Music and Dance

Hal Kerbes and his Shadow Productions group on the stage at Linda Hall near Stettler, Alberta during Jaanipäev in 2005. Music and dance go hand in hand when discussing Estonian culture in Alberta's rural communities. For Estonian settlers, without one, the other almost ceased to exist. Community halls, whether they were located in Gilby, Stettler, or any other Estonian settlement, were often filled with the joyous sounds of accordion, banjo, guitar and, of course, pleasant voices.

Typically, family nights were held once a month and were known for their lively musical renditions. The "Circle Song" was a popular activity whereby everyone joined hands in a circle, encouraging a pair of dancers in the center while everyone sang a familiar folk song. During the chorus, the tempo increased and the dancers in the middle found a new partner. The new couple would twist and twirl its way across the floor until everyone in the hall was standing, singing, and dancing, or at least one of the three. Traditionally, dances began and ended with a waltz. Other dances included of the fox trot, two-step, four-step, and the French minuet.

Square dances were another popular form of dance. In Stettler, Edward Tipman and Johannes Kerbes shared a passion for organizing large, lively square dances. There were numerous talented violinists including Johannes Kerbes, Martin Neithal, Mike Tipman, John Raho, and Dick Hennel. This impressive list of talented musicians learned to play their instruments at a relatively young age. Johannes' children, Archie and Helen, accompanied their father in his musical endeavours: both played the piano. August Kerbes, also of Stettler, sang many folk songs, entertaining those in attendance. Some of the primary themes incorporated within his work included establishing a stable home in the West, working hard in the fields, and finding time to relax.

Generations of the Raabis family are noted for musical talent played at the Jaanipäev in Medicine Valley area of Alberta in 2007. Long before the days of television, computers, and even radios, Estonians in Alberta entertained each other through music and dance. Talented musicians provided the rhythm for everyone to participate-young and old alike. No doubt, lively weekend gatherings were a welcome retreat from a strenuous week of farming. Moreover, the establishment of large halls such as Linda Hall, Estonian Hall, and Gilby Hall provided ideal settings for social functions. More recently, the Garry Raabis Band has entertained crowds at various functions.

Alberta's Estonian Heritage