Named for Ester Mägi, “First Lady of Estonian music,” the Mägi Ensemble is a women’s chamber choir that performs compositions from the Baltics. Led by Heather MacLaughlin Garbes, the ensemble’s focus on Baltic music stems from the strong relationship between the choral and the Baltic studies departments at the University of Washington and an interest in the power of music to unite people and preserve cultural heritage.
In recent years, the ensemble has released two CD’s, Baltic Sounds and Musica Baltica, participated in the Latvian and Lithuanian National Song Festival, Latvian Sacred Song Concert, performed at Seattle Mariners’ games and Baltic and Scandinavian community celebrations. The Mägi Ensemble is an Affiliated Artist and a Resident Ensemble of Thomsen Chapel at St. Mark’s Cathedral.
It is important to us that we be ambassadors for the choral music that galvanized the people of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania as they earned their independence. In order to continue our mission, we perform throughout the nation and internationally to expand the growth of Baltic music.
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.
Board of Directors
Dr. Heather MacLaughlin Garbes, Founder and Artistic Director Julie Parsons– Associate Conductor Ailisa Newhall- President Monica Armstrong- Treasurer Chelsea Walker- Secretary 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