Most of the events organised by Lithuanian National Culture Centre are dedicated for Lithuanian performers and audiences, but several of them have been welcoming international participants and viewers for many years now. Lithuanian Song Celebration is intended for Lithuanian performers but very interesting for guests from abroad to see; Baltic Student Song and Dance Celebration Gaudeamus is where students from Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia come together to enjoy music and dances; Baltica and Griežynė are folk festivals welcoming participants from all over the world.
Lithuanian Song and Dance Celebrations is a national tradition of Lithuanian folk and amateur art. Once every four years, this cultural phenomenon culminates in a grand national Song and Dance Celebration that is held over a week and assembles tens of thousands of singers, dancers, visual artists and spectators from all parts of Lithuania and the rest of the world. During the Celebration, representatives from Lithuania’s different ethnographic regions showcase the unique expressions of their singing and dancing customs. Lithuania hosted its first official Song Celebration in Kaunas in 1924, although the tradition itself is much older and goes back to the 19th century. Nowadays, most national festivities are organized across multiple venues (concert halls, stadiums, city squares and parks) in Vilnius, the capital city of Lithuania.
As soon as one Celebration is over, preparations for the next one begin. Directed by choir conductors and dance instructors, singers and dancers in every town and village of Lithuania practice throughout the four years to be even better at the next national Celebration. During the intervening years, local Song and Dance Celebrations take place. In the meantime, extensive organizational work is done to plan the next quadrennial event. Traditionally, it spans over a week, the key events being the Folklore Day, Ensembles’ Evening, Dance Day, and finally the crowning celebratory event – Song Day at Vingis Park Amphitheatre.
BALTIC STUDENT SONG AND DANCE CELEBRATION GAUDEAMUS
The three Baltic States of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania share not only the tradition of the national Song Celebrations, but also another event – Student Song and Dance Celebration Gaudeamus. The first Gaudeamus celebration was held in 1956 in Tartu, Estonia, and the three Baltic states have been taking turns in organising the event since then.
The festival hosts 4-5 thousand singers, dancers and musicians. Many events are held in city squares, the old town, in churches, the main joint programmes are usually performed in large open spaces.
Gaudeamus represents the national cultural identity of the Baltic States; it radiates youthful, creative vitality, puts forward new and evokes universal civic, ethic and human values. The festival consolidates the national consciousness of the Baltic people and unfolds cultural origins for the Baltic youth.
INTERNATIONAL FOLKLORE FESTIVAL BALTICA
Baltica has been continually organized since 1987 and, following an interstate agreement, is held yearly 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 with formal consultative relations to UNESCO.
Baltica festival introduces authentic folklore, living and revived historical cultural traditions of nations from around the world: songs, dances, instrumental music, customs, crafts, national cuisine. All those traditions are showcased in a Festival Town, where artistic programmes and traditions are demonstrated. The visitors are given the possibility to approach and acknowledge the cultures of the world and communicate with the participants. Other events of the festival – concerts, processions, creative laboratories, evening dance parties – are held in in-door and open-air spaces, as well as the most beautiful natural and cultural sites around the host country.
Every festival has its uniting theme, which helps to better present the traditions and gives the opportunity to compare them. Along 10-15 visiting groups, the best folklore ensembles and bearers of other traditions from the host country are given a chance to participate in the festival.
INTERNATIONAL FESTIVAL OF INSTRUMENT FOLK MUSIC GRIEŽYNĖ
Griežynė (which is a Lithuanian dialect name for a fiddle) seeks to familiarise people with folk music performers, folk instruments, and traditional music from different countries. It also pays a special attention to authentic Lithuanian playing tradition, its pursuers and young performers.
Since 1992, Griežynė is held in Vilnius every two years. The programme of the festival includes concerts, exhibitions of instruments and photographs, folklore workshops, folklore documentary viewings, evening dance parties and joint performances.