Kalevipoeg: The Hero of Estonia

The legend of Kalevipoeg is Estonia’s most celebrated epic folktale. Replete with otherworldly adventures and superhuman deeds, the myth recounts the journeys of the giant hero Kalevipoeg, who travels to the ends of the earth into hell and back, wielding a mighty sword to battle magical foes and save captive maidens. While creating my own adaptation and musical setting of this mythic saga, I sought to evoke the primal masculinity of the powerful Estonian hero. The recurring ostinato in the lower voices makes abundant use of perfect fifth intervals, a sonority particularly suited to expressing musical gestures of force and vigor.

This piece was composed for Revalia Male Chamber Choir of Estonia, and in honor of their residency with conductor Hirvo Surva at the University of Oregon, Fall 2009.

Ostinato: Valvab igavest Kalevipoega [Kalevipoeg watches forever]

Son of Kalev, who came to Estonia on eagle’s wings,
known by men as Kalevipoeg, he won the land to become kind
and fought with his father’s sword.
Battling sorcerers and demons he showed his mighty strength.

His name in the stories became a legend,
fearless and brave, he traveled on into the depths of Hades,
rescuing all the captive maidens who pled for his help.
Sailing to the end of the world and back,
he showed no fear of the unknown dangers.

“Heavy cares oppress the monarch, and a weighty load the ruler;
Heavier yet a hero’s burden: [a] thousand duties…”
– from The Hero of Estonia by W. F. Kirby

Kalevipoeg and his friends engage in war for many days.
Losing a friend, he’s struck with grief
and leaves his kingdom to another, to live in solitude.
After his death, he lives again to stand as guard as Porgu’s gates forever!

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