VILNIUS - Main streets, parks and squares in Vilnius' Old Town were filled with music and song on May 5 as at least 500 performers took to the streets to participate in the city's first Street Music Day, an event initiated by Lithuanian pop music legend and actor Andrius Mamontovas.
"The idea was to have an new tradition in Lithuania, a day when everyone who has a music instrument or knows how to sing goes out into the city and fills it with sound," Mamontovas said in a briefing organized before the event.
He also said that the organizers' goal was that the event becomes a firm tradition by 2009, when Vilnius will be Europe's cultural capital.
"We hope it will get international attention as journalists from Austria, Italy, and Switzerland have already contacted us," Mamontovas said.
"We also hope for attention from all Vilnius residents and believe they will enjoy the event," he added.
His hopes evidently came true as people flooded into the town on Saturday and crowds of spectators surrounded the participating musicians.
The audience's choice of music was incredibly wide 's the event saw such diverse participants as teenagers playing guitars, girls singing jazz, solo trombone and saxophone players, a drum group and an old man playing accordion.
Those searching for classics had the opportunity to listen to a solo violin player, a boys' chorus singing "Ave Maria" and even a symphonic orchestra giving an open-area concert at Cathedral Square.
According to organizers some 270 groups, singers and players registered for the event, putting the number of individual participants at about 500. All those taking part were dressed in white T-shirts with the event's symbol, and were given special white hats to collect contributions from the more generous listeners.
Many unregistered musicians and singers were also on hand.
"We came here to have a good time. And we even had some audience, which was quite unexpected," 17-year-old Darius, one of a trio of guitarists playing and singing Beatles songs, told The Baltic Times.
Not far away from them Simonas, 13, was cheerfully playing a violin. "It's like practicing at school, but people stop, listen and smile. And they've already left dozen of litas in my hat," the boy said.
But not all the participants were amateurs and students; well-known Lithuanian singers Hoksila and Linas Adomaitis, the rock group Rebel Heart and many others also played and sang in the streets.
At the end of the day Mamontovas himself also joined one of the bands and played drums with them for about an hour.
"I think it was a success. People were happy, the mood was wonderful and I am sure it should continue," he said the next day.
"The number of people who joined in the event showed that we need it. And it appeared that we can do it ourselves with no commands from above and no major planning," he added, noting that he has almost no doubt that the Street Music Day will be held again next year.
"And we will try to make sure it won't just be in Vilnius, but will spread to other cities across Lithuania," Mamontovas said.