Voces Tallinn: With One Voice - A Performance of Estonian and American Choral Music concert program

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A Performance of American and Estonian Choral Music

Chamber Choir Voces Tallinn David Puderbaugh, conductor College Music Society International Conference

July 9, 2023

6:00 PM

Suur Saal, Estonian Academy of Music & Theatre

Tallinn, Estonia

Unustatud rahvad Veljo Tormis Part 4: “Ingerimaa õhtud” (1979) (1935–2017)

Röntüškä I

Röntüškä II

Röntüškä III

Sirelite aegu (2016)

Evelin Seppar (b. 1986)

Kodumaa laulud (2015)

Pärt Uusberg

1. Otsida iseend (b. 1986)

2. Viibida, vaikida

4. Kodumaa

An Account of a Comet (2021)

Sarah Rimkus (b. 1990)

The Fabric of Streams (2015)

Gregory W. Brown Then (2014) (b. 1974)

Even after all this time… (2016)

Reena Esmail (b. 1983)

Heavenly Home: Three American Songs (2012)

Shawn Kirchner

3. Unclouded Day (b. 1970)



Röntüškä I

This is how the song always begins, And so it does today, Liilee and lailee, Allalee and lailee. My sweetheart sings himself And lets me do it, too, Liilee and lailee, Allalee and lailee.

Although I sing here For the frst time, I hope I don’t displease you In even the smallest way.

Although I’m no tunemaker, I can go on singing, I never insult anyone In my songs.

What shall I sing? Where’s my music? When walking on the village lane I must’ve dropped my music book.

Here I sing, here I warble, Accompanying myself at the zither, With the songs and the laughter All the troubles I overcome.

If there were more singers like me Two or three would do, Then the village boys could well Sell their concertinas.

I sing and make merry, I am far from moping,

This girl is no moper, She’s still young and gay.

Röntüškä II

There goes the second song, Soon there’ll be a third, Tulla alla laarilaa And alla laarilaane.

I’m not going to fall in love With someone else’s sweetheart, Tulla alla laarilaa And alla laarilaane.

If I had a stone front step I’d be walking up and down it, If I had a steady sweetheart Him I would be caressing.

Who knows where he roams The sweetheart of this girl? Who one day might marry Another girl altogether.

Love’s like a fragile wire, Handle it carefully! Apprehension alone Could break my heart. My love, he jilted me. Never mind!

The Father in Heaven looks after me. There’re plenty of boys in the world I’ll fnd someone new!

Here I sing, here I warble Like a babbling brook. I love a spunky boy, Don’t care about a timid one.

Come, my good villagers

To listen to my songs. Don’t go on the back lane To gossip about me.

Röntüškä III

Alistulla to begin and Aalintulla illalei tuliali lailaa

I am good at singing and Allintulla illalei tuliali lailaa My sweetheart is good at boozing. Aalintulla illalei tuliali lailaa

Listen to me, come to your senses! Throw away the bottle! And never will there be for you Another hangover!

I don’t care for a boy Who’s in love with a tavern Spending all his time in there Kissing one bottle after another.

Aha! Aha!

Sirelite aegu [By the time of the lilacs] (Marie Under and Gustav Ernesaks)

The hackberry petals are bidding farewell and the lilacs are in full bloom: every bud swelling at full might, every bush o’er fence bursting blue.

And now, I sleep no more at night: my heart fushes like a hearth aglow –Oh, the lilacs are in full bloom! How could I be meek and unmoved?

But you are not here – wherefore, wherefore was the day made so full of these lavender blossoms?

Wherefore, then, the night, so tenderly light, so aromatic around my bed?

So hard it is to bear all this beauty alone –but you are not here to receive it.

Lilac, am I in luck? Lilac, lilac!

Otsida iseend [To seek myself] (Ellen Niit) White clouds in fight o’er a land on limestone. Juniper is my brother, the stones my brothers, too. The interwoven juniper roots hold fast in the land’s meat and bone. Rough and stern is my tribe, words get caught in their throats. The blackberry’s dark gaze, the sandy road’s glow. The slaver’s whip, a reviving pond, pain and joy intermingle. Fieldstone’s pensive faces, searching for themselves. Cuckoos cry in the distance, a butterfy futters past. A butterfy futters past, a shard of bright thought. From this land to seek myself is what I want.

