Quick Statistics: The Estonian Song Celebration 2019

What brings thousands of Estonians together in one place? And why are they singing? Foreigners often wonder about the mystical tradition of song celebrations, about how it is possible that every 10th Estonian will meet at festival grounds to sing under a giant arch every 4–5 years. Estonia has a long-standing tradition of music, dance and folklore. This year we are celebrating the 150-year anniversary of the first song celebration. To commemorate this great occasion, we wanted to look back at this event from a statistical point of view.

Crowds at the 2017 Song Festival in Tallinn. Source: Jaanus Ree

To sing as one, to breathe as one, to move as one – it’s a powerful feeling. But it would be nothing without the 30,000 singers and dancers and the 70,000 spectators who take part in this event. The first Estonian song celebration was held in Tartu in 1869. It brought together 51 collectives with 878 singers and musicians, and 15,000 spectators from all over the country. The last song celebration, held in 2014, brought together a whopping 1,046 collectives with over 33,000 singers, and 67,000 spectators!

Number of participants in Estonian Song Celebrations, 1869-2019
Singing connects Estonians from every corner of the land. It unites not just locals, but oftentimes Estonian communities from around the world come to the song celebrations, either to sing with their collectives or to be a part of the thousands of spectators. In 2009, we analysed the mobility flows that occurred during the Song Celebration to see where celebration-goers originated from. The results were mesmerising. Today, the moving visualisations of different events can be seen at the Estonian National Museum in Tartu

People's movements to Song Celebration in 2014 based on mobile data
What started as a gathering of a few thousand enthusiastic church singers in the 19th century has grown into one of the most important events in Estonia’s history. In the 20th century, folk dancing became a regular part of the celebrations as well. This year, during the 150th anniversary of the Song and Dance Celebration, organisers are expecting ca 35,000 singers and 10,000 dancers. There are many on the Positium team who will be dancing or singing at this year’s Song and Dance Celebration in Tallinn
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