M/S Estonia in memoriam

The Radio Choir and conductor Tõnu Kaljuste remember and honour the victims of the tragic accident

August 28

Aired 6:45 pm

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  • Talk

    Maarja Kruusmaa (EE) in conversation with Joonas Hellerma (EE)

  • M/S Estonia in memoriam

    M/S Estonia in memoriam

Wednesday August 28

In September 1994, one of the biggest maritime disasters of our time took place. Ferry and passenger vessel M/S Estonia sunk on its way between Tallinn and Stockholm, and 852 people lost their lives. Almost exactly 25 years later, the Radio Choir and conductor Tõnu Kaljuste remember and honour the victims of the tragic accident in a numinous concert. The initial conversation of the festival evening will be live-streamed from the Arvo Pärt Centre in Tallinn where Estonian Maarja Kruusmaa, professor of biorobotics, talks to the popular program leader Joonas Hellerma about the sea and the music.

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  • 16:45

    Foyer Concert

    Upper Foyer, Berwaldhallen

    Chamber music with students from Lilla Akademin

  • 17:00


    Upper Foyer, Berwaldhallen

    Being nominated for the Raoul Wallenberg Prize means that you have made a personal sacrifice to stand up for human rights. The prize goes to a person in Sweden who works in the spirit of Raoul Wallenberg, primarily through knowledge-enhancing efforts for children and young people about xenophobia, intolerance and the equal value of all people. In this talk you will meet the 2019 prize winner presented by the chairman of Raoul Wallenberg Academy’s, Olle Wästberg. The talk will be in Swedish.

  • 17:30

    Pre Concert talk

    Lower Foyer, Berwaldhallen

    With Boel Adler

  • 18:00

    TALK - Maarja Kruusmaa (EE) and Joonas Hellerma (EE)


    Arvo Pärt Centre in Laulasmaa (outside Tallinn) will host a discussion between professor and member of the Estonian Academy of Sciences, biorobotics expert Maarja Kruusma, and the cultural journalist and program host from Estonian Television, Joonas Hellerma. Due to late change of speaker we have no deatailed information about the topics of the conversation yet.


    • Joonas Hellerma is a moderator and editor at Estonian Public Broadcasting. He currently hosts the weekly cultural talk show Plekktrumm (Tin Drum) on ETV2. Soon starting its sixth season, the show hosts one person from the cultural public each week to talk about topics currently resonating in society. Joonas Hellerma studied film and television at Tallinn University. He also has a master’s degree in philosophy from the same university. In addition to his work, his main interests are the European history of ideas in the framework of philosophy and literature, in particular the Enlightenment and its effects on later cultural processes, including religion, political ideas and contemporary statehood.

    • Prof. Maarja Kruusmaa is a professor of biorobotics in Tallinn University of Technology and a member of Estonian Academy of Science. Educated as a computer engineer, she received her doctoral degree in robotics from Chalmers University and Halmstad University in Sweden. Her research focuses on underwater technologies, in particular robotics  and sensing inspired by sea animals. She investigates how locomotion principles of fish and sea mammals can be used to build efficient and resilient underwater robots. Many novel technologies  developed in her research group are originally inspired by sensing of marine organisms and are now put in use to make robots to better navigate under water or to build underwater sensor networks for collecting and analyzing data about rivers, seas, oceans and glaciers. Prof. Kruusmaa is also a visiting professor in Norwegian Institute of Science and Technology (NTNU) Centre for Autonomous Marine Operations and Systems where she cooperates with Norwegian researchers and industry to apply novel underwater technologies in ocean science and marine industry. She is an amateur swimmer, winter swimmer and a recreational diver.

  • 19:00



    In September 1994, one of the biggest maritime disasters of our time took place. Ferry and passenger vessel M/S Estonia sunk on its way between Tallinn and Stockholm, and 852 people lost their lives. Almost exactly 25 years later, the Radio Choir and conductor Tõnu Kaljuste remember and honour the victims of the tragic accident in a numinous concert.

    Read more

    Around 9.00 a.m. on Wednesday the 28th of September, 1994, the last survivors were saved from M/S Estonia, which had sunk in the middle of the night. Out of 989 passengers, only 137 survived. More than half were Swedish, almost 300 were Estonian, and there were Latvians, Finns, and people of nationalities from across the world. Three years later, Jaakko Mäntyjärvi had completed his choral piece Canticum Calamitatis Maritimae, “a meditation” as he describes the piece himself, but as such, very dramatic.

