GOOD TIMES: The Viljandi Folk Music Festival entertains with traditional folk music, handicrafts, fairy-tale telling and the mysterious sail shadow performance.
TALLINN - Dance is a means of communicating without words, a reason to get together, to get to know each other, and to fall in love. The magic of reproduction has always been one of the traditional aims of dancing. Dancing is the flywheel of the circle of life, which also emphasizes our origins and brings people together. In order to achieve all this, the rhythms and moves have to be traditional.
The Viljandi Folk Music Festival is a music festival in Estonia with the central focus on European folk music. It is traditionally held every year during the last weekend of July, when the otherwise quiet city of Viljandi is completely transformed, as the small city center is suddenly flooded with people. The main attraction of the festival is the friendly atmosphere. Over 25,000 people attend the concerts every year, but many more just come to take part in the festivities. As such, it is the largest annual music festival in Estonia, and one of the largest folk music festivals in the Baltic and Northern countries - that’s to say all over Europe.
The festival itself has grown from a more traditional Estonian folklore festival to a massive enterprise, with an increasing number of international celebrities. This year the festival is going to take place from July 22-25 in the Castel Hills and the center of Viljandi, where the theme of the 18th Folk Music Festival will be “Dance Flows from the Inside!”
This theme carries the desire to highlight the bonds between music makers and those enjoying it. Sincere communication helps to preserve and recreate the characteristic feature of traditional dance and music: improvisation. As long as there are people eager to absorb music, and who can release that in the form of a dance without limits, the traditional culture will remain full of life and vigor.
The festival’s program of workshops offers plenty of danceable activities. It is for the first time that the moat in front of Jaani Church will accommodate a dance floor. Everyone who feels dance bubbling inside them are welcome to learn and improvise. However, there are many other places worth being curious about. And the most important thing is that all workshops will be free for all participants.
The event program will also include four days of traditional music performances on 5 outdoor and 3 indoor stages, 200 performers, 100 concerts, free green stage performances, various workshops, films, exhibitions, handicrafts and more. The organizers of the festival expect more than 20,000 visitors this year.
On Handicraft Yard, visitors can actively spend time before and between concerts. Everyone can enjoy a number of workshops: ribbon braiding, block printing, bread making, pearl jewelry, felted hats, jewelry from wooden pearls and silk, birch bark items, glass jewelry, leather bracelets, and others.
All guests are also welcome to come to listen to different fairy-tales at the cozy threshing chamber at the Viljandi Museum. Throughout the old times this little chamber has offered pleasant cool for those trying to escape the heat, a sheltering roof for those fleeing the rain, and peaceful calm for those wishing to take time off from the festival’s hustle and bustle.
The Estonian-Ukrainian folk ensemble “Svjata Vatra” invites everyone to the beach of Viljandi Lake to enjoy the mysterious sail shadow performance. The story that will be played on July 23 is based on old rune songs, the plot of which is being conveyed with the help of shadows rising from the flames. The audience should free themselves from all expectations while arriving, and simply absorb the pleasure of the play between light and shadow. The sail shadow performances that have so far mostly taken place on a barge, have be transferred, for the time being, to the board of the Viking ship Turm that has specifically for this reason sailed to Viljandi.
There are also a couple of competitions for festival visitors and performers, such as the Folk Boatman, or rowing on rowboats, where the participation will be free of charge. The best competitors will be rewarded with festival day passes, souvenirs and some other special prizes.