Dainava Lithuanian Chorale commemorates 20th anniversary of tragic January events in Lithuania

Written by Jolanta Urbietienė
Translated by Vincas Staniškis

The Dainava Lithuanian Chorale presented a reflective and engaging concert at the historically significant Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary Church in Chicago on Jan. 23rd, 2011. The performance, entitled "Aukos Dvasia" ("The Spirit of Sacrifice"), was a concert of sacred music to honor those who died for Lithuania's freedom. The event was held on the occasion of the 20th anniversary of the tragic events that occurred in Vilnius, Lithuania on Jan. 13th, 1991, when unarmed civilians stood in defiance of Soviet tanks and troops while defending the city's television tower. The resulting bloodshed caused 14 people to lose their lives and hundreds to be injured. The news of these calamitous events echoed around the world and forever changed the course of Lithuania's history. This previously insignificant date on the calendar from that night forward became a day to honor the memory of Lithuania's freedom fighters. "Each passing year", said Dainava's artistic director Darius Polikaitis, "inevitably causes memories to fade, but it is fitting for nations to remember significant events in their history, especially those that have been marked with sacrifice and bloodshed."

The commemoration, which has been a tradition of Dainava since 1998, began with an audio recording of sounds from that fateful night and a stirring speech broadcast across Lithuania by the Chairman of the Supreme Council of Lithuania Vytautas Landsbergis. Actress Audrė Budrytė-Nakienė then read the names of the 14 patriots who gave their lives that cold night, each name being accompanied by the lighting of a candle above the church sanctuary and the solemn tolling of a bell. This was immediately followed by the first song of the concert, the heart-wrenching "Malda už tėvynę" ("A Prayer for the Homeland") by the Lithuanian composer Jonas Dambrauskas. The choir, accompanied by organist Ričardas Sokas, then performed "Mišios" ("Mass"), a five-part work written by Lithuanian composer Vidmantas Bartulis in 1987. The piece seems to foreshadow the hopes and fears of those days leading up to the awakening of Lithuanian independence. The next work, the seven-part "Requiem" by English composer John Rutter, was accompanied by both organ and a six-member chamber orchestra. Rutter wrote the work in 1985 and uses text from the traditional Latin Mass for the Dead, the Book of Psalms and the Burial Service of the Anglican Church. The English text was translated by Darius Polikaitis and performed in Lithuanian. Rutter's "Requiem" has achieved great popularity among singers and listeners alike in a relatively short period of time, perhaps because of its consoling theme that death is not the end and that from sacrifice new life is born.

The second part of the concert began with a procession of the choir to the front of the church while singing "Jėzau, prisimink mane" ("Jesus, Remember Me"; Jacques Berthier, Lithuanian translation by Darius Polikaitis) and "In paradisum" (Gregorian chant with text from the traditional Latin liturgy of the Roman Catholic Requiem Mass). The choir then performed "Taikos dvasia" ("Spirit of Peace") by the Lithuanian composer Vaclovas Augustinas, who on December 6, 2010 received the Lithuanian National Award for Culture and Art. Set to the words of Lithuanian poet Bernardas Brazdžionis, which describe his vision of a world of peace, the song was written in 2008 for three Lithuanian choirs in North America: Dainava (Chicago), Exultate (Cleveland) and Volungė (Toronto). The concert was concluded with "Kur bėga Šešupė" ("Where the Šešupė flows"; lyrics by Lithuanian poet Maironis, music by Lithuanian composer Česlovas Sasnauskas), a beautiful melody, which touches the hearts of all Lithuanians, be they in the homeland or across the Atlantic. Following the warm applause from the audience, Darius Polikaitis was presented with an honorary 2010 Man of Year award from the Lithuanian online newspaper Bičiulystė for his contributions to Lithuanian music and culture.

More videos at: youtube.com/user/DainavosAnsamblis