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The Song Celebration

The Song and Dance Celebration has been the most powerful, enduring, and all-encompassing Latvian cultural phenomenon since the 19th century.

The preservation of national identity in a shifting context, bringing fresh creativity to time-tested tradition, is at the heart of a festival based upon choral singing, especially a capella, with contemporary professional musicians working upon a foundation in folklore.

Choirs from every corner of Latvia converge in what may be the largest choir on the planet.

The traditions of the festival, passed on from generation to generation, are concentrated in a week’s worth of intensity where art and celebration are inseparable.

Preserving these traditions and mounting the festival is a far longer, complex process with amateurs, professionals and masters working together.

Weaving together these traditions is a unique work of folk art, the positive, healing energies of singing passed down with a work ethic and a sense of national collective effort.

The repertoire of the Song and Dance Celebration accentuates what’s seen as vital to the nation’s spiritual growth – nature, love for the land, and the ethics of human relations.

The creation of the national costumes unique to each region, applied art, and clusters of concerts of all kinds, from sacred music to brass bands, expand the context.

The endurance of the tradition depends on new art in choreography and the introduction of new compositions. Historic classics happily co-exist with innovations. The Song and Dance Celebration is the story of the national experience.

The symbolism and repertoire of the event has reflected the dramatic turns of history since the festival’s inception. The foundation, however, is what is unique to the nation. The celebration is not only one of song but also of togetherness.

Shortly before the first festival took place, a local bishop observed that the Latvians were a small tribe with an unclear future. Whether they would become a nation was unknown.

This small tribe gathered in Riga on 26 June 1873, arriving in boats, by train, and by horse-drawn carriages to begin a tradition that would carry Latvia to independence and through the occupation to the restoration of its nationhood. The Song and Dance Celebration was inscribed on the UNESCO Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity in 2003.

Nora Ikstena

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1895. gada Latviešu dziedāšana un mūzikas komitejas [cirkulārs]. (1895). Jelgava.

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VII Dziesmu svēku rīcības komitejas izdevums. (1930). Rīga.

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Dziesmusvētku 60 gadu atcerei. Dziesmusvētki: programma. (1933). Rīga.

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IX Latviešu dziesmusvētki: programma. (1938). Rīga.

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Noteikumi dziesmusvētku koru dalībniekiem. ([1933]). [Rīga].

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Laukuma iedalījuma plāns VII. Vispār. Dziesmu svētkiem. ([1931]). [Rīga].

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1948. gada dziesmu svētki: (materiāli pārrunām). (1948). Rīga.

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Dziesmu svētki laiku lokos: [kalendārs 1990. gadam]. (1989). Rīga: LPSR Žurnālistu Savienības radošā fotostudija.

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Rīga: kur pavadīsim brīvo laiku līdz Dziesmu svētku koncertam? ([1938]). Rīga: A/s „Rīti”. Latvijas Nacionālās bibliotēkas Kartogrāfisko materiālu krājums.

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Nora Ikstena par Dziesmu svētkiem Latvijas kultūras kanonā, 2008.

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Pirmo latviešu dziesmu svētku 75 gadu atceres svinības Dikļos. (1929). Rīga: Pagalms.

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Latgales Dziesmu svētki: 1940. gada 15. un 16. jūnijā Daugavpilī. (1940). Daugavpils: Daugavpils latviešu biedrība.

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Sproģis, Jūlijs. (1930). Ko runā dokumenti par Vispārējo Dziesmu svētku rīkotāju konfliktu. Rīga: Latvijas Zemnieku savienības spiestuve.

(Latvian) Kārļa Avena uzruna Dziesmu svētkos Klīvlendā. (1974). No: Voice of America: Latvian programming [CD]. [Amerika]. Latvijas Nacionālās bibliotēkas Audiovizuālais krājums, Fcd/11932.

Sarunas ar Haraldu Medni: [intervija] [CD]. (1998). [Rīga]: Latvijas Radio. Latvijas Nacionālās bibliotēkas Audiovizuālais krājums, Fcd/6260.

Tradition and symbolism of the Song and Dance Celebration process in Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania [DVD]. ([20–]). Diriģenti Tõnu Kaljuste, Sigvards Kļava, Imants Kokars, Eri Klass u.c. Latvijas Nacionālās bibliotēkas Audiovizuālais krājums, Fdvd/2664.