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Roundup: Lithuania celebrates Song Festival 2014

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

VILNIUS, July 4 (Xinhua) -- The Song Day participated by 14,000 singers of all ages on Sunday concluded the five-day Song Festival 2014 held in Vilnius from July 2 till 6.

The last show of this year's festival gathered 400 choirs in the picturesque Vingis park which boasts a vast area of grassland, mostly serving as the venue for exercises or leisure of local people.

The celebration which comes around once every four years has attracted around 37,000 participants this year.

"This festival is our heritage, it used to be our resistance tool before," Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite said on the festival's opening ceremony on Wednesday in Vilnius.

Lithuania managed to retain its songs, traditions, ethnic culture and identity during years of historical challenges and shakeups, Grybauskaite said.

Sarunas Birutis, Lithuanian minister of culture, said the importance of the event lied in creating the feeling of national unity in the country.

"The Song Celebration is the most important cultural event in Lithuania, connecting all our people," Birutis told local media before the event.

The festivals are organized under symbolic thematic requirements each time. "Here is my home" is the slogan of the celebration this year.

"It is important to raise a song so that the world would hear us," Saulius Liausa, director of the festival, was quoted by local media as saying.

This year's event is the 19th of its kind. It has attracted thousands of visitors from all over the world. Many Lithuanian emigrants representing different generations use this chance to come back home for at least one festal week.

The 90 years anniversary of the festival is commemorated this year. The first Lithuanian Song and Dance Celebration called the Song Day was held in 1924.

According to researchers of Lithuanian ethnic culture, Lithuanian Song Celebration is a national cultural phenomenon and one of the main events reflecting the country's creative self-expression, love for the fatherland and solidarity of its people.

On Friday, July 4, around 600 best kantele masters from all Lithuania held concert in the Church of St' Johns in Vilnius. All participants of the events are dressed in traditional national costumes.

Other events such as traditional craftsmen fair occurred in different parts of Vilnius during the festival.

Performance of national anthem, or the National Hymn, also known by its opening words "Lithuania, Our Homeland", will become the high point of the song festival. This tradition was started on 6 July, 2009, when Lithuania celebrated 1,000 years since the first mention of its name in written sources.

Alongside with Lithuanian singers from all over the world, traditional dance and theatre groups, performers of authentic folklore, artists of Lithuanian national musical instrument kantele and wind instruments also took part in the concerts during the festival.

The Song Festival is included in the UNESCO World Heritage list. The celebration is also protected by the law on the Song Celebrations of the Republic of Lithuania which states the necessity of maintaining this unique phenomenon having a great influence on the vitality of Lithuanian culture and preserving the unity of nearly 3 million people nation.

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/xinhua-news-agency/140706/roundup-lithuania-celebrates-song-festival-2014