    Three texts form the foundation of the piece: the Catholic funeral mass, the Book of Psalm’s hymn 107, and a news broadcast about the accident from Nuntii Latini, a programme that broadcasts world news in classical Latin on Finnish national radio. A soloist from the choir intones the news text against a thundering drone, a wordless melody that is reminiscent of an old sailor’s song, and with the requiem lyrics as the dirge: “May eternal light shine on them, Lord.” Fiery whispers mimic the murmur of the stormy sea, and of the communication radio of M/S Estonia that, 29 minutes past midnight, sent its final message. “Have mercy, Lord,” laments the choir.

    The lyrics from the Book of Hymns take over with a restlessly billowing motif that follows most of the piece: “Others went on ships across the sea, and traded on the vast waters.” Sharp dissonances depict metal being torn and snapped, like the ship’s bow visor when it became an open, bleeding wound to the merciless sea. A rhythmical middle section like a Morse code SOS call: “They were thrown against the sky and the depths, courage failed them in danger.” In the end, everyone cries out their despair to God, who calms the sea again. But for the passengers of M/S Estonia, no safe port awaited, only eternal rest: “Requiem Aeternam.”

    One of the pieces that Mäntyjärvi was inspired by was Sergei Rachmaninoff’s All-night Vigil. It’s a setting to music of texts from the eastern Orthodox and Catholic churches’ night-time mass celebrated ahead of big festivals. Composers like Tchaikovsky and Rautavaara have written similar compositions, but Rachmaninoff’s is the best known, and many consider it among his best works. It was also Rachmaninoff’s own favourite, alongside choral symphony The Bells, and at his funeral, the fifth movement was performed: “Lord, now you let your servant go home in peace, as you have promised.” Of the 15 movements, the sixth, Bogoroditse Devo or Ave Maria, has also – not least in Sweden – become a beloved concert piece. The whole piece breathes a warm and fervent spirituality, trust and hope for all those who yearn and miss.

    Text: David Saulesco


    • The Swedish Radio Choir is like a leading mountaineer in the world of music. The choir’s former chief conductor Peter Dijkstra has described the ensemble as “the group that leaves base camp first and stakes out the course for others to follow.” Three hundred years of Swedish a cappella tradition, combined with an ambitious and culturally diverse repertoire with some of the world’s finest conductors, has established the Swedish Radio Choir as one of the foremost ensembles of its kind. The 32 professional singers are as equally at home in completely new music by today’s most exciting composers as they are in classic favourites from the rich international treasure trove. Through the Swedish Radio’s broadcasts and website the choir not only reaches concert audiences but also radio listeners everywhere.

    • The Estonian conductor Tõnu Kaljuste is familiar to Swedish audiences after his time as the Swedish Radio Choir’s Chief Conductor from 1994–2000. This versatile musician has been a driving force in awakening interest in the Nordic region to music from the Baltic countries. He founded the Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir and then, ten years later, the Tallinn Chamber Orchestra, both of which have become very successful and perform at the world’s major concert venues and festivals. He is known for his interpretations of the works of Krzysztof Penderecki, Alfred Schnittke, Arvo Pärt and Veljo Tormis, and has won prestigious awards for his many recordings. Among his latest collaborations are the Norrlandsoperan Symphony Orchestra, the Wrocław Philharmonic and the choir at Orquestra Gulbenkian in Lisbon.

    • Chief conductor of the Jeune Choeur de Paris, he started a collaboration with the SWR Vokalensemble Stuttgart in 2013 (including a recording of Ravel’s Daphnis et Chloé), and also works regularly with the Chœur de Radio-France and the Choeur Accentus since 2014, for tours, radio performances, recordings, preparations and A Cappella concerts. He collaborates with many personalities, such as Sir Simon Rattle, Gustavo Dudamel, Daniele Gatti, Louis Langrée, Stéphane Denève, Daniel Harding, Laurence Equilbey, L. G. Alarcon… He has also conducted the WDR Rundfunkchor in 2016. In July 2016, he has prepared both the SWR Vokalensemble Stuttgart and the NDR Chor for Berlioz’s Romeo et Juliette. In 2017, he has participate to the opening of the Seine Musical conducting the choir accentus and in 2018, he starts a collaboration with the Croatian Radio Choir. Korovitch works for many festivals: the Mozartwoche in Salzburg, Recontres Musicales d’Evian, the Festival de Radio-France in Montpellier or the festival Mozart in New York.