On the southern coast of the Baltic Sea the air is filled with music in Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania. These cultures are proud of their colorful heritage yet embrace the future with equal relish, to the delight of anyone lucky enough to hear their symphony orchestras or contemporary sounds.
The Baltic Song and Dance Celebrations
In fact, singin’ and dancin’ is so much a part of the Baltic soul that their expression is honored on UNESCO’s list of Intangible Cultural Heritage: “Both a repository and a showcase for the region’s tradition of performing folk art, this cultural expression culminates in large-scale festivals every fifth year in Estonia and Latvia and every fourth year in Lithuania. These grand events, held over several days, assemble as many as 40,000 singers and dancers. For the most part, the participants belong to amateur choirs and dance groups. Their repertories reflect the wide range of musical traditions in the Baltic States, from the most ancient folk songs to contemporary compositions. Directed by professional choir conductors, bandleaders and dance instructors, many singers and dancers practice throughout the year in community centers and local cultural institutions”. Can you imagine the fantastic energy and regional pride – not just national – that makes this the festival of festivals?
Lithuania is proud of its extremely rich and unique musical heritage including ancient songs, chants, raudos (a kind of lament) and sutartinės (ancient polyphonic folk songs). Lithuania, with around 800 folk music companies, often hosts national and international folk festivals.
Even now, both occasional and ritual songs are sung during wedding parties and laments are still popular during funerals in Dzūkija. A large variety of ancient songs are sung to pay homage to water, fire and plants during the Midsummer Day Festival, also called Rasos or Kupolinė (St. John’s Day according to Christian tradition).
Unlike its language, Estonian culture is accessible to all. Estonians have taken the best from elsewhere and improved it locally. Estonian composer Arvo Pärt is in demand all over the world and although few can equal his brilliance, everyone in this country sings. Come and hear Estonia in thousands of voices soaring across the Song Festival Grounds on the outskirts of Tallinn.
For a quieter and more professional performance, remember that we have four opera houses around the country and numerous music related events and festivals all year round.
Latvia is a land of music. Nearly one of every two of its residents has studied at a music school, sings in a chorus or plays a musical instrument. This means there is a busy concert and festival schedule in Latvia: from opera productions to early music festivals, to the Song Festival, to jazz concerts, world music performances and events featuring every genre of contemporary music.
Throughout the year are amazing festivals highlighting opera, symphonic music, organ music, early music, the saxophone, contemporary music, pianists, jazz and pop. Yet besides festivals, which significantly enrich the musical taste of Latvia, everyday life also offers plenty of concerts and concert series. For example, the creative and young Sinfonietta Riga orchestra offers its faithful listeners and amused friends performances ranging from the Baroque to the extremes of contemporary acoustic arts. It is a musical collective of the highest class which annually manages to produce about six large-format premiers, more than 20 concert programs and participate in all the major musical events in Latvia.