The events organised by the Lithuanian National Culture Centre is one of the most important and most visible areas of its activity. Organising an event is not a purpose in itself; on the contrary it is the means of methodical work, dissemination of experience, promotional activity. The institution organises international, national and regional events involving groups and individual performers from all over the state. Quite often they are held in several phases – from local to national scale. Events help to evaluate artistic capacities of participants, analyse evolutional trends, to foresee methodical, organisational and strategic means to foster the condition of some art branches.
Being diverse in forms (festivals, celebrations, contests, actions, nominations, exhibitions, fairs etc.) the events embrace the main art branches and genres: folklore and customs (the Lithuanian children and schoolchildren – folk art performers – competition “Tramtatulis”, the Lithuanian students folklore ensembles festival “O kieno žali sodai” (Oh Whose Green Gardens), the competitive review “Tradicija šiandien” (Tradition Today)), folk art (the national competitive folk art exhibition and nominations of the best folk artists “Aukso vainikas” (Golden Wreath)), vocal music (the Lithuanian adult choirs competition, the Lithuanian higher schools choral competition, the Lithuanian children and youth choral festival “Mes Lietuvos vaikai” (We – the Children of Lithuania), the national competition of soloists and vocal ensembles “Sidabriniai balsai” (Silver Voices)), instrumental music (the Lithuanian brass orchestras championship, the multi-pipe whistles festival “Dudutis”), theatre (the Lithuanian amateur theatre festival “Tegyvuoja teatras” (Long Live Theatre), the festival of amateur theatres of Lithuanian towns and districts “Atspindžiai” (Reflections), the festival of villages and small towns “Pastogė” (Shelter), the Lithuanian festival of puppet theatres “Molinuko teatras” (A Clay Doll’s Theatre), the review-festival of Lithuanian children and youth theatres “Šimtakojis” (Centipede), the international festival of amateur theatres “Baltijos rampa” (The Baltic Ramp)), choreography (competitions of folk dance ensembles and groups “Iš aplinkui” (From around), “Pora už poros” (One Couple After Another), “Kadagys” (Juniper), the Lithuanian children and schoolchildren competitive festival “Aguonėlė” (Poppy)). The annual contest of the best groups of various art branches and genres “Aukso paukštė” (Golden Bird) is also organised.
Many of these events have become an effective drive force for the existence of art branches, genres and phenomena of ethnic culture, stimulating the continuity of traditions of historical periods significant for the Lithuanian nation, inducing aspirations for higher artistic achievements, bringing closer the ever expanding part of the society to universal values essential for the human existence. These separate actions confluent into a universal occasion of our culture – the Song Celebration, which is also not just an event. The preparation for the new celebration starts with the last sounds of the previous one, the process involves consistent communication with leaders, accumulation of the repertoire and its presentation at seminars, organisation of reviews and selections of groups, testing of creative solutions at regional festivals etc.
The Lithuanian National Culture Centre is the headquarters of the Song Celebrations, the organiser, the implementer of artistic programmes and the leader of the whole continuous process of activity, training and learning of art groups preparing for the celebration.
It is the great Olympic Games of the Lithuanian Art held every four years. The art groups from all over Lithuania – towns and districts – consistently prepare for it. The celebration draws in over 1.5 thousand groups or 40 thousand participants. Joint forces of eminent Lithuanian creators – composers, writers and poets, choreographers, directors, conductors and artists – significantly contribute to all stages of the organisation and implementation of the great festival. The programme of the Celebration is composed of four fundamental parts and a series of other events.
The Folklore Day, for the first time organised in 1990, is dedicated to the traditional culture. On Folklore Day a rather small area of Sereikiškės Park accommodates a vast diversity of dialects, ancient songs, dances, crafts, dishes and other sorts of national heritage of the entire state – villages, small towns and cities.
The Evening of Ensembles was included in the celebration’s programme in 1960. It presents the programme of the folk springs in a colourful, theatrical and stylised form.