Viibida, vaikida [To stay, to keep silent] (Ellen Niit) To tire, to pause, to rest on stone, on stump. To observe from aside travelers’ hurry, their journey.

To stay, to keep silent, eyes upon a birch tree’s crown.

To stare at the sky and at moss in a granite fssure.

To eye the source ever fowing from bowels of the earth, To see – there’s still water that is clear, pure, and holy.

To press the eyes’ gaze through sand and scree, to perceive and to see the groundwater’s broad current, deep below. To rise, then, to be borne once more by the traveling masses. To believe anew in vision, spell, and enchantment.

To believe in the spring amid the froth and fury of foodwaters. To believe, in an instant of senselessness, in life eternal.

Kodumaa [Homeland] (Ellen Niit)

The towering fr before my doorstep is my homeland. Rooted deep within me is my homeland.

The birch’s shadow on the lawn is my homeland. The ciphers scrawled on birchbark are my homeland.

The rowan’s berries in its crown are my homeland. Their bitterish taste upon my tongue is my homeland.

An Account of a Comet

An Account of a new Comet. In a letter from Miss Caroline Herschel to Charles Blagden, M.D.

Sec. R.S.

Read Nov. 9, 1786


IN consequence of the friendship which I know to exist between you and my Brother, I venture to trouble you in his absence with the following imperfect account of a comet.

The employment of writing down the observations, when my Brother uses the 20-feet refector, does not often allow me time to look at the heavens; but as he is now on a visit to Germany, I have taken the opportunity of his absence to sweep in the neighbourhood of the sun, in search of comets; and last night, the 1st of August, about 10 o’clock, I found an object very much resembling in colour and brightness the 27th nebula of the Connoissance de Temps, with the difference however of being round. I suspected it to be a comet; but a haziness coming on, it was not possible intirely to satisfy myself as to its motion till this evening. I made several drawings of the stars in the feld of view with it, and have inclosed a copy of them, with my observations annexed, that you may compare them together.

August 2, 1786, 9 h. 50’, the object in the center is like a star out of focus, while the rest are perfectly distinct, and I suspect it to be a comet.

Tab. I. fg. 1.

10 h. 33’, fg. 2. the suspected comet makes now a perfect isosceles triangle with the two stars a and b

11 h. 8’. I think the situation of the comet is now as in fg. 3.; but it is so hazy that I cannot suffciently see the small star b to be assured of the motion.

By the naked eye the comet is between the 54th and 53d Ursæ majoris, and the 14th, 15th, and 16th Comæ Berenices, and makes an obtuse triangle with them, the vertex of which is turned towards the south.

August 2. 10 h. 9’, the comet is now, with respect to the stars a and b*, situated as in fg, 4, therefore the motion since last night is evident.

10 h. 30’, another considerable star c may be taken into the feld with it, by placing a in the center; when the comet and the other star will both appear in the circumference, as in fg. 5,

These observations were made with a Newtonian sweeper of 27 inches focal length, and a power of about 20, the feld of view is 2° 12’.

I cannot fnd the stars a and c in any catalogue; but suppose they may easily be traced in the heavens; whence the situation of the comet, as it was last night at 10 h. 33’, may be pretty nearly ascertained. You will do me the favour of communicating these observations to my brother’s astronomical friends.

I have the honour to be, &c. CAROLINE HERSCHEL. Slough, near Windsor, Aug. 2, 1786

The Fabric of Streams (John Muir, adapted by Gregory W. Brown)

The lace-like fabric of streams outspreads o’er the mountains, and reminds us that everything is fowing, animals and so-called lifeless rocks, as well as water. The snow fows fast or slow in grand beauty-making glaciers and avalanches. The air in majestic foods carries minerals, spores and seeds, and leaves with streams of music and fragrance. Water streams carrying mud, carrying sand, and pebbles, and boulders. Rocks fow from volcanoes like water from a spring. All the while the stars go streaming through space, pulsing on and on…

Then (Richard Wilbur)

Then when the ample season Warmed us, waned and went, We gave to the leaves no graves, To the robin gone no name, Nor thought of the birds’ return Of their sources dim descent, And we read no loss in the leaf, But a freshness ever the same. The leaf frst learned of years one not forgotten fall; Of lineage now, and loss These latter singers tell, when birds now still, Were all one choiring call Till the unreturning leaves Imperishably fell.

