Forestalia men’s choir (full title: Estonian Forest Worker’s Male Choir Forestalia) was founded in 1972 in the Soviet times by Estonian Minister of Forest Economics Heino Teder. Singers’ background is mostly related to forest and they are from over the country – forest wardens or men, who are interested of forest keeping. Our chief conductor is maestro Alo Ritsing, who is one of the founders of the choir. Over the period of choir existence, there have been several other young and talented conductors working with us. Currently Alo’s daughter Made Ritsing is helping his father.
As our members live in various places all over Estonia, we will gather for rehearsals once over three weeks to sing around 5 hours in a row. Luckily we have a nice collaboration with the local culture house in Tartu – Tiigi Seltsimaja – that will provide rooms for us. On each summer we get together in a singing camp that will take place in some beautiful Estonian location. After camp we will give a special performance to the local community. Singing camp means long practise sessions (6-7 hours in a day), but also possibilities to enjoy each others company and sightsee local surroundings. We have a nice tradition to plant an oak tree at the end of the singing camp and so far we have planted 44 of them. So we joke a bit that in Estonia there is an ever-expanding oak forest called “Oak Forest of Forestalia”. We wear green uniforms when performing and on special occasions also green hats.
Forestalia has and is participating in several forest-related events and in different song festivals taking place in Estonia. We have started a special singing project “Forest-men Singing on the Borders of Estonia” that covered all counties surrounded by borders. Today we have a new project called “Singing of Forestalia in Countrysides of Estonia”. With that we hope to cover all small places in Estonian map, hopefully. We have also travelled to various countries in Northern and Central Europe, several regions of Russia and more. Currently we have very close relations with colleagues from Latvian Male Choir SILVICOLA (Latvia) and ESMILA – Espoon Mieslaulajat (Finland) so we visit each other often and give joint concerts to local audience.
Forestalia has also participated in several singing competitions organised by Estonian Male Singing Association and always won one of the top three places in B-category level. Estonian Choir Association awarded us the title “Choir of the Year” in 2007.
Today we have 42 singers in our choir, although around 30 years ago there were almost 90 of us on the stage. Our repertoire is wide – we sing Estonian choir classics, several song festival pieces and also folk songs from foreign countries. Our chief conductor Alo Ritsing is a composer and therefore we have the priviledge to present his classic and fresh works to the world. Pieces that Forestalia sings talk about forest, nature, our fatherland, and eternal human values.