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Review for the festival Baltica'03, Riga,
15 December 2002

      The concert took place at the Ave Sol concert hall where there is a very good acoustics, but rather few seats. This is why it was a pity to see that only a half of the seats were taken. The weather was bad on that day, though a person, who is interested in the processes of folklore in Latvia, should appreciate this opportunity to see so many folklore groups on the same occasion.


      The folklore group Senleja from Sigulda opened the concert with a program of songs on the sun and summer field works of a peasant. Several dances were added to the performance and that made the whole thing more attractive. It would however been pleasant to see more inactive from the group members and not only from the leader who did the whole speaking and playing the instruments.


      Next were the folklore group Rija from Riga who won the interest of the public with their small dancers and the great number of people on the stage. Leader of this group talked a great deal in between the songs and dances. The group is based in a secondary school and that was also visible in the way the group performed.


      They were followed by the girls' folklore group Lāns. Every of them played some kind of a musical instrument. They sang mostly alone or in pairs and this made the singing to sound uncertain, as all were rather afraid of the stage situation.


      So the group Silavoti came on the stage. The group consisted mainly of women and the program that they sang with great passion was compiled of songs about the mythological personage God. The singing itself was however too choir-like.


      After them the folklore group Grodi came to perform and it was nice to see them take part in a competition. Grodi consists of only five members but they managed to "fill" the stage with their program that tried to imitate a situation from the turn of the century of joint work and the party that follows it. They sang very well and in addition managed to make the whole thing rather funny.


      The joint work theme was continued by the folklore group Laiksne that also unites five members. Their performance did not have any theatrical elements but emphasised voices of the singers and the public enjoyed it a lot.


      Finally the Liv ensemble Līvlist sang and their performance was completely devoted to the Liv folksongs. The violinist that played the melodies of the first songs was probably the only element that made this Livlists performance differ from all the others.

Visi vēji

      After a break the new group Visi vēji came. Every of six group's members played a musical instrument and all of them sang, as well. It is clear that the group does not have a lot of performing experience that would allow them to feel free on the stage. If that comes, they will be good, though relatively post-folkloristic (it is a style, similar to the world music). In addition, they were the only group of all those who performed on this day that would attract the attention of people who are not particularly interested in folklore.


      The group to follow was Artava from Ogre. The women of the group told the public that the main reason why they come together and sing is that they are having fun doing it. Nevertheless their performance was better than the one a couple of years ago. The last children's song that they sang about various farm animals and tried to play the role of each of these animals was however a little bit strange.


      The next group was children's folklore group Taureņi from Taurupe, and they received the greatest admiration from the public. Their performance consisted of many things - singing, playing, and dancing. It was a positive surprise to see the small Taurupeans dancing some of the most difficult Latvian folk dances, like Suitinsh or Brichka.

Čėüčķńźą’ ļ’ņķčöą

      After them a group of young Russians Iljinskaja pjatnica performed. They sang well and loudly as always. Though I do not know very much about the Russian folklore, it seemed to me that the cradle song should have been sung more quietly, as there were lots of other songs for showing one's ability of singing so loudly.


      The one but last a completely new group called Zvigzna came. Their performance consisted of interesting folksongs devoted to a person that has recently passed. They sang well and the only male participant even managed to hold a balance between male and female voices. The only funny element was the girl who was supposed to play a dead person. She did not stand still for a long time but managed both to join the singers of the group and to offer traditional food to the public.

Maskačkas spēlmaņi

      The last group to perform was the folklore band Maskačkas spēlmaņi. The theme of their performance was the making and drinking of beer which is not surprising, as the group leader's passion for this drink is well known. They played and sang as good as always with a great deal of joy and thankfully their songs did not sound too similar to each other.

      It is possible to conclude that there are no groups in Riga that are completely alike. We have some very high range groups that can successfully represent Latvia abroad. The things that we need are professional management and advertising of the folklore groups and folklore itself. If we had that, it would be possible to attract much more public to all kinds of folklore events and more people could enjoy our ancient traditions.

      Article: Ieva Pīgozne-Brinkmane, 6 January 2003
      Photos: Ilze Kovere

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