Estonian Choir to Perform at Illinois Wesleyan

The Heinavanker Ensemble
The Heinavanker Ensemble

Oct. 29, 2015

BLOOMINGTON, Ill—Illinois Wesleyan University will host the Heinavanker Ensemble at 8 p.m. on Nov. 5 in Evelyn Chapel (1301 N. Park St., Bloomington). The concert will be free and open to the public.

The Heinavanker Ensemble hails from Tallinn, Estonia, and specializes in ancient Estonian sacred music. Their repertoire consists of runic songs and folk hymns that played an integral part in ancient Estonian culture. These archaic songs fell into relative obscurity for hundreds of years, but started to gain new followers in the second half of the 19th century when many of these long-forgotten songs were gathered to form a compendium of Estonian folklore. The ensemble’s unique name is inspired by 15th-century painter Hieronymos Bosch’s work The Haywain Triptych.

Since its creation in 1996, the group has been under the direction of composer Margo Kõlar, who said “the vocal ensemble Heinavanker is a unique meeting point for musicians active in different fields.” This musical diversity helps the ensemble successfully improvise and adapt to the ancient Estonian folk hymns—a necessity because many of the songs are rooted in a loose, pliable oral tradition without explicit structure. The Heinavanker ensemble has toured throughout most of Europe and North America.

The first half of the Nov. 5 program will consist of Latin Mass hymns interspersed with several Estonian folk selections. The second half of the concert focuses on the ancient runic tradition of singing in strict poetic meter and features Kõlar’s “The Songs of Olden Times,” a collection of songs inspired by runic hymns.

The ensemble will also work with the IWU Chamber Singers during a vocal workshop Nov. 5 at 4 p.m. The groups will work on an Estonian choral composition that will be performed during the evening concert. 

 For more information, contact the School of Music at (309) 556-3061. The performance is sponsored by the School of Music, the Russian and East European Studies team, and the student chapter of the American Choral Directors Association.

By Matt Borse ’16