Singing Heritage of Latvia

Latvians love to call themselves a ”nation of singers” because of a strong choral music and folk dancing tradition that began way back in the mid-19th century. As the years have passed, it has developed into the big social and artistic event – Song and Dance celebration.

From the first Celebration in 1873 where only 1000 singers participated, the event has evolved into a powerful movement—around 40 000 participants from around 3500 amateur ensembles are preparing to participate once in five years in the Song and Dance Celebration.

In order for 12 000 singers and 17 000 dancers, and thousands of musicians, applied arts and fine arts studios, craftsmen and crafstwoman, as well as folklore and amateur theatre ensembles can participate in the Celebration, effort is systematically invested on a daily basis for five years—rehearsals, continuous revisions to the repertoire, recitals, contests, exhibitions, seminars, and concerts.

And then, every five years, all of these artists and musicians from Latvia’s towns and rural territories flow into Riga, creating a powerful grassroots movement.

 

The wedding couple dances in traditional Latvian costumes
Latvian traditional dancers in  circle
Latvian women in traditional costumes
Ladies and one small child are singing pusspols in their traditional costumes

Singing with a ‘pusbolss’

Dzīduošona ar pusbolsu (singing with a ‘pusbolss’ or singing with a half-part) is a special kind of multipart singing that traditionally occurs only in the areas in Northern Latgale that border with Russia – the Šķilbēni, Baltinava, Briežuciems and Viļaka parishes or the former territory of the Abrene municipality (todays Russia).  It is a three-part singing where the melody is performed with one or two lower accompanying parts and the pusbolss. The Pusbolss (half part) is the most important feature of this kind of singing. The pusbolss is sung exclusively solo, usually in the second half of the verse, and in a special (loud) manner that is also often referred to as ‘yelling’.

This kind of singing was practised outside – in the field or in the yard – therefore it really must be loud so the neighbours could hear it.

The old singers explain how pusbolss should be sung correctly – “Above (the others). You must raise it up.” (folk singer Stefānija Matisāne). Not every singer was able to sing this part. She needed to have a very strong and sonorous voice to sing the pusbolss.

Singing with pusbolss is one of the identifying signifiers of the Northern Latgalian traditional singing and nowadays, it is mainly inherited by singing in “ethnographic” ensembles and folk music groups. But there are also cases of younger and middle generation singers of local communities trying to learn and practice the skill individually.

 In the photo Upīte

Upīte folklore group in the International folklore festival Baltica 2015 concert in Latvian Music academy. Pusbolss singers: first from the right Kate Slišāne, third from the right Santa Matisāne. Photo by Zinaida Logina

Svātra

Folk song and dance group Svātra keeps the traditions alive.

Song and Dance Celebration

Latvians love to call themselves a ”nation of singers” because of a strong choral music and folk dancing tradition that began way back in the mid-19th century. As the years have passed, it has developed into the big social and artistic event – Song and Dance celebration.

From the first Celebration in 1873 where only 1000 singers participated, the event has evolved into a powerful movement—around 40 000 participants from around 3500 amateur ensembles are preparing to participate once in five years in the Song and Dance Celebration.

In order for 12 000 singers and 17 000 dancers, and thousands of musicians, applied arts and fine arts studios, craftsmen and crafstwoman, as well as folklore and amateur theatre ensembles can participate in the Celebration, effort is systematically invested on a daily basis for five years—rehearsals, continuous revisions to the repertoire, recitals, contests, exhibitions, seminars, and concerts.

And then, every five years, all of these artists and musicians from Latvia’s towns and rural territories flow into Riga, creating a powerful grassroots movement.

The video is made by Latvian National Centre for Culture

You can find more information about Latvian Song and Dance Celebration traditions from Latvia.eu pages

People standing in highway hand in hand

Singing Revolution

The most impressive demonstration of the power of the singing movement was the awakening that took place at the turn of the 1980s and 1990s in all Baltic countries. It was largely based on the Song and Dance Celebrations, which had strengthened the sense of national identity and need for sovereignty. The concept of “Singing Revolution” is today known in the whole world.

The photo of The Baltic Way on the Vidzeme Highway. 23.08.1989.Photo by Aldis Jermaks. National History Museum of Latvia

Ball on the fields in traditional costumes

Folklore Festival BALTICA

July 6–10, 2022

The International Folklore Festival BALTICA is a unique co-project of the three Baltic States and as such, the best proof that we share common aspirations and goals, as well as the same history and, hopefully, the same future.

Without a doubt the whole world acknowledges “Baltica” to be the most popular traditional culture festival in the Baltic States. This is the largest and internationally recognised traditional culture festival in the Baltic countries, which cares for the preservation and development of intangible cultural heritage.

The festival is organized under the auspices of CIOFFF and appears in their calendar. CIOFF – the world’s most prominent International Council of Organisations for Folklore Festivals and Traditional Art – is a member organisation of UNESCO, and approximately 80 countries are involved in it.

The founding of the festival is very closely related to the national reawakening movement in all three Baltic States.

Since its existence, starting from 1987, the festival has become an established tradition and is recognised throughout society.  In turn, for the preservers of traditional culture, this festival is always a source of new inspiration for further activities. 

Next International Folklore festival BALTICA in Latvia will take place during July 6–10, 2022. With the motto “Come and Play!”, more than 250 folk groups and ethnographic bands will meet and interact in various concerts, events and activities in Alsunga, Dundaga, Inciems, Inčukalns, Jūdaži, Krimulda, Kuldīga, Lēdurga, Mālpils, Pope, Rīga, Sigulda, Talsi, Turaida and Ventspils.

BALTICA festivals introduce folk dance, folk music, customs, handicraft and other fields of folk art in their historical forms.

Every year the festival gathers over 2000 participants of different ages from Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania as well as from other countries. 

The festival activities take place both in cities – concert halls and in the streets, for example, parades, and in the countryside – on open-air stages.

In 2023 the festival BALTICA will take place in Estonia, in 2024 in Lithuania.

Go to festival Baltica site

 

Men singing int choir of Singing Celebration

Festivals and Events

Singing Route red bird logoMusic festivals in Latvia

Singing with a pussbols
Folk Music

International Folklore festival BALTICA

in Latvia will take place during July 6–10, 2022. With the motto “Come and Play!”, more than 250 folk groups and ethnographic bands will meet and interact in various concerts, events and activities in Alsunga, Dundaga, Inciems, Inčukalns, Jūdaži, Krimulda, Kuldīga, Lēdurga, Mālpils, Pope, Rīga, Sigulda, Talsi, Turaida and Ventspils.

Song and Dance Festivals