Even after all this time… (Hafz) Even after all this time, the sun never says to the earth, “You owe me.”

Look what happens with a love like that: it lights the whole sky.

Unclouded Day (Josiah Kelley Alwood)

O they tell me of a home far beyond the skies,

O they tell me of a home far away;

O they tell me of a home where no storm-clouds rise;

O they tell me of an unclouded day.


O the land of cloudless days

O the land of an unclouded sky,

O they tell me of a home

Where no storm-clouds rise:

O they tell me of an unclouded day.

O they tell me of a home

Where my friends have gone, They tell me of a land far away, Where the tree of life in eternal bloom

Sheds its fragrance through the unclouded day.


They tell me of a King in his beauty there, They tell me that mine eyes shall behold Where He sits on the throne That is bright as the sun In the city that is made of gold!



In tonight’s program, two nations—Estonia and the U.S.—come together on the stage: an Estonian choir, an American conductor, presenting music of both countries with one voice.

Veljo Tormis was renowned worldwide for his modern treatment of Baltic folk music. He composed the monumental cycle Unustatud rahvad [Forgotten peoples] from 1970 to 1989 to shine a light on the small enclaves of Balto-Finnic peoples that still exist in northeastern Europe—the Votians, Livonians, Izhorians, Vepsians, Karelians, and Ingrians. “Ingerimaa õhtud” [“Ingrian evenings”] highlights traditional music of the Ingrian Finns, an ethnic group located on the Gulf of Finland between Estonia and Lake Ladoga, victimized by genocide and forced relocation during the Soviet period. Like the folk music of the other cultures in Forgotten peoples, its music is characterized by repetitive call-and-response between soloist(s) and chorus. The three excerpts on this program, performed without breaks between, are Ingrian dance songs in which Tormis attempted to recreate the atmosphere of evening parties of young villagers. Tormis himself noted the warm reception

“Ingrian evenings” received at a 1979 Finnish choral conductors’ summer program he attended: “My brand-new cycle, “Ingrian evenings,” was a source of great surprise and delightful recognition. ‘We have never heard them,’ they exclaimed, ‘but ours they are!’”

Evelin Seppar’s music is gaining notoriety beyond Estonia, with recent performances in Europe, Australia, the U.S., and China. She began composing at ffteen and eventually earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the Estonian Academy of Music & Theatre, where she studied with René Eespere, Toivo Tulev, and Helene Tulve. Her music has been performed by several of the world’s leading choirs, including the Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir, Latvian Radio Choir, SWR Vokalensemble, Netherlands Chamber Choir, and Norwegian Soloists’ Choir. Sirelite aegu fuses text by Marie Under and a musical motive from Gustav Ernesaks’s Sireli, kas mul õnne, which she heard at a song festival. The work includes glissandi, humming, and thick chords, creating a sonic dreamscape in which the speaker marvels at the beauty of the blooming lilacs but sadly notes that there is no one with which to share the wonder.

Pärt Uusberg’s choral music is rapidly growing in popularity in the U.S., due in part to several of his works now being published by Walton

Music. Like Seppar, he received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the Estonian Academy of Music & Theatre, studying with Tõnu Kõrvits and Toivo Tulev. Uusberg is also a choral conductor, founding the chamber choir Head Ööd, Vend in 2008, and conducting at recent national song festivals in Estonia. Kodumaa laulud, set to poetry by Ellen Niit, is representative of his style: meditative, at times mantra-like in its gentle, repetitive motives. Niit’s poetry is heavy with nature imagery connected to a feeling of national identity.

