The art expert of the exposition “Dziesmusvetku telpa” created by the Story Museum of Literature and Music Daiga Bondar
The uniqueness of our song festival lies in the fruitful balance in which elements of folklore and folk art combine with expressions of professional art. We have been singing Latvian folk songs to the decoration choir since the first holiday! A kind of contradiction is thus built into the very tradition of the holiday repertoire, and yet our wonderful holiday of song is the result of the attraction of these opposing forces.
In this sense, the question of the gradual entry of traditional culture into the song festival might seem out of place. However, only in the last decades, the folk music traditions of the old and new layers of folklore, post-folklore and various other directions, making music both in a traditional and stylized manner, are in the same group as choir singers in the song festival. The road to this gathering has been long.
The fact that the people’s ancient singing traditions differ from those cultivated in singing societies was clear from the very beginning of the holiday.
At the III General Latvian Song Festival in 1888, it was decided to honor the ancient singing tradition. And so, at the festive feast, in the performance staged by Vigneru Ernestas, table songs are heard – the storytellers Maija Brigadere and Dace Akmentiņa, swinging their tridents, together with the benders and pullers, sing to the participants of the festival.
Also at the holiday ball the next day, the girls’ and boys’ choirs continue singing with St. John’s, singing and farewell songs. Jēkabs Lautenbach-Jūsmiņš expertly explains the course of the tradition, adding at the end: “That’s how the singing ends, which was a great start in this great national holiday of ours, because this tradition of fathers, rich in real poetry and ingenuity, was also brought forward to the light in order and beauty for the entire educated world; but also especially to celebrate the great Latvian national holidays.”
Special bouquets are not continued on the next holiday. Even in the four song festivals held in the interwar period, special attention is not paid to folk music, however, the understanding of the peculiarities of Latvian folk music has grown and changed a lot. At this time, the first ethnographic ensembles were founded in Latvia.
The participants of the carol festival, especially those from Kurzeme, also take their musical instruments with them to Riga – kokles, bagpipes, bugles and horns, with which they gladly pose for carol festival photographers. The revival of the beloved folk instrument, the kokle, also began only in the 1930s.
In the first post-war song festival in 1948, the first Latvian folk music instrument orchestra led by Sergej Krasnopyorov participated. Professionally processed folk instrumental music is also included in its song festival concerts. The demand for it is also growing due to the fact that alongside the singers, there are also dancers at the festival who need folk dance accompaniment. The concert kokle is developing, and for the first time you can hear the performances of kokle players at the song festival in 1970 at the dance festival concert in the Daugava Stadium. It’s true, in the phonogram, because recording technologies are not yet developed enough for the soft sounds of the wood to fill the entire stadium.
In 1973, in the centenary of the song festival, the first folk music concert in the history of the song festival took place in the Great Hall of the University of Latvia; they will be held in the future.
Looking at it from today’s eyes, its program is fully arranged and does not differ much from what is heard at other song festival concerts, however, the recently founded Libyan song ensemble “Līvlist”, which presents the beginnings of such an important folklore movement for Latvia, and the choir of Riga 6th secondary school, led by Gunas Āboliņa, are also part of the event. an ensemble whose music becomes one of the discoveries of the festival.
Already in the folk music concert program of the 1980 song festival, we also find several ethnographic performances that introduce the authentic, raw folklore layer into the festival.
During the 19th Song Festival in 1985, the first event of ethnographic ensembles “Convocation of the Regions” was held in the Ethnographic Open Air Museum of Latvia, with the participation of the most prominent Latvian folklore ensembles. This event arouses great interest in society and wide resonance in creative circles, contributing to the upcoming events of the Singing Revolution.
Since then, both traditional cultural events and the parade of various other folk musical practices have become an integral part of the song festival. Today, there is also a separate event for children’s folklore ensembles – the new generation of inheritors of traditions.
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