Lithuania has a rich heritage of folk music. The World Lithuanian Song Festival is held every four years in July and is attended by hundreds of choirs and folk dance groups. Lithuanian folk songs tell of work, love, family life, wars, protests and emigration. Work songs describe traditional activities such as harvesting, grinding grain, spinning and weaving. Raudos (lamentations) are sung at funerals, and special songs are performed at Christmas, Easter and other feast days. In the northern region of Lithuania, people sing sutartinés (songs that involve complex harmonies and rhythms). 

 Most songs are performed by groups rather than by soloists. According to custom, the women sing and the men accompany them on instruments. Some traditional Lithuanian instruments include the daudyté (a long trumpet made of wood), the kanklés (a stringed instrument), the skrabalai (small wooden bells) and skudučiai (wooden panpipes).

Modern music also flourishes in Lithuania. The country has produced many fine jazz musicians, including pianist Vyacheslav Ganelin. The International Jazz Festival brings top musicians from all over the world to Kaunas every April. Modern Lithuanian composers include Algirdas Martinaitis, whose work St. Francis' Hymn to the Sun combines traditional religious chants with Lithuanian folk music.

 Lithuanian folk dances are usually performed by groups of women. Some dances involve playing a game or telling a story. Polkas and waltzes, danced by men and women together, were introduced in the 19th century and are still popular at festive events. Lithuania also has a strong tradition of ballet. The Lithuanian National Opera and Ballet Theatre was founded in 1920.

  Did you know?
Jascha Haifetz, the eminent violinist, was born in the Jewish community of Vilnius in 1901. He grew up in Lithuania, but moved to the United States when he was in his teens.
The first books written in Lithuanian were religious texts, published in the 16th century. In the 18th century, a clergyman called Kristijonas Donelaitis wrote a four-part epic poem called The Seasons, which is still regarded as a masterpiece. It describes the daily life of Lithuanian peasants. In the 19th century, when Lithuania was annexed by czarist Russia, the Lithuanian language was kept alive through the efforts of scholars such as Simonas Daukantas, who compiled dictionaries, collected folk tales and wrote a book on Lithuanian customs and beliefs called The Character of Ancient Lithuanians. During the period of independence following 1918, literature experienced a revival. The poet Jonas Mačiulis, known as Maironis, published many works about the landscape and history of Lithuania. Today, Lithuanian literature is emerging from the period of Soviet repression and beginning to flourish.

 Mikalojus Konstantinas Ciurlionis (1875-1911) was one of Lithuania's greatest artists and a pioneer of abstract art. Modern Lithuanian artists, including Antanas Kmieliauskas and Petras Repsys, have been commissioned to paint frescoes depicting Lithuanian history and legends for Vilnius University. Kestutis Kasparavičius is a well-known illustrator of children's books.

  Did you know?
An interesting Lithuanian folk-art tradition is the carving of large wooden crosses, ornamented with suns, floral motifs or figures of saints, on tall poles that are placed at crossroads, in cemeteries, in village squares or at the sites of historic events.