American composer Sarah Rimkus received her BM in composition magna cum laude from the University of Southern California, where she studied with Morten Lauridsen, followed by graduate degrees from the University of Aberdeen under the tutelage of Paul Mealor. Her choral works have been performed throughout the U.S. and U.K. by such ensembles as The Esoterics, Harmonium Choral Society, and The Gesualdo Six. One key characteristic of her music is inventive text setting, including scientifc writings, of which An Account of a Comet is a prime example. In An Account, Rimkus sets a letter of Caroline Herschel (1750–1848), perhaps the frst woman to be paid as a scientist. Prior to her turn to astronomy, Herschel was an accomplished singer in her own right, earning an engagement with the famed Birmingham Festival. It was her work as an astronomer, however, both independently and in support of her astronomer brother William, that brought her the most recognition. Her letter, compact yet clearly demonstrative of her great expertise, was the frst scientifc paper written by a woman to be read to the Royal Society of London, and the frst penned by a woman to be included in the proceedings of a scientifc organization worldwide.

Gregory W. Brown studied composition and conducting at Amherst College, Westminster Choir College, and the University of Georgia. His music has been performed in the U.S. and in Europe, most notably his Missa Charles Darwin, recorded by The Crossing and later re-issued in a special edition coinciding with the publication of his brother Dan Brown’s novel Origin. Brown often turns to ecological concerns for inspiration in his music. In The Fabric of Streams, Brown vividly sets John Muir’s account of his frst visit to the Sierra Nevada Mountains, evoking the ever-fowing landscape—water, snow, air, glaciers, even rocks. Then is an evocative setting of words by Richard Wilbur on the inevitable passing of seasons. Both works demonstrate Brown’s penchant for surprising dissonances created by linear motion.

Indian-American composer Reena Esmail bridges the divide between Indian and Western classical styles in her compositions, and her doctor-

al thesis examined the collaborative process between Indian musicians and Western composers. She is a graduate of The Julliard School and Yale University, where she studied with Aaron Jay Kernis, Christopher Rouse, and Samuel Adler; and her Hindustani music teachers include Srimati Lakshmi Shankar and Gaurav Mazumdar. She is currently Artist-in-Residence with the Los Angeles Master Chorale. Even after all this time… is set to words of the fourteenth-century Persian poet Hafz translated into English by Daniel Ladinsky, into which Esmail interpolated several of the original Farsi words. The text likens the relationship of the sun and earth to the idea of unconditional love.

Shawn Kirchner’s music enjoys widespread exposure across the U.S., sung by choirs of all levels. Kirchner is a graduate of Manchester University and the University of Iowa, and like Reena Esmail, served as Artist-in-Residence with the Los Angeles Master Chorale, of which he is a current member. His style ranges from jazz to gospel to folk to bluegrass to classical, with his primary inspirations being banjo player Steve Kinzie and famed choral composer Alice Parker. “Unclouded Day” is based on the nineteenth-century hymn and tune of the same name by J.K. Alwood, combining bluegrass singing style with counterpoint and fugue. The “unclouded day” is part of the heavenly kingdom, but in this context, it could also connote the hope for peace and respectful exchange between peoples in these turbulent times.


Chamber Choir Voces Tallinn (known as Voces Musicales until 2019) is an Estonian semi-professional chamber choir known for its quality of sound and high-level concert programs. The choir has been successful since its creation, and its frst major recognition on the international scene came in 2009, when the choir won second place at the Harald Andersén Chamber Choir Competition in Finland. In the same year, Voces Tallinn released its frst album, Pilgrim’s Song, with music by Arvo Pärt. The album received high praise and a top rating from BBC Music Magazine for musical performance and sound.

In April 2014, Voces Tallinn participated in the prestigious London International Choir Competition in London, initiated by The Tallis Scholars

and their chief conductor, Peter Phillips, where the choir was named one of the four fnalists. The following year, the ensemble was honored to receive the annual music award of the Estonian Culture Endowment for enriching Estonian musical life through high-level concerts.

Voces Tallinn’s second album, A Black Birch in Winter, was released in 2019, featuring works by American and Estonian composers, under the direction of David Puderbaugh. The Estonian Choral Association awarded the album 2019 Recording of the Year. The ensemble was named Choir of the Year by the Estonian Choral Association in both 2009 and 2020.

