About Mägi Ensemble

Photo Credit: Pinehurst Photography

The Mägi Ensemble is a professional SA vocal ensemble that performs and records music from the Baltic region of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania. This ensemble’s mission is to perform and record music from the Baltic region and to promote new choral works from that area, especially those by women-identifying composers. Alongside our mission, our vision is to use the power of music to connect with the community and continue to celebrate cultural heritage through the
arts. We strongly empower the values of cultural understanding, community, quality, and commitment. Our philosophy as both a niche repertoire ensemble and a treble ensemble is to show people the effect that music can have for empowerment, both is social responsibility and gender identity.

The Mägi Ensemble collaborates with members of the Baltic community, both in the Seattle region as well as nationally and internationally. We have strong relationships with sister organizations in Latvia and consult with them regularly about repertoire and performance practice. Because of the uniqueness of being an ensemble that represents all three countries in the Baltic region, the Mägi Ensemble represents not only each of those countries, but the unifying aspects of the region as a whole. One of the most significant annual performances we do is the Baltic Deportation Memorial Service, where all three Baltic communities come together to honor and remember those who were brutally taken from their families in June of 1941.

The Mägi Ensemble has also sung for visiting Ambassadors from Latvia and Lithuania as well as past Latvian president, Andris Bērziņš and past Estonian president Toomas Ilves. The Mägi Ensemble is a strong collaborator and member of the immigrant Baltic communities and is a strong safe-space and ally to members of the LGBTQ community and our membership represents members of that community.

Ester Mägi

Ester Mägi (1922-2021) spent her youth in the Toompea region of Tallinn, Estonia, where she heard the bells of the church tower daily and began playing the piano after hearing and mimicking her sister’s repertoire. She attended the Tallinn Conservatory (Estonian Academy of Music) as a piano major, but began to develop problems with her hands. It was at this time that she turned her attention to composition and graduated in 1952. She was a student of Mart Saar and spent quite a bit of time working with him on folk song collection. Mägi continued her studies at the Moscow Conservatory with Visarion Shablin.
Along with composing, Ester Mägi taught music theory at the Tallinn State Conservatory from 1954-1984 and became a professor of music theory in 1977. In 1999, she was awarded an honorary doctorate degree by the Estonian Academy of Music and Theatre.

Ester Mägi has written over 80 choral compositions of various voicings. She is inspired by traditional folk song structures but uses them as inspiration rather than taking them in whole. Although the popularity of Arvo Pärt and Veljo Tormis have brought the awareness of Baltic music to a new level in the past few years, there is an immense amount of quality literature
that the music community needs to hear, study and perform. The choral works of Estonian composer Ester Mägi represent a genre of music that combines the tradition of folk music style with the innovation and creativity of contemporary harmonies
and voicings. Ms. Mägi has drawn from the traditional Setu and folk melodies, but then has used those formulas as a springboard to compose original melodies. This combination of compositional techniques brings life, newness, and vitality to the old traditions which, in turn, allows them to continue through the generations. (Photo credit: Rene Jakobson)

Board of Directors

Dr. Heather MacLaughlin Garbes, Founder and Artistic Director
Julie Parsons– Associate Conductor and Secretary
Ailisa Newhall- President
Monica Armstrong- Treasurer
Stephanie Bull – Marketing and Social Media Director
Elizabeth Mitchell- Special Events Coordinator
Peter Garbes– Managing Director
Dr. Guntis Smidchens: Head of the Baltic Studies Program, University of Washington