Recordings from the Estonian Folklore Archives 3

Liis Alas

Reet Sutt and Liis Alas at a recording session in Tallinn in 1937–1938. Photo by P. Parikas. ERA, Foto 779.

The old wedding traditions survived vigorously right up to the decades following the Second World War on Kihnu Island, a tiny island just 12 kilometres off the coast of the mainland in the Gulf of Riga. During the 1937 recording sessions made by the National Radio two women of Kihnu were included – Liis Alas ja Reet Sutt. Liis Alas (1850–1939) was very knowledgeable about traditions. She was also a valued consultant for folklore and dialect researchers. Liis’ husband had died young and Liis had gone to live with her brother. Later until her 70’s, when a small house was built for her in the village of Lemsi, she lived as an itinerant artisan. Liis was remembered as a quick and tireless worker. The singer had an extraordinary sense of humour, as the people of Kihnu recall her: “spry, high-spirited and alert like a live coal.” However, when she was working by herself she also loved to sing sad orphan songs and one of her favourites was the song about “Seeking the Brush”. Liis was well-known as a lead singer at weddings. An important time for singing was at the sewing bees to make items for the bridal chest, the so-called Thursday night “sitting up”. Liis’ repertoire was large and varied. Nearly 100 songs have been collected from her but only 9 were made into sound recordings. Five of these she sang with Reet Sutt.