Voces Tallinn was founded by Risto Joost, who also served as the choir’s chief conductor for its frst ten years. Since then, Voces Tallinn has also worked with many other renowned conductors, including Stephen Layton, Peter Phillips, Neeme Järvi, Nikolai Aleksejev, Arvo Volmer, Olari Elts, and Andres Mustonen. In addition, the choir has collaborated with several wellknown orchestras and ensembles such as Sinfonietta Rīga (Latvia), baroque ensemble Barrocade (Israel), Oulu Symphony Orchestra (Finland), Orchestra Ensemble Kanazawa (Japan), Strasbourg Philharmonic Orchestra (France), Estonian National Symphony Orchestra, Moscow State Academic Chamber Orchestra (Russia), Tallinn Chamber Orchestra, and Hortus Musicus, amongst others.

Voces Tallinn’s repertoire includes pieces of diverse genres, from Renaissance polyphony to classical works to contemporary music. The choir’s most recent performances include Ludwig van Beethoven’s Missa Solemnis, Claudio Monteverdi’s Vespro della Beata Vergine, Georg Friedrich Händel’s oratorios, Arvo Pärt’s Stabat Mater and Kanon Pokajanen, and Johann Sebastian Bach’s passions, as well as countless a cappella programs.

Since 2022, the chief conductor of Chamber Choir Voces Tallinn is Kristi Jagodin.

David Puderbaugh is Assistant Director of Choral Activities at the University of Iowa, where he conducts University Choir, and teaches graduate choral literature and undergraduate choral conducting. He is also Associate Director of the School of Music, administering the graduate program. He holds degrees from Drake University, the University of Missouri, and the University of Iowa.

Outside the university, Puderbaugh is Music Director of Chamber Singers of Iowa City, an ensemble that specializes in the choral/orchestral repertory. In

2018, the choir appeared at Carnegie Hall in a performance of Haydn’s Missa Cellensis. In 2022, CSIC commissioned and premiered British composer Cecilia McDowall’s Music of the Stars, a three-movement choral/orchestral work set to words by Brian Odongo, Neil deGrasse Tyson, and James Weldon Johnson, which will be published by Oxford University Press in 2023.

A Fulbright scholar to Estonia, Puderbaugh was consultant for the documentary flm To Breathe as One (Sky Films Inc., 2013) about Estonia’s National Song Festivals. He has a long relationship with the Estonian chamber choir Voces Tallinn dating back to his Fulbright year - collaborating with the choir as a singer and conductor on numerous occasions. Most notably, he conducted the choir in the album  A Black Birch in Winter: American and Estonian Choral Music (MSR Classics, 2019), which won the Estonian Choral Association’s Recording of the Year award.

Puderbaugh’s leadership duties have included Midwestern ACDA president and editorial work for ACDA’s  Choral Journal and North Central ACDA’s  Melisma. He is a member of ACDA, NCCO, CMS, and Pi Kappa Lambda. Additionally, Dr. Puderbaugh is an active tenor soloist, appearing in Handel’s  Messiah, Haydn’s  The Creation, and the Evangelist in Bach’s Christmas Oratorio and Schütz’s St. John Passion. In Estonia, Dr. Puderbaugh has premiered works by contemporary Estonian composers in the annual new music festival “Eesti Muusika Päevad,” broadcast nationally, and appeared in Orazio Vecchi’s madrigal comedy L’Amfparnaso, sponsored by Eesti Kontsert.

Kristi Jagodin graduated from the Estonian Academy of Music & Theatre in 2013 with an MA cum laude in Choral Conducting (professor Tõnu Kaljuste). She has attended numerous masterclasses and was selected as an exchange student via the Erasmus-programme to Gothenburg, Sweden (2000–2003), where she studied both the Swedish language and choral pedagogy under Gunnar Eriksson and Jan Yngwe.

From 2014 to 2020, Kristi lived and worked in London, U.K., and sang in numerous choirs, including the London Symphony Chorus under the direction of Simon Halsey, which performed regularly with the London Symphony Orchestra. As a choral director, she has twenty-fve years of experience leading amateur, semi-professional and professional choirs. Since 2021, Kristi has worked as a Chorus Master for the Opera Chorus at Vanemuine Theatre and she has been the Musical Director for Chamber Choir Voces Tallinn since August 2022.

This performance is made possible by the generous support of the University of Iowa School of Music


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