June 18th marked 105 years since the birth of the celebrated Canadian Estonian figure, composer, conductor, organist, and musical pedagogue, Dr Roman Toi. There are many more roles and positions that Roman Toi held over his long life; however, he has remained in the hearts of Estonians as first and foremost Canada’s father of song – the analogue to the greatly loved Gustav Ernesaks of Estonia, but in exile. Through his fruitful activities, the maestro built many bridges between the homeland and Estonian’s abroad, between souls, as the shortest path to an Estonian’s heart is music.
To celebrate Dr Toi’s 105th birthday, the Museum of Estonian’s Abroad (VEMU) organized an online festival. The website created for the event was available from June 18-20 for those interested in remembering the maestro and perhaps to learn something new about him. Various concerts and interviews from the VEMU and Estonian Television archives were available to view. The group singing event held at Tallinn’s Forest Cemetery and broadcast on Estonian Television on June 18th was also streamed on the website. Chairman of the Estonian Choral Association, Hirvo Surva, spoke at the event on behalf of choir singers and R. Toi’s friends.
Director Kalli Paakspuu kindly gave permission to view excerpts of the soon to be completed documentary film titled “Maestro Roman Toi: My Most Beautiful Songs I Dedicate to You” (Maestro Roman Toi: kaunimad laulud pühendan sul), which offered an exclusive insight into Roman Toi’s development and life work.
Website visitors were also given the opportunity to view the online version of the exhibit prepared by the Estonian Theatre and Music Museum in collaboration with VEMU for R. Toi’s 100th birthday.
The maestro’s son Dr. Ants Toi, the chairwoman for the Estonian Singers Federation in North America and conductor of the mixed choir Estonia Ingrid Silm, the conductor of the Toronto Academic Mixed Choir Ööbik Rosemarie Lindau, and the conductor of the Toronto Academic Men’s Choir Avo Kittask, shared their memories of the maestro by video. The website also gave visitors the opportunity to read the newspaper article series dedicated to R. Toi and published in Estonian Church (Eesti Kirik) by the titular provost and pastor emeritus Ivar-Jaak Salumäe.
The online event was warmly received by the admirers of R. Toi’s talent all over the world.