Loïc Pierre of Mikrokosmos Chamber Choir Presents The Saga of the People Without Armor

09 May 2024

Loic Pierre

Loïc Pierre, the artistic director of Mikrokosmos Chamber Choir from France, discusses his project centered around the work of Veljo Tormis. Having personally met Veljo Tormis exactly 35 years ago, Pierre emphasizes his music’s universal appeal and its influence on his artistic journey. Loïc Pierre views Tormis as a spiritual father figure in the realm of music.

Loïc Pierre's project, titled The Saga of the People Without Armor, comprises around twenty pieces by Tormis, alongside selections from Arvo Pärt and Cyrillus Kreek, commemorating their birthdays in 2025. This project reflects Mikrokosmos's commitment to exploring 20th and 21st-century music, collaborating with contemporary composers while honoring the legacy of influential figures like Veljo Tormis.

“In this project, The Saga, we're essentially creating a theatrical production that can be adapted to various settings, from churches to factories, while ideally having access to a theater from the outset, which aligns with Mikrokosmos's ethos of choral theater.
Three key elements are at play here. Firstly, we delve into the melodic, rhythmic, and harmonic intricacies of Veljo Tormis's work, encapsulating Estonia's musical essence. Secondly, at Tormis's request, I undertook the daunting task of translating and adapting his work into French. Despite my initial reluctance, fueled by Tormis's persistent efforts, I eventually embarked on this endeavor after his passing in 2017. Working alongside a talented French poet and musician, we aimed not just to translate, but to capture the essence of Tormis's music in French, striving to maintain the linguistic nuances and tonal qualities akin to Estonian. It was a formidable challenge, considering the inherent complexities of translation and the risk of betraying the original text. However, we endeavored to evoke similar emotional resonance and linguistic beauty in French, while respecting the inherent musicality of both languages.”

Loïc Pierre continues: “However, when dealing with themes such as love, which often require delicate and nuanced expressions, French had to find its own essence – one that French poetry excels at highlighting music, harmony, and lyrical beauty.
This painstaking process of crafting our adaptation took years of meticulous work. Ultimately, we achieved a result that satisfied both myself and my librettist, Pierre Gief. We conducted numerous tests with Mikrokosmos, all of which proved satisfactory.
So, in essence, we have two key parameters. Firstly, the exploration of Tormis's work, delving into the cultural landscape of Estonia and the broader history of the Baltic region. Secondly, we infused French color and poetry into the adaptation.

Now, onto the visual aspect, which may surprise or even disconcert some listeners. I envisioned that Estonian culture, with its strong emphasis on performance arts such as theater, dance, and singing, shares similarities with Kabuki theater. In Kabuki, the actor, singer, and dancer merge into a single entity – a concept mirrored in Estonian culture, where performance is a holistic art form combining these disciplines.”

As someone deeply enamored with Théâtre No, Kabuki theater, and Bunraku theater, I saw a remarkable opportunity for a fruitful association. I envisioned revisiting Estonian culture through the lens of Kabuki theater, blending and reinterpreting its essence.
The intention is not to present a purist Kabuki performance, but rather to highlight the universality between these cultures. We aim to showcase the vibrant colors and physical expressions of Kabuki, along with its profound connection to the earth, alongside the humanism found in Veljo Tormis's compositions and French poetry. This synthesis of three distinct universes forms the essence of our work.

Ultimately, our goal is to present this work in Estonia, specifically in Tallinn and Tartu, to amplify its message of universality and profound humanism. This project has been a labor of love since Tormis's first visit to France in 2002, with subsequent visits in 2004, 2009, and 2010. I hope to share and experience the fruits of this extensive and enriching endeavor in Tallinn, Estonia.”

The interview was conducted in Tartu on May 2, 2024, by Iti Teder (Veljo Tormis Virtual Centre).