Friday, July 12, 2013

The twelve days of Latvija: Day 11, saying our goodbyes

With an early flight the following morning we wanted to make the most of our last full day in Latvia, and so despite the late night at the final concert we tied up a lot of loose ends and packed the day as full as possible. A few of the family members who had been in town for the concert stopped by for lunch, and it was interesting to hear from a local who has been attending the Dziesmu Svētku concerts for years, how this years differed from previous years. According to Dzidra the biggest differences were in length, in the addition of orchestral and dance numbers, in the stage changes (the singers left the stage for the orchestral portion of the concert only to file back on for the finale) and the sadziedāšana after the concert that lasted until 7am. For a first time viewer the concert was much as I had expected, except the unofficial portion was much more commercial than I had pictured it to be, and I wondered at the lack of baltie lakatini (white handkerchiefs). Every final concert I’ve attended at song festivals outside of Latvia ended with the singers waving farewell at the audience, and the audience doing the same. We had brought ours with but never had the chance to wave them, and I don't know if the tradition is one that started overseas or if it died out in Latvia during the song festivals that took place during Soviet occupation.

The official flag of the song festival, en route to the final concert
We hurried to meet a couple of my relatives at the closest thing Latvia has to a chain restaurant, Lido (Vērmanītis). A buffet-style eatery, they have a reputation for a great karbonāde and šašliki. We settled in with ķiploku grauzdiņi (the buttered garlic rye-bread toast), porkchops, fries and grits; when I ordered friti the cook misunderstood and loaded my plate up with griķi – please tell me this happens often…

Then one last walk in Vērmaņu dārzs to give the boys a chance to use up some energy. It was hard to stomach that Lauris would soon not be able to communicate on the playground again, as he would be back among children that don’t speak Latvian.

Errands and commitments brought us back to Vecrīga, full circle from our first day in Latvia. The streets were once again empty, the song festival over and everyone back to business as usual. We had a last local beer in one of the scenic beer gardens and soon were on our way home to pack.

Here are a few links that truly reveal the heart of the Latvian Song and Dance Festival. This first is a YouTube video of the Latvian Center Gaŗezers choir (in Three Rivers, MI) joining in the final concert via simulcast; truly amazing, not just because of the technology but because of the global connections signified.
In a similar vein, here is an article about the Japanese choir that participated… (The article is in Latvian)
For a nice little overview of the festival in English, click here. Also, this TV reportage gave a good feeling of how it was to be a participant.

For the whole concert, please visit Latviešu Estrādes YouTube page.
Looking for a Latvian folk song app so that you can sing along with all your favorite Latvians? Look no further!
A WSJ article about the 100 year old conductor we luckily happened to be on the same flight with on our way to Rīga.
And last (but not least), the official Flickr page for the Song Festival. If you only take a look at one of these links, this should be it, as I believe the essence of Dziesmu Svētki is captured in these pictures.



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