Celebrating together in song
A Brief History of Latvia’s Song and Dance Festival
The song festival concept began in Germany, Switzerland, and Austria in the first half of the 19th century. Inspired by such singing events in German-speaking countries, the Latvian minister and writer Juris Neikens organised the first concert of men’s choirs in Latvia in the small town of Dikļi in 1864. A total of 120 singers participated in the event. Dikļi has been named as Birthplace of Latvian song and dance festival.
Over the years, the number of participants grew. The first official Latvian song festival in 1873 pooled 1003 singers took part in. This year’s festival will unite 16,500 singers from 427 choirs and draw 765 dance groups with 18,800 dancers. It is expected to be the largest to date. Unlike their predecessors, the Baltic-German festivals, who mainly gathered the elite, Latvian festivals united all strata of society and included not only men’s choirs, but mixed ones also. However, before the festival, choirs across the country prepare diligently for the competitions that determine which ones may participate in the Song Festival. It is an honour to be selected, because not all choirs pass the test.
The repertoire includes many Latvian choir classics, some of which have over the decades risen to the status of unofficial anthems, especially ‘Gaismas pils’, ‘Pūt, vējiņi’, and ‘Saule, Pērkons, Daugava’. The final concert is about four hours long, followed by a whole night of communal singing in which there is no longer any division between choir members and the audience. Apart from the concerts, many exciting events happen in Riga during the festival. One of the venues are Vērmanes Garden and Esplanāde which will host a large handicrafts market and free open-air concerts. In 2003 the phenomenon of song and dance festival was included on the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage List.
And here's the ones we are proud of - meet some of our colleagues who are taking part in this year’s festival!Photo: Archieve of Latvian National Centre for Culture, Aivars Liepiņš
Ingūna Andže, our Vice President of Cabin Crew. This is going to be the sixth festival Ingūna participates. In her free time, she sings in Chamber choir “Vidus”. She wishes that this festival is a tradition that gets stronger by each time. “May Latvians always have a song to sing!”
Dainis Nažinskis, our Senior Customer Communication and Social Media Specialist. This is third Song festival where Dainis is going to sing, however, he has also danced there once. Now Dainis is singing in Chamber choir “Konvents” (also, they are celebrating their 20 year anniversary this year as well!). The Song Festival is like Latvian Olympic Games, he says. “For one week, everyone meets in Riga, sings, are happy... together! It's an unforgettable experience that every Latvian should have - either as a participant or as a spectator".
Title photo: Aivars Liepiņš