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Veljo Tormis gratefully remembered in the National Library


Veljo Tormis and the National Library of Estonia go back a long way. The first concerts of the Library’s women’s choir began with the folk song „Laula kuni elad” (Sing till you live) which was arranged by Veljo Tormis and became the motto for the choir whose repertoire today contains nearly 30 songs by Tormis. To achieve the right sound of his modern musical handwriting, the choir has spent long hours rehearsing and listening to the singing of renowned masters to feel their emotions and message. The choir has experienced the power of songs written by Tormis on its many journeys, still remembering how the Italians and the French sang with utmost joy the Estonian folk song „Ühtelaulmine” (Singing together).
In January 1995 the choir had the honour to meet the Maestro in person during a rehearsal when he dedicated to the choir his „Viis eesti rahvatantsu naiskoorile” (Five Estonian Folk Dances for Women’s Choir). During his brief visit, the Maestro advised the singers how to understand folk songs, distinguish between musical characters and find the freedom in one’s own soul that is essential for singing the songs.

In 2008 the National Library’s choir got its very own runic song – Veljo Tormis chose and arranged a melody originating from Koeru in Central Estonia, words were written by Ülo Tedre. The choir has enjoyed singing it every year at the celebration of the Mother Tongue Day.

We are filled with gratitude for having the opportunity to share the time and music with the great Composer and Teacher.

The National Library is connected with Veljo Tormis also by his unique collection of folk music records, books and sheet music amounting to nearly 500 titles and available for use in the Music Reading Room. This collection offers to read books about Nordic shamanism and comparison of „Kalevala” with epics of other countries, to listen to Japanese, Hebrew or Indian music, explore the rhythms of native Indians or African and Arab countries, trying to find common elements in the ancient music of different countries. The collection also takes pride in the research works of outstanding Estonians - Jakob Hurt, Oskar Loorits, Juhan Zeiger, Herbert Tampere, Ingrid Rüütel and many others, addressing a wide range of topics from folk instuments to ancient ways of melting iron ore. Naturally, the music by Veljo Tormis on records and in sheet music is also represented.
Photo: Teet Malsroos