Tallinn, Estonia


After hearing Tormis’s music for choir by chance during a Winston Churchill Travelling Fellowship to Finland and Estonia in 1997, Mark became fascinated with the power of this composer’s extraordinary, and deceptively simple, choral music, much of it based on regilaul, the ancient runic folk song of Estonia.

Around these folk songs, Tormis orchestrates ever-changing choral textures. Mark embarked on a PhD study on Tormis’s music, relating it to his own work as a composer.

He has since made many research visits to Estonia, often in the depths of snow-bound winters, to meet composers, musicologists, choir leaders and other musicians connected with Tormis’s work. Mark completed his PhD in 2013 with Rhian Samuel at City University, London


Veljo Tormis

Mark has presented a number of academic papers on Tormis’s work, including the Baltic Musics and Musicologies’ International Conference at Canterbury Christ Church University

In January 2015 he presented the paper, ‘Veljo Tormis: Ancient Song Re-employed’ at the International Conference, ‘Nationalism in Music in the Totalitarian State’ at the Institute of Musicology, Budapest, and in April 2016, the paper 'Veljo Tormis: a legacy' for the Estonian Musicological Society at the Institute of Music, Tartu University, Estonia

  • all music © Mark Lawrence
  • all photos © Mark Lawrence unless otherwise credited
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‘The music is lovely, intriguing, magical, theatrical . .’

Tony Kushner, playwright, The Illusion at Bristol Old Vic Studio

Mark Lawrence Composer

photography by Graham Burke and Paul Blakemore

‘Diverse sources .. dovetailed beautifully to create a structure that is clear but unforced . .’

Edward Wickham, conductor and critic, ‘Song for Celia,’ for choir and organ.

Home by Christmas showed that music can indeed speak for the whole community to say something significant about life, love, hope, separation, danger, death and even politics . .’

Raymond Warren, Emeritus Professor of Music, University of Bristol

‘I don’t think I’ve been quite so moved by an event in years. I absolutely loved Home by Christmas it was so powerful on so many levels . .’

Catherine Freda, Head of Education, St George’s Bristol