Latvia's choir culture in the spotlight

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Latvia's role hosting the World Choir Games is providing a large amount of positive publicity for the country and spreading interest in its deeply-rooted culture of choirs and communal singing, Culture Minister Dace Melbarde told LTV's morning news show Monday.

“I think that's one area in which Latvia is undoubtedly a leader,” Melbarde said, noting the enthusiastic reaction of foreign audiences, press and participants once they are exposed to the Latvian way of singing.

Before being appointed as culture minister, Melbarde was herself the main organiser of Latvia's famous Song and Dance Festival, held just once every five years.

The major UK newspaper The Guardian, which also has the most popular website of any newspaper in the world was among those providing coverage with a feature on July 12 titled “World Choir Games: The Lessons We Must Learn From Latvia.”

“It’s how singing taps into the national psyche in Latvia that makes the biggest impression of all... what made the profoundest impact was how genuinely Latvians, from composers to the prime minister, from opera stars to folk musicians, felt that it was their singing tradition that was their small country’s greatest unifying force and cultural phenomenon,” the feature said.

Public reaction to the concerts has been equally positive. Maiga Majore, 70, said she had gone to Riga from her country home for the weekend specifically to watch as many concerts as possible.

“I have never heard so many different sorts of music in one place. It's wonderful, and very surprising. I have hardly been back to the flat where I am staying all weekend, I am just going from one concert to another,” she told LSM.

The World Choir Games, which involves 27,000 participants from around the globe, continues until 19th July.

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