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Photo by: Kaarel Mikkin / EAS

Photo by: Kaarel Mikkin

Photo by: Toomas Tuul

A local's guide to the Song and Dance Celebration

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By Laura Hiietamm  •  20.06.2019

How to participate at the Song and Dance Celebration like a true Estonian? In 2019, from July 4 to July 7, Estonia will celebrate the 150th anniversary of the Song Celebration, and the accompanying Dance Celebration will take place for the 20th time. The event is one of the cornerstones of Estonian identity: every five years, since 1869, we get together for four days of singing, dancing and quality time with friends and family. Follow our tips below on how to take part of the celebration like a local.

The Estonian Song Festival is one of the largest choral events in the world and is listed by UNESCO as a Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity. In more relatable terms: if you have ever wondered how a choir of 30 000 plus singers sounds, or want to see more than 10 000 people dance in national costumes, this is your chance. 

Preparing for the Song and Dance Celebration

Tips for a first-timer

  • To get up to speed with the story of the Estonian Song and Dance Celebration, visit the exhibitions introducing the event and its historical significance: 
Rotermanni 18/1, 08.04-10.07.2019
Estonian Theatre and Music Museum, 2.05-03.11.2019
Estonian National Library, 19.05-26.10.2019 
Vabaduse väljak (Freedom Square), 20.06-09.07.2019

  • Familiarise yourself with some of the signature dance moves by visiting the Estonian Open Air Museum on the weekend: every Saturday and Sunday (25.05-01.09), at 11 a.m., the Folklore Society Leigarid performs traditional Estonian dances and music at the Sassi-Jaani farm. 
  • To show your support, invest in a Song and Dance Celebration starter kit, available online. You can also buy special Laulu- ja tantsupidu-branded merchandise in all the big supermarkets around the country. You can find anything from badges, t-shirts, and socks to chocolates and soup. 

Tips for an expert

  • Dress in (elements of) colourful Estonian traditional costumes – you can find them in the local handicraft stores dotted around the city. 
  • Learn some of the songs of the Celebration by heart to experience the powerful feeling of singing with one of the world’s biggest choirs. The concert of the first day features a song specially composed for singing along: Üksi pole keegi (‘nobody is alone’). You can find the lyrics, music notes and phonograms on the Song and Dance Celebration’s website

Extra tip: The Song and Dance Celebration takes place every five years so now is the best time to join a choir, an orchestra or a folk dance group if you want to perform at the festival in 2024. But choose wisely (and don’t miss practice), as all of the ensembles have to go through a strict audition process before being allowed on stage. 

Programme of the Estonian Song and Dance Celebration

July 4-5, the Dance Celebration (Kalevi Central Stadium)

The festival starts with two days of dancing. You can find the repertoire of the performances on the Song and Dance Celebration's webpage. Unfortunately, the tickets to the dance Celebration have already been sold out. 

If you do not have a ticket to the event, worry not, as according to the ones who have missed out before, the performances look much better on the television anyways - you can see all the choreographed patterns and moves. The event is broadcast on online and the on the channels of ETV. Or, alternatively, you can catch the last dance perofrmance live on the big screen at various venues around the city, for example: 

July 6, the festive progression from the Freedom Square to the Song festival Grounds

All the participating choirs, dance ensembles and orchestras gather to the Vabaduse väljak (Freedom Square) to walk together from the city centre to the Song Festival Grounds and start the celebration. The festive progression starts at 1 p.m. and finishes at 6 p.m. 

The distance is about 5 kilometres (3,1 miles) and the roads leading to the Song Festival Grounds from the centre will be closed to traffic during the procession. Many locals – especially if they have a family member performing - gather to cheer the procession on the sidewalks. The joyful parade is also broadcast live online and on ETV.  

July 6-7, the Song Celebration (Tallinn Song Festival Grounds)

The Song Celebration consists of two major concerts – first, on Saturday (6.07) evening at 7 p.m., and, the second, on Sunday (7.07), at 2 p.m. You can find the repertoire and programme of the concerts on the Song and Dance Celebration’s website.

You can buy the tickets for one or both concerts online at or at the event.  

If you cannot make it to the Song Festival Grounds, you can see the event online and on the channels of ETV. The second concert will also be broadcast live on a big screen on Vabaduse väljak (Freedom Square) at 2 p.m. 

An after-party tip: the Maarjamäe Palace, located next to the Song Festival Grounds, is inviting everyone to its garden for a good-old folk-party (07.07) with live music, dancing, and of course - singing. Doors open at 8 p.m., the band starts at 10 p.m, tickets available online or at the party. For more information, check out their Facebook-event

Tips for first-timers and reminders for experts

How to get to the Song and Dance Celebration?

When going to the Song Festival Grounds or the Kalevi Stadium, do not take your car – the number of parking spots is limited and a number of traffic restrictions are in place. Simply walk or use the public transport instead:

  • Dance Celebration, Kalevi Central Stadium (Staadioni 3): buses nr 17, 17A, 23 (from Vabaduse väljak), stop Püssirohu or Hotell Olümpia. 
  • Song Celebration, Tallinn Song Festival Grounds (Narva mnt 95): buses nr 5 (from Vabaduse väljak), 1A, 8, 34A (from Viru keskus), stop Lauluväljak, or buses nr 35, 29, 44, 51 (from Viru keskus), stop Oru.   
NB! During the parade on July 6, from approximately 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., most of the bus lines will be rerouted or shortened (see for details). You can still get to the Song Festival Grounds with public transport but it might take you longer than expected.   

Kalevi Stadium is located at a walking distance from the city centre (around 2 km / 1,2 miles from the Town Hall Square). It takes a little bit more effort, but you can also walk to the Song Festival Grounds (5 km / 3,1 miles): either side by side with the festive procession on Saturday or, if you appreciate greenery, join the masses going to the event through the Kadriorg Park.

Whatever you decide, make sure to start early: both the Song and Dance Festival are hugely popular so getting to them, going through the security checks, and finding a comfortable place to sit, can take extra time.

What should I take to the Celebration? 

  • For the Song Festival Grounds, remember to take a picnic blanket or something similar for sitting – there are seats, but they fill up quickly. Plus, if you are going with friends or family, it's nice to have a little picnic on the green grass while listening to the concerts. The Dance Celebration, on the other hand, has allocated seating, so if you have a ticket, no need to worry about finding a place to sit.  
  • Food and non-alcoholic beverages are sold on the spot. You can also take snacks and drinks with you. Just do not put them in glass packages – glass bottles etc. are forbidden to minimise the risk of people stepping on sharp shards. 
  • If the weather forecast predicts rain, pack a raincoat – umbrellas are not allowed at the events because they reduce visibility. With fine weather, bring sunscreen and a hat – the performance areas are outdoors with limited to no shade.     
  • Wear comfortable clothes and shoes – the areas of both the Dance and the Song Celebration are large, uphill, and the distances between the sitting area, food area, and the toilets are not to be underestimated.  
Extra tip: the atmosphere at the Song and Dance Celebration is both spiritual and easy-going. During the concerts and performances, you can walk around, talk (quietly), sing along, have a little picnic, or buy snacks and drinks from the food area – just generally have a good time. However, do not be surprised when you see some people feeling a little bit emotional about certain songs – many of them carry specific symbolic meaning for us, mainly related to our history, our cultural identity, and the precious value of freedom. 

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