The basis of the Dance Day, organised since 1937, are dance compositions arranged by professional choreographers offering interpretations of Lithuanian customs and symbols. Impressive ornaments drawn by 9 thousand dancers revive in a spacious stadium.
The Song Day draws almost 20 thousand singers into a joint mighty choir, performing Lithuanian national music: harmonised folk songs, vocal compositions by professional authors both contemporary and from the golden fund. The exceptionality of this programme is singing a cappella. The Song Day, for the first time organised in 1924, had become the origin of the entire Song Celebration.
The entirety of the celebration is complemented by the Folk art exhibition, the Afternoon of the traditional national instrument Kanklės, brass orchestras’ performances, parades, also massive concerts, amateur theatres’ shows, professional art events, demonstration of national costumes, an emotional and colourful procession of the celebration’s participants.
The uniqueness of the Song Celebration leans both on preserving the authentic tradition, but also on the evolution of the entire live event. Its vitality is transmitted from generation to generation by people of Lithuania, being known as the land of songs from very old times. Nowadays the most significant anniversaries of Lithuania – the 750th anniversary of crowning Mindaugas as King of Lithuania, the Millennium of the Lithuania’s name – are commemorated with the Song Celebration.
In 2003 the tradition of the Baltic Song and Dance Celebrations was recognised by UNESCO and proclaimed the Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of the Humanity (the tradition is now included on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity).
The Baltic Students Song and Dance Festival GAUDEAMUS
Three Baltic States of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania share not only the tradition of the national song celebration, but also another event - the students’ song and dance celebration “Gaudeamus”. Having existed for more than a half of century the festival is a significant live cultural event of the three States, a shared tradition of students’ song celebrations on the Baltic seacoast. The first Baltic students’ song and dance festival “Gaudeamus” was held in 1956 in Tartu, Estonia, then followed by festivals organised in turn in Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania.
The festival hosts 4-5 thousand singers, dancers and musicians. Many events are held in the city squares, the old town, in churches, the main joint programme is usually rendered in large scenic spaces, such as Kalnų Park in Vilnius.
“Gaudeamus” represents the national cultural identity of the Baltic States; it radiates youthful, creative vitality, raises new and firms universal civic, ethic and human values. The festival consolidates the national consciousness of the Baltic people, unfolds the cultural origins for the Baltic youth.
The International Folklore Festival BALTICA
One of the most significant international events presenting the intangible cultural heritage - BALTICA has been continually organized since 1987 and following the interstate agreement has been yearly held in one of the three Baltic States (Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania). The festival is recognized by the CIOFF (International Council of Folklore Festivals and Traditional Arts Organizations), an NGO having formal consultative relations with UNESCO.
Festival BALTICA introduces the diversity of traditions of nations of the world, represents authentic folklore, living and revived historical cultural traditions of different nations: songs, dances, instrumental music, as well as customs, crafts, national cuisine – everything that features the exclusiveness and uniqueness of each nation. All of it is found in a “Festival’s town”, where artistic programmes, other traditions of the festival’s participants are demonstrated. The visitors are given the possibility to approach and acknowledge the cultures of the world, to communicate with guests. Other events of the festival – concerts, processions, creative laboratories, evening dance parties are held in in-door and open-air spaces of Vilnius, but also the most beautiful natural and cultural sites of Lithuanian regions.
Every festival has its uniting thematic axis, which helps to better present the traditions, gives the possibility to compare them. Along 10-15 visiting groups the best Lithuanian folklore ensembles, bearers of other traditions are given a chance to participate in the festival.
International Festival of Instrumental Folk Music GRIEŽYNĖ
“Griežynė” (griežynė is is a dialect name for fiddle) seeks to familiarise people with folk music performers, folk instruments, and traditional music of different countries, but also pays a special attention to the authentic Lithuanian playing tradition, its pursuers and the young performers.
Since 1992 every two years “Griežynė” is held in Vilnius. The programme of the festival includes concerts, exhibitions of instruments and photographs, folklore workshops, reviews of folklore documentaries, evening dance parties and joint performing.