Suure-Jaani is a small town with the population of 1100 located in the northern part of the Viljandi County. The area of the rural municipality is the second largest in Estonia – however, the population remains under 6000. The Soomaa National Park takes up the majority of the area.
In 1998, a music festival was started in Suure-Jaani. It was occasioned by the jubilees of the Kapp dynasty. Since the second half of the 19th century, all the significant undertakings in Suure-Jaani were related to the Kapp family. Joosep Kapp (12.05.1833–20.02.1894) was the head of the parish school, the founder of the brass band, the choir as well as the acting club. The society “Ilmatari” was founded in 1887 and Joosep Kapp became its honorary chairman. His son, Hans Kapp (19.06.1870–19.04.1938) was the head of the Suure-Jaani elementary school, the conductor of the choir as well as the chairman of the society “Ilmatari”. The community centre, the library and the kindergarten were built during his time. His other son, Artur (28.02.1878–14.01.1952) graduated from organ and composition classes in the St. Petersburg State Conservatory and became a composer. Hans’ son Villem (07.09.1913–24.03.1964) and Artur’s son Eugen (26.05.1908–29.10.1996) also became composers. Hüpassaare, located in the middle of bogs and in the vicinity of Suure-Jaani, was home for the composer, Mart Saar (28.09.1882–28.10.1963), who also graduated from the St. Petersburg State Conservatory and who can be considered a classic in the Estonian choir music.
The year 1998 celebrated 120 years from the birth of Artur Kapp, 90 years from the birth of Eugen Kapp and 85 years from the birth of Villem Kapp.
The first music festival only presented the music of Artur Kapp, Villem Kapp, Eugen Kapp and Mart Saar, but the following years have included the works of several Estonian composers, music classics from the whole world as well as more contemporary creative works. Although the festival offers “something for everyone”, its main focus has remained with classical and Estonian music and musicians – the festival has witnessed several premiere performances of Estonian music. Traditional concerts are complemented by concert-performances and lunch hours in the cafe Arturi juures (At Arthur’s), where interpreters and composers perform music as well as speak about their work. A competition for young singers and instrumentalists is to be held in 2007. Art and photo exhibitions also take place during the festival days.
In the first years, the traditional concert venues of the Suure-Jaani Music Festival included the Suure-Jaani Johannese (St. John’s) church, the house museum of composers from the Kapp family, the Suure-Jaani hunting house and song festival grounds. New interesting venues have been added each year: cafe Arturi Juures (At Arthur’s), the fire tower, the Orthodox Church, the Olustvere manor and bakery, the Lõhavere stronghold hill and the Hüpassaare bog island. Concerts have been held inside and outside, at noon, in the evening, at night and at dawn. The sunrise concert is held at three o’clock at night on the Hüpassaare bog island that can be reached by a boardwalk – to complete the sunrise with the sounds from Edvard Grieg’s “Morning Mood”. A spectacular experience deriving from the mutual influence of nature and humans!
The Suure-Jaani Music Festival is dedicated to the composers from the Kapp family and is traditionally held each summer before the Midsummer Night.