Anthem words woven into author’s birthday belt

Kārlis Baumanis, the man who composed Latvia’s national anthem ‘Dievs svētī Latviju’, came into this world exactly 180 years ago Monday in the county of Viļķene.

Every five years in honor of his achievements his native village in north-central Vidzeme province Limbaži district hosts a special memorial gathering, with concerts, exhibits, lectures and other attractions.

This time the quinquennial days devoted to Baumaņu Kārlis’ memory not only mark his 180th birthday, but also help symbolically inaugurate the birth of expectations for Latvia’s pending centennial fete in 2018. The local government is cooperating with the state Latvian National Cultural Center for the event.

On May 23 a wealth of activities will await fans of the national hymn, the ubiquitous uniting verse of the citizenry, heard at solemn celebrations and hockey games alike. A newly published book by Zane Gailīte about Kārlis Baumanis will be presented, an exhibit about his life, even a tournee of his beloved Latvian card game zolīte, also a sacred music concert and sing-in of Latvia’s choirs with altogether 29 local vocal groups from across the land taking part.

“We’re definitely going further all out this time than five years ago,” lead conductor Kaspars Ādamsons told LTV culture news program Kultūras ziņas Monday after a press conference to promote the occasion.

“It’s not just his ‘Dievs svētī Latviju’ that deserves praise and periodic performance by the public, but there were lots of other aspects to his work, and more of his compositions are now being brought out into the light. So though they may not be part of the regular repertoire pushed onto choirs, on this day these songs will be sung and heard very much indeed,” the young conductor of the choir Sola promised.

In another clever act attracting people to awareness of the national anthem’s author on his birthday, as of the beginning of May the district seat of Limbaži has installed an interactive memorial exposition that anyone may take part in on site.

The local community craftspeople’s group Dzilna leader Baiba Vaivare explained that the weaving loom set up in Limbaži – also called the ‘capital of the national anthem’, will create a belt which will have woven into it, letter by letter, the lyric prayer to which Baumanis’ solemnly melancholic melody is set.

Anyone is welcome to stop by and try their own hand at the traditional craft under the supervision of the masters, and contribute their own thread to the warp and woof of our tiny nation’s ever-emerging civic conscience.

“It’s no secret that not everybody knows the words to the state hymn,” said Vaivare. “The idea is that on the day of the celebrations we will unfurl the whole belt from one end and scroll through the song, rolling it back up again as we sing. So as we sing all the words will be seen. A magical act,” she mused.

There are almost 150 letters in the verses to the national anthem. The end result is projected to stretch a total of 16 meters. For wannabe weaver apprentices the masters assure no prior knowledge of the craft is necessary.

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Culture
Culture