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Yale 62

YAC Tour to the Baltics, Part I

By Griff Resor

(Ed. Note: for Part II, click here.)

Music and travel are my passions.  Luckily, I married Pam, an Alto, who shares these passions.  After hearing John Gerlach rave about the 1998 China tour, Pam and I decided to join the next Yale Alumni Chorus (YAC) tour in 2001.

The 2001 tour celebrated Yale’s 300th anniversary.  We gathered first in London to rehearse, then moved to Russia for concerts in St. Petersburg and Moscow, then back to London for a concert in St. Paul’s Cathedral, and finally to Wrexham in Wales – Eli Yale’s hometown.  Singing great music with skilled singers in places we could never access as individuals was wonderful.  We have now done 11 tours, traveling as Ambassadors of Song to 21 different countries in Africa, Asia, Europe, North America, and South America.

Baltic TourOur tour to the Baltic Countries of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania in 2013 provided all the parts of a YAC tour that makes them so rewarding.  We began with a pre-tour to Saint Petersburg.  I wanted to see how 12 years had changed that city.  In 2001 it was still a Soviet era city.  Rusty street cars symbolized the general state of crumbling infrastructure.  Citizens were not out at night.  As John Gerlach observed there were no flowers.  I expected, this might have improved by 2013.  Sure enough, the street cars were new.  People were everywhere at night, enjoying the long summer evenings.  We found a Georgian restaurant in a basement for dinner.  We rode the subway to see great Soviet era murals in stations recommended by our tour guide.

To get to Tallinn, Estonia from Saint Petersburg, we took a chartered tour bus!  We were held by the Russians at the border for about 4 hours for no apparent reason.  A hangover from Soviet methods?

While in Estonia, we wanted to hear first-hand about the ‘Singing Revolution’. The Baltic countries gained their independence in 1991 without an armed conflict.  Chaos in Moscow provided the opportunity.  But the revolution really began in the mid-1980’s.  “Estonians began taking advantage of their unique and rich cultural tradition, particularly in choral music, to encourage a national reawakening.  Estonians gathered in the thousands and eventually hundreds of thousands to celebrate their heritage in song in what became known as “The Singing Revolution.”  (Link to the history of the Singing Revolution).  The photo shows the site where the Singing Revolution happened.  Imagine this huge natural amphitheater with 300,000 singers.

The Baltic countries were captured by the Soviet Union in 1939, then by Germans in 1941.  Back again to Soviet rule in 1945.  Russian people were moved into Estonia as part of a Russian colonization effort.  Roughly 40% of the people now living in Estonia have Russian heritage, not Estonian.  Both languages are used in daily life.  English is also in common use.  It is bad luck to be born into a small country that is between two super-powers!

Jeff Douma, the YAC music director (and director of the Yale Glee Club) chose Lux Aeterna composed by Morten Lauridsen as our main performance piece.  This is beautiful music that works well in large Concert halls and in stone Cathedrals with Orchestra or Organ.  Lauridsen is US born.  But we all assume his name has some tie to the Baltic region.

The Y62 group in YACCabaret Night is a fun feature of each YAC tour.  People with an act to perform sign up with the MC.  Here’s members of the Class of 1962 doing a number on Cabaret Night.  Left to right are Murray Wheeler, Joe Holmes, Biggie Moore, Dan Koenigsberg, John Gerlach, John Knutson, Griff Resor and Peter Sipple.

From Tallinn we traveled by tour bus to Riga, Latvia.  From Riga we again traveled by tour bus to Lithuania.  I will write about these parts of the tour in one or two more episodes.  Shades of Netflix?

Note: here in our website, you may want to read John Stewart’s history of YAC and Biggie Moore’s writeup of the YAC tour to South Africa.

We welcome your comments below.