Baltic Song Festivals

Baltic Song Festivals

Summer
Massive festivals of song and dance, emphasizing folk music and national culture, in the Baltic countries of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania. These festivals came to symbolize nationhood, especially after the countries came under Soviet domination.
The first all-Estonian song festival, called the Laulupidu, was held in Tartu in 1869 with 845 performers singing to 15,000 people. Nationalist leaders, led by J. V. Jannsen, publisher of the first Estonian-language newspaper, had organized the festival to demonstrate that their culture had survived its conquerors.
In 1975 the festival drew 30,000 on stage and 200,000 spectators, and when it ended, the people rose and sang their unofficial anthem, "My Fatherland Is My Love," as tears streamed down their cheeks. The anthem was written during World War II by Lydia Koidula, daughter of Song Festival originator Jannsen, and put to music by Gustav Ernesaks. In 1988, as political activities heightened, there were spontaneous song fests throughout Estonia. Recently, the festival has been held at the Song Festival Amphitheater outside Tallinn.
In Latvia, the first Song Festival was held in 1873 at the Keizardarzs (the Czar's Garden), a park created in 1721 and named for Czar Peter I. Janis Cimze began collecting the melodies of folk songs in 1869, and these songs, some more than 1,000 years old, were performed by thousands of singers in huge choirs at the first and later festivals.
In Lithuania, each region has its own distinct musical style. Northeastern Aukstaitija, for example, is known for a kind of polyphonic round not found in any other region or in neighboring countries. The rhythms are syncopated, and the rounds sound very dissonant.
The old town of Vilnius is the site each May of "Skamba kankliai," performances by vocalists, instrumentalists, and dancers. Vilnius also hosts the song festival, Dainu Svente, with huge choirs and dancers, every four years (1998, 2002, 2006, etc.).
CONTACTS:
Culture Events Department, Riga City Council Culture Department
Riga Congress House
5 Krisjana Voldemara St.
Riga, 1010 Latvia
371-2-732-0941; fax: 371-2-732-6035
www.culture.lv/en
Vilnius Tourist Information Centre
Vilniaus g. 22
Vilnius, LT-01119 Lithuania
370-5-2629660; fax: 370-5-2628169
www.turizmas.vilnius.lt
Estonian Song and Dance Celebration Foundation
Suur-Karja 23
Tallinn, 10148 Estonia
372-6-273-120; fax: 372-6-273-125
www.laulupidu.ee/eng.php
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