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Songs to beat recessionary blues

MORE than 20,000 choir singers gathered yesterday in Tallinn to fill the air with positive vibes as Estonians took their minds off a crippling recession in a mass celebration of folk songs.

Estonia is hoping its Song and Dance Celebration - a four-day event held every five years - will unite the nation of 1.3 million people, which has been severely battered by the economic downturn.

Estonia's economy is expected to shrink about 15 percent this year - neighboring Latvia is the only European Union country with a worse outlook.

"When you sing, you forget your everyday problems," said 21-year-old Saale Kreen, one of the choir singers who performed at the festival's first choir concert on Saturday.

The high point was to be yesterday on the festival's final day, when a chorus of 24,000 voices will sing in unison at an outdoor stage in the capital Tallinn.

"The emotion, the feeling when over 20,000 people start to sing, is just awesome," said Kreen, a member of the girls choir of Estonia's national broadcaster.

Saturday's repertoire consisted of mostly contemporary Estonian folk songs but also included opera tunes from Verdi and Wagner.

In earlier years more modern pop tunes also have taken stage. Organizers are not ruling out an impromptu tribute to Michael Jackson, who performed at the stage in 1997 to 60,000 fans.

"Choirs are often quite spontaneous, so you never know, it's quite possible," Festival Director Aet Maatee said.

Some 100,000 spectators are expected to attend the choir performances.


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