Refracted Reality

Episode 4: We Sang Ourselves Free

November 21 2016


Music has power, including the power to free. On this episode we explore that power as we look at a revolution, and hear from musicians as they consider the power of music.


Siim Sööt

Siim was born in Germany, lived in Estonia during the German occupation (1942 – 1944) and immigrated to the US in 1950. He moved to Chicago in 1970 when he joined the UIC faculty to teach and develop courses in computer mapping. He was the Head, Department of Geography; Executive Director, Urban Transportation Center and President, Illinois Universities Transportation Research Consortium. He has taught courses at the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and Chalmers Technical University (Göteborg, Sweden) and has guest lectured in Korea, Taiwan, China, Germany and Estonia. He has authored nearly one hundred articles and reports. He has been the principal or co-principal investigator on over fifty funded research studies. He is Vice President of the Estonian House of Chicago, on the board of the U.S. Baltic Foundation and is Honorary Vice Consul of the Republic of Estonia.

Gilda Karu

Gilda Karu is a nationally elected member of the Estonian American National Council. Her parents were refugees who escaped in the 1940’s during the Communist takeover of Estonia. Though born in the United States, Gilda’s first language was Estonian, and she speaks, reads, and writes this Finno-Ugric language fluently. Gilda worked to promote Estonia’s independence which was regained in 1991 with the demise of the Soviet Union. Professionally, Gilda is the deacon pastor of the First Estonian Evangelical Lutheran Church of Chicago, an attorney, and a retired Federal Civil Servant. She worked almost 35 years for the United States Department of Agriculture’s Food and Nutrition Service and served as the Civil Rights Director for the Midwest Region before retiring. Gilda holds degrees from Vassar College and IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law. Gilda lives in Arlington Heights, Illinois with her husband Fred Foy. She is a native of the Jersey Shore and gets back there often to visit family and friends. She still has family in Estonia and has visited several times.

Sara Groves

Sara Groves is a mom, wife, singer/ songwriter and recording artist with a passion for justice and a heart of mercy. She has joined forces with International Justice Mission to advocate for victims of human trafficking for the past 8 years. Sara has been nominated for 7 Dove Awards and has produced a string of successful albums including her latest, Floodplain, which was inspired by the Mississippi River in her hometown, and speaks of God's provision. Sara, her husband Troy, and their 3 children (Kirby, Toby & Ruby) reside in St. Paul where they cultivate an artist support community out of a 100 year old church called Art House North.

Dave Radford

The Gray Havens centers around husband/wife Dave and Licia Radford. Since their beginning in 2013, their projects have been hailed as “an imaginative treatment of faith…[having] a visionary quality that’s both playful and enraptured.” They have a knack for creating a listening experience similar to paging through your favorite book, with richly textured compositions and multi-layered lyrics. Releasing their debut EP on Noisetrade in 2013, and their first full-length album, Fire and Stone, in 2015, the duo has gained a steady following of listeners nationwide. Their newest release, Ghost of a King, debuted at #3 on the iTunes singer-songwriter charts, rewarding listeners with immersive soundscapes and lyrical imagination. From poetic – almost Shakespearean – imagery to grand epics fit for a darkened concert halls, to pop music infused with loops and infectious beats, the album possess a remarkable range. In the context of that refreshing variety, the album stays cohesive thanks to its exploration of the human condition of longing. Today, The Gray Havens are making the most well-crafted music of their career. Their “Ghost of a King Tour” is a mixture of acoustic duo and full band performances that include string players from colleges across the country.

Steven Pierson

A native of Illinois, Steven J. Pierson, graduated with a Bachelor’s and Master’s in Music Education from the University of Illinois. While at U of I, Decca Recording Company engaged Pierson on a part time basis. This allowed him to participate in several award winning recordings of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra with conductor Sir Georg Solti, pianist Vladimir Ashkenazy and mezzo soprano Marilyn Horne. Possessing academic level fluency in Swedish, he later served for 15 years as an instructor, dean of students and academic dean of a post-secondary school of theology in west central Sweden. During this time, Pierson became acquainted with the music of Eastern Europe, particularly the Baltic States. With the relaxed policies of the latter Soviet Union, students from Latvia and Estonia were accepted to the school, further deepening Pierson’s interest. During his Ph.D. studies in international education, Pierson’s supervising professor, Dr. Ted Ward, worked together with him on plans to research Estonian choir music and its relationship to their cultural identity, history and general education. Articles based on this research have been published by Pierson in Estonian, Finnish, Swedish and English. Pierson currently teaches part time at the College of Dupage and is a member of French horn section of the DuPage Symphony Orchestra. His horn teachers included Ethel Merker of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Bernhard Scully of the Canadian Brass. In addition, he has presented pre-concert lectures for The New Philharmonic Orchestra, resident at the College of DuPage.