Song and Dance Festival – a reflection

  • 2013-07-10
  • By Sean O’Donnell

CONNECTED: Latvian Center, Garezers Summer High School students in Michigan USA watch and sing along via the Internet, to celebrate the XXV Latvian Song and Dance festival.

RIGA - I had heard quite a lot about the Latvian Song and Dance Festival. I had read articles, seen video clips and I just wished I had known about it when I first came to Latvia back in 2008. Last weekend I was fortunate enough to have been given a ticket for the Saturday evening “Dress Rehearsal.” I was thrilled as it was also a great way to celebrate my birthday.

It was interesting to see the seats filling up with people of every age. Everyone was happy and helpful. The choral procession to the stage was in its own way quite dramatic, as indeed was the overall performance. The music and the adulation of the audience often sent shivers down my spine, as I felt the emotion of the people around me and what I was listening to.

I was so happy to be able to enjoy the atmosphere of what one could call “Latvianness.” The singers and dancers, musicians, composers, conductors and choreographers all contributed to a performance of which Latvia should be justifiably proud, and which should be shared across the world. In a multi-cultural Europe with ever-evolving lifestyles, it is very easy to lose sight of traditions and values. This twenty-fifth festival highlighted not just those traditions, but their development for the 21st century, and that they haven’t been lost, but are being introduced to, and embraced by, a new generation of Latvians and those like me, who have made their home in Latvia.

The words of the songs resonate at so many different levels. The pride in one’s country is clearly evident, as is the desire to share it. The festival, which through its repertoire took us through that “Ligo” transformation of being spiritually and physically cleansed, is a call for the revival of Latvia’s fortunes. Latvia is changing, and change brings hope. Latvia’s request to formally adopt the euro as its official currency has been granted; and, on paper at least, the financial crisis is over. The country now must pull together and build a strong future.

In the program notes Nora Ikstena quoted the recollections about the first Latvian Song Celebration held in Dikli in 1864: “When they sang in a single, four voiced choir in honor of God and as testimony to their nation, the hearts of the audience soared upwards alongside them in the joy of celebration.”

I could not help but think and feel the same was happening in 2013. The future can only be determined by the good governance of the country and the cooperation of the people in that governance, and in accord with Latvia’s anthem hearts can be raised in hope and in joy to sing Dievs, sveti Latviju! - God Bless Latvia!