In the heart of many a Lithuanian, song is innate; it is present at birth, and it develops as if nurtured by a mother. Across the Atlantic, song is alive today in the lovely name of Dainava.
This cultural ensemble was established in 1945, when the mass immigration started to Germany from Lithuania during World War II. At that time, over 100 choral members as well as folk dancers joined this newly established cultural group whose motto would lead it into the future: "Forward To Freedom with Song!"
Six years later in 1951, the Dainava Lithuanian Chorale was re-created in Chicago by the newly immigrated S. Sodeika, conductor; and G. Velička, art director. The repertoire of the ensemble was spiritually fortified by its major theme, the longing for and the memories of homeland.
Presently, Dainava has developed into a dynamic cultural ensemble of 80 members; this group has performed in over 300 concerts, various musical productions, classical oratories, and Lithuanian cantatas. The ensemble – under the leadership of its chorus master, composer, conductor, and artistic director Darius Polikaitis – is actively pursuing fresh, new musical selections to complement its current inventory of Lithuanian folk music with a more classical repertoire.
However, Dainava will not veer from its roots – Dainava resounds to keep its Lithuanian heritage alive and to ensure that its audience – young or old – experience the joy of song in their souls.
Darius Polikaitis, music director
Darius Polikaitis has served as the artistic director of the Dainava Lithuanian Chorale since 1988. Under his tenure, the choir has grown significantly, attracting many new members from the younger generation of Lithuanians living in the Chicago area. He has greatly expanded the choir's musical and artistic scope, adding numerous large-form works and other pieces by contemporary Lithuanian composers to its repertoire.
Darius Polikaitis has conducted at the World Lithuanian Song Festivals in Lithuania in 1994, 1998, and 2003; at the Millennium Song Festival in 2009; and at the North American Lithuanian Song Festivals in 2006 (Chicago) and 2010 (Toronto). In 1995, he founded the Matulaitis Mission Children’s Choir Vyturys. He is also the director of the Dainava Men’s Octet, which has released two CDs (1999 and 2007) to critical acclaim throughout the Lithuanian community in North America. Darius is a member of the American Choral Directors’ Association and an active member of the Lithuanian community. In 1997, he received the Lithuanian-American Community Music Award and in 2010, the U.S. Lithuanian online newspaper Bičiulystė named him "Man of the Year" for his contributions to Lithuanian music and culture.
Darius and his wife, Lidija, who is also a Dainava member, have three children - Kovas, Daina, and Vitas.