Just a 90-minute ride from Helsinki, across the Bay of Finland by “fast boat” lies the medieval city of Tallinn, capital of the Republic of Estonia. On Tuesday morning, the Georgia Boy Choir caught this ride in order to enjoy the day there and to give a concert in the historic Püha Vaimu Kirku (Church of the Holy Ghost). A little bit of rain did nothing to quell the enthusiasm of the boys as they explored the city’s many shops in search of the perfect souvenir to take home. Throughout the town there were placards with their picture on it advertising their concert that afternoon.
As the 5:00 concert approached, the beautiful sanctuary began to fill with people eager to hear the boys and young men from Georgia. When the Choir started to sing, the audience seemed stunned that such immense beauty could emanate from those so young.
It was particularly meaningful to hear the Choir sing “O Weisheit” by the great Estonian composer Arvo Pärt there in his country’s capital city. The ride back to Helsinki was adventurous as the fast boat pitched back and forth on the Bay’s huge swells, making it almost like an amusement park ride.
The morning dawned sunny and gorgeous and cool in Helsinki on the Choir’s final day of its tour. The boys made their way to the harbor where they caught a water taxi to a nearby island for some rest, relaxation, and recreation. This island, filled with buildings that were built literally into the hills afforded a remarkable view of Helsinki across the bay.
The boys found an empty soccer field and had a great time playing together. Some rested and sunned themselves on the rocks while others found a nook where they could catch up on some reading. It was a wonderful time.
Before heading to the Helsinki Cathedral to rehearse for their final concert, the choristers tried to spend as much of their remaining money as they could at the souvenir tents at the open market by the harbor. At the rehearsal, the singers decided to play a joke on Mr. White. They were practicing their processional entrance, and at the moment when they were to begin singing, instead they all fell lifeless in the aisle as though they had been struck down by some mysterious power. Even the tourists visiting the Cathedral enjoyed a good laugh.
The rehearsal over, the Choir walked the quarter mile or so to the lovely headquarters of Cantores Minores, the famous Boy Choir from Helsinki, who were not only hosting the Georgians in their homes, but now also provided a wonderful lasagna meal for them before the culminating concert of the tour.
Recognizing that it was not only the tour’s final concert and the last performance of what has been a remarkable third season for the Georgia Boy Choir, but it was also the last time this particular group of boys and young men would ever get to sing together. When next season begins there will not only be new members, but some will have moved away, and inevitably the group’s membership will have changed. So the boys agreed to try to make this their best performance ever.
It was especially moving to hear them sing Z. Randall Stroope’s “Omnia Sol,” a beautiful song about maintaining friendships in our hearts even after parting. The audience that had assembled could sense the devotion with which the Choir was singing and eagerly showed their appreciation.
So, finally, after 16 days, 6 countries, dozens of boat rides, thousands of miles, 9 concerts, countless new friends, and a myriad of indelible memories, the intrepid young singers strode into the new International terminal of Atlanta’s Hartsfield/Jackson Airport.
They were glad to be back home, and their families were extremely happy to receive them back, but they were not the same as when they had left just over a fortnight previous. They have been changed. They now see the world differently. They understand it more. They respect it more. And the world is a better place because of them – because of their spirits, their friendships, and their singing.
Until next time,
The Georgia Boy Choir Tour Team