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Digital song and dance festival idea evokes contrasting public attitudes

On May 13, the XII Latvian School Youth Song and Dance Celebration Action Committee presented a “safe festival scenario”, based mostly on the digital environment. However, thoughts in the public space and among authorities differ as to whether this solution is satisfactory, Latvian Radio reported May 18.

The "e-song festival" concept will still be viewed by the Song and Dance Festival council and the Cabinet.

The concept provides that the festival's overall program is to be composed of 15 different events in singing, vocal music, instrumental music, dance, visual and visual plastic art, folklore.

All concerts and events will be recorded in video formats and streamed in different digital platforms and television formats for the general public.

Events are mainly planned to take place locally in municipalities, outdoors. In any event, the number of participants will not exceed the number allowed in the country at that time, there is no general assembly, no centralized rehearsals and a long rehearsal process.

On 19 May, the solution will be presented to the Song and Dance Celebration Council, the Cabinet will see the solution in the second half of May.

“This year we are planning a different school song and dance festival. It is important for us to preserve the succession of festivals, to allow those who have the song and dance movement as part of their identity to adhere to a safe concept of festival (..). These festivals are for themselves: dancers, singers and their teachers”, said Minister for Education Ilga Šuplinska.

The festival organizer - State Education and Content Center - has conducted a survey of local governments regarding their readiness to participate in the festival. Out of 118 municipalities, 106 questionnaires have been sent, 96 of which support the organization of festivals this year (involving joint festivals or festivals in municipalities or educational establishments, or only in collective terms, taking into account the epidemiological situation) 6 do not support any of the scenarios, 4 – no opinion.

 One of the municipalities which doesn't support the e-format of the festival is the Valmiera municipality. 

Valmiera Music School choir Solare conductor Irēna Zelča said that "a choir is not Zoom, a choir is not a video, and I understand that e-song festival is not the song festival, choir is collective singing, choir is a collective."

Valmiera Song festival coordinator Sanita Loze told Latvian Radio that a survey of choirs and dance groups has been conducted and on the basis of that it was decided that Valmiera will not participate if such an event is organized.

The concept of “e-festival” is based on the need to preserve the tradition of song festivals, but according to Sanita Loze, rather, the form of this kind of festival gives children a misconception of the nature of these festivals.

She says, “The basic thought of the Song Celebration, which was established once in Neikenkalns, here in Dikļi, was the gathering, the singing together. The e-environment of all these school years, the exhausting “Zoom” or “Google Meet” environments with individual performances, without any audience applause, cheers, ovations in my opinion, it does not create any of this feeling for children for whom it is the first time - what it means to be a Latvian in the song festival.”

Initially, XII Latvian School Youth Song and Dance Celebration was scheduled to take place from 6 to 12 July 2020, but due to the spread of Covid-19, it was decided at the end of March last year to postpone the festival for 2021.

As previously reported, the 11th Youth Song and Dance festival was held in 2015. The festival's concerts were attended by some 66,600 people, while altogether events drew about 200,000 visitors to the festival. Some 37,890 young singers and dancers participated in the festival, which serves as a downsized version of the Song and Dance festival (the latter is also held every five years).

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