My wife and I are considering attending the Estonian Song Festival in Tallinn in July. This a national festival that is held every 5 years. Has anyone attended, was the experience of the singing and folklore dancing unique, and what would be the key event and experience likes and dislikes in your opinion from your attendance? We just want to be sure this event is unique and well worth the crowd and marginal expense of a national event.
I assume you've seen the movie? (The Singing Revolution - Official Trailer) If not, highly recommended!
We were there last summer (Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia), but did not catch the song festival itself. But it was obvious that it was a very big deal in all three countries we visited. Note: Estonia's festival is probably the biggest and well known (probably due to the political events that are chronicled in the move referenced above) but all three of the Baltic countries have a major national festival of music and culture - if you're there at the time, you can't help but notice it (we stepped out of our hotel in Vilnius, walked across the street to a large square in the old city's center, and literally found ourselves standing next to the country's president - whom, I was amazed to realize, I actually recognized...).
As clueless tourists, we basically stumbled into (and through) the national culture festivals in Vilnius and Riga (they pretty much took over large parts of the city center for days so it would be hard to miss them). The grounds for Estonia's song festival are located some distance from the old town (where we were), so we only saw that from a distance, and as we were short on time we didn't make the effort to get out there.
What we saw of the singing and dancing Lithuania and Latvia was charming, unique and worth some time. Crowds? You will find large crowds in Tallinn's old town during summer daytime - it's mostly (though not entirely) from cruise ship day-trippers, so if you go to Tallinn (absolutely worthwhile for its own many charms, even without the song festival) and you're there in high summer, there will be plenty of tourists - but nothing like the crush of tourist crowds you would get in Rome or Paris in the summer.
Couple of logistical suggestions: check carefully to ensure the full festival is on for your time there. I've also heard it was held every 5 years, and we were there last summer (2018) and all of the Baltic countries had major festivals then - to commemorate 100 years of nationhood (the date they based that on was 1918, the conclusion of WWI, when the current national boundaries were reconstituted...I found the 100 year figure odd, considering all that they went through in the 20th Century, but that's how they were counting, 100 years from 1918).
Estonia is beautiful (all of it, not just Tallinn), and well worth a visit whether the national song festival is on or not.
Hope that helps.
We just want to be sure this event is unique and well worth the crowd
and marginal expense of a national event.
I haven't been to Estonia's festival, but I was in Riga during part of Latvia's every-5-year festival this summer. It was definitely worth it. If you're interested, here is my trip report regarding that experience.
I would agree with David that it is worthwhile to watch The Singing Revolution. Like him, I highly recommend it, whether one is going to Estonia or not.