On Friday, July 1, 2022, at 12 o’clock, the Estonian composer, organist, conductor, church musician, music critic, and pedagogue Lembit Avesson and his wife Virve, both born in Tallinn and lived and worked in Toronto, were laid to rest on the family grave site at Metsakalmistu.
Lembit Avesson came from a musical family. His older sister, Elsa Avesson, was a highly regarded pianist and concertmaster in Estonia and a pedagogue at the Tallinn Conservatory. The older brother, Rudolf Avesson-Avasalu, was an excellent violinist, who worked as both a soloist and orchestrator in the Vanemuise Orchestra in Tartu before the war. The youngest of the children, Lembit, started cello studies in Tallinn with August Karjus and organ studies with August Topman. We made a lot of music together as an instrumental trio of violin-cello-piano.
During the war, the brothers fled to Germany by different routes. Rudolf worked as a professional musician and Lembit continued his unfinished music studies in Tallinn in the field of cello and organ. Unfortunately, brother Rudolf’s life was tragically cut short in Germany, and his grave has been destroyed to this day.
Lembit Avesson came from Germany to Canada, where he completed his music studies. For decades, he worked as an organist in both Canadian Anglican and Estonian congregations in Toronto, as a conductor for the choir and orchestra he founded, and as a music pedagogue and music critic.
His compositions include both symphonic and chamber music, a lot of sacred vocal music for choir (in Latin and English) and orchestra, which he often performed with his own choir and orchestra, as well as choral and solo songs, cantatas and major forms in Estonian.
In addition to his sister Elsa Avesson, Lembit Avesson also had contacts with several other performers in Estonia who commissioned, performed and recorded his works. Lembit Avesson died in 2008 and her husband Virve last year, 2021.
On July 1, both urns were laid to rest at the grave site of the Avesson family in the Tallinn Forest Cemetery. The date was not chosen by chance. In addition to the birthday of Canada, the second homeland of the Avessons, July 1 was also the wedding day of Lembit and Virve Avesson in Toronto 72 years ago (1950). Flags and bouquets of flowers in the colors of Estonia and Canada are marked at the grave.
The service was conducted by Arho Tuhkru, a teacher of the Tallinn Episcopal Cathedral (he was a teacher of Toronto Peter’s parish 2001-2002) and Rev. Mart Salumäe, a teacher of Toronto Peter’s parish, Marta Kivik, organist of Toronto Peter’s parish, who brought the urns to Estonia, read the Bible verses as a representative of the heirs. Composer Märt-Matis Lill, chairman of the board of the Estonian Composers’ Union, also gave a speech. At the service, Lembit Avesson’s composition was performed by the vocal quartet (Jaanika Kuusik, Ene Salumäe, Mart Jaanson, Ott Indermitte) and the soloist Ott Indermitte.
After the service at the Forest Cemetery, a gathering was held in the dining hall of St. Brigitta Monastery in Pirita, where Lembit Avesson was remembered by several musicians who met and worked with him in Toronto. They also looked into the future and made plans for the “Lembit Avesson 100” festival in Estonia and Canada in 2025, and wished for many discoverers of Avesson’s music.
Lembit Avesson’s manuscripts are located in the Theater and Music Museum in the archive fund named after him and are also available in digital form at the Estonian Music Info Center. Avesson’s music is published by Edition 49.
Find out more about Lembit Avesson’s life and work on the Estonian Music Information Centre’s website.
Lembit Avesson was a member of the Canadian Association of Composers.