|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.
|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
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.