so I hope someone will contact me. Curiously there weren’t so many Lithuanians there, perhaps they feel they have their own singing festivals. 

Final thoughts

So…my thoughts were: Let’s have

•   More music and singing at our meetings

•   Perhaps a collective singing strand in parallel with our meetings as in Tours

•   Get Singing teachers out into the Choral world, we have much to learn and even more to teach!

•   Continue to promote our links and friendship with ECA (they have the money and organisation and a paid office team)