Welcome to the Baltics & St. Petersburg
Come discover the history and natural beauty of the Baltic countries of Latvia and Estonia, the grandeur of St. Petersburg, Russia, and the eclectic charm of Helsinki, Finland. Your stay will take you through a stunning landscape of medieval cities and breathtaking scenery. For generations, music and song have played a significant role in the lives of the people who inhabit this landscape. Through song lyrics and music festivals, young and old alike unite here to celebrate their heritage and culture. Begin in Latvia, a country that has made its presence clear in the musical world. Latvian composers Joseph Wihtol and Alfreds Kalnins and conductor Mariss Jansons have all played an important role in 20th century classical music. Latvia’s capital, Riga, is considered to be the most vibrant city in the Baltic region. Continue on to Estonia, the smallest of the Baltic countries. Famous for its stunning seaside villages, verdant forests and marshlands, ancient medieval ruins, and song festival traditions, Estonia is a place of cultural and natural gems. Explore St. Petersburg, Russia’s cultural capital, brimming with monuments of architecture, art, and history. Conclude your tour in Helsinki, Finland’s capital, a quirky Scandinavian city where the cutting edge and the historic intertwine. Enjoy a concert tour of Latvia, Estonia, Russia, and Finland, and let yourself be immersed in all that Riga, Tallinn, St. Petersburg, and Helsinki have to offer as you share your music with local people.
Depart North America for Riga, Latvia.
Welcome to Riga! Enjoy an introduction to Latvia’s vibrant capital with a guided tour of Riga including Riga Cathedral, one of the most recognizable landmarks in Latvia, and St. Peter’s Church, whose Gothic steeple is an iconic element of the city’s skyline. Conclude your tour in Old Town Riga, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the city’s historical and geographic center. Check in to your hotel and take time to relax and refresh. Rehearsal can be arranged this afternoon. Tonight, a welcome dinner of local specialties is served as your tour manager previews the days ahead.
This morning, visit the Latvian Ethnographic Open-Air Museum, located in a pine forest on the shores of Jugla Lake. Over one hundred buildings from Latvia’s historical districts have been relocated, reconstructed, and furnished here. Walk through farmsteads of Latvian farmers, craftsmen, and fishermen as you get a glimpse into Latvia’s history. This afternoon, a boat tour of Riga can be arranged. Admire the landscape of the city from the River Daugava. Later, perform an evening concert at a stunning local venue such as St. John’s Church, the oldest church in Riga.
Check out of your hotel and travel through the town of Sigulda, dubbed the “Switzerland of Latvia” due to its unspoiled natural beauty. Visit Turaida Castle, a red brick castle that has been painstakingly restored to its medieval appearance. Continue on to Tallinn, Estonia, and check in to your hotel. Tonight, perform a concert at Hopner House, a cultural venue centrally located in Tallinn’s Old Town. Enjoy a dinner of traditional Estonian cuisine.
This morning, check out of your hotel and embark on a guided tour of Tallinn including Kadriorg Palace, the country’s grandest example of palace and park design. Also see the Tallinn Song Festival Grounds, where, in 1988, Estonians united against Soviet rule to sing patriotic hymns in what became known as the Singing Revolution. This evening, board the Princess Anastasia, your overnight ferry to St. Petersburg, Russia. Dinner is served aboard the ferry.
Arrive this morning in St. Petersburg, Russia’s cultural capital. Get an introduction to the city with a guided tour of St. Petersburg including the famous Church of Our Savior on the Spilled Blood, with its onion domes and elaborate facade, and Nevsky Prospect, the city’s main thoroughfare. Later, visit the Hermitage Art Museum, one of the oldest and largest museums in the world. Check in to your hotel and prepare for tonight’s performance. Join a local ensemble for an evening friendship concert followed by time to mingle and exchange. The Smolny Cathedral, a Baroque cathedral painted a brilliant shade of sky blue, is a possible concert venue.
Spend the day on a guided excursion to Peterhof Palace and Gardens, often referred to as the “Russian Versailles.” This majestic estate was built in 1703 by Russian monarch Peter the Great and expanded by his successors in the generations that followed. This evening, board the Princess Maria, your overnight ferry to Helsinki, Finland. A festive farewell dinner is served to your ensemble in the ferry dining room.
Arrive this morning in Helsinki, Finland’s quirky capital. Enjoy a guided tour of Helsinki featuring Senate Square, a plaza lined with a neoclassical architecture such as the distinctive Helsinki Cathedral, and the Sibelius Monument, dedicated to Finnish composer Jean Sibelius. Depart for the Helsinki Airport and your return flight to North America.
St. John's Church
St. John's Church is a Lutheran church located in Riga, Latvia. Dedicated to St. John the Baptist, St. John's is the oldest house of worship in Riga. It was built on the site of a 13th century Dominican monastery chapel; after undergoing several reconstructions, the edifice acquired its present appearance around 1500. St. John's is an active place of worship with over one thousand registered members. It hosts worship services open to the public every Sunday morning and Wednesday evening, and organ and vocal concerts Saturday evenings in the summer. The church's large size and excellent acoustics make it a popular concert venue for both local and visiting ensembles.
Hopner House is a cultural center located in Tallinn, Estonia. Situated in Old Town Tallinn in Town Hall Square, the historic Hopner House was named after its former owner, merchant Johan Hopner. Constructed in the Gothic style in the 14th and 15th centuries, it is one of the best preserved examples of medieval residential buildings in Tallinn. Hopner House draws its audiences from a supportive community of local artists and patrons. With the help of its wide network of local arts supporters, it hosts lectures, films, seasonal concert series, and many visiting performers. Its Old Town location makes it the ideal site for a seamless Tallinn concert.
Tallinn Song Festival Grounds
The Tallinn Song Festival Grounds are the grounds on which Estonia’s famous Song Festival is held every five years. The highly competitive Song Festival, a massive open-air concert in which nearly 25,000 singers participate, has played a significant role in Estonia’s cultural and economic awakening. Estonia is known as “the singing nation,” and the Song Festival has united Estonians in their struggle for national independence. The festival's tradition inspired the Singing Revolution of 1988, during which hundreds of thousands of people gathered at the Song Festival Grounds to demand independence through song. The grounds feature an outdoor concert arena as well as a number of indoor halls; they are the site of many large concerts and events each year.
Friendship Concerts in Russia
Our friendship concerts are a featured experience on our tours and are at the heart of our mission to foster cultural connections through music. We benefit from a vast international network in the choral world built over our thirty years' experience of helping choirs share their music both in the United States and abroad. Your choir will share a venue and a concert program with a host choir from the region. Your singers will have the chance to hear their host choir's repertoire (often showcasing local musical styles) and to share your own repertoire in turn. Fellowship time usually follows the friendship concert, giving both choirs the chance to mingle and enjoy the camaraderie of creating cross-cultural connections through a shared love of music.