Yet much of the region's music is relatively undiscovered territory for Atlantans -- particularly what falls in the extensive realm of choral music. Hence the importance of the Candler Choraliers' upcoming concerts at Cannon Chapel and St. Anne's Episcopal Church, which spotlight sacred music from all three Baltic countries. The program includes a handful of works by guest Lithuanian composer Kristina Vasiliauskaite.
"It turns out she has never been to the United States," says Marian Dolan, director of choirs at Emory University's Candler School of Theology. "She got her visa in March." Which is remarkable considering the supposed difficulty of obtaining U.S. visas in Baltic countries.
Whether sacred or secular, choral music plays a huge role in the culture and national identity of the Baltic countries. How huge? Imagine a crowd of some 20,000 at Philips Arena. Now imagine the same number of people on an outdoor hillside stage, singing together before an audience of more than 250,000. That's how big the national song festivals can be. Musical events that have been taking place for more than 125 years, they have long been a form of passive resistance, a peaceful "singing revolution." And in the last dozen years, they have gained special new significance as a kind of "Baltic perestroika."
After World War II, expatriates from the Baltic region came to North America, settling in the industrial cities of Canada and the northern U.S., many coming directly from German camps for displaced persons. While subsequent migrations to cities like Atlanta have usually involved second-generation moves within North America, emigration directly from the Baltics has become more common in the last decade.
Today, Atlanta's Baltic-American population is estimated at around 1,500, compared to the tens of thousands in cities like Toronto and Chicago. So for Atlanta's Baltic-American communities, being "ethnically involved" takes real effort. But since the 1996 Summer Olympics -- and especially in the last year -- there's been a small renaissance of consciousness and influence. Last August, four U.S. congressmen from Georgia were part of a delegation that visited Estonia and Latvia. And in September, the Joint Baltic American National Committee and local Baltic-Americans hosted a meeting on NATO enlargement in Atlanta.
Dolan first encountered Baltic choral music as a conductor of choruses at Haverford College in Pennsylvania. An Estonian student had gone home to Tallinn for winter break and come back with a stack of music that "had not seen the light of day in the United States," says Dolan. They subsequently performed some of the choral works.
When Dolan came to Atlanta in 1996 to direct choirs at Emory, she didn't expect to find any connections to Baltic music here. She was surprised to quickly find a young Estonian man studying at Candler, and an American student who was doing work in the Baltics. Since then, Dolan's involvement with Baltic music has expanded along with her personal contacts within the region.
One such contact is Vasiliauskaite, whose Misios sv. Cecilijos garbei ("Mass in Honor of St. Cecilia") is receiving its U.S. premiere. The work has never been sung outside of Lithuania's Vilnius Cathedral.
"The majority of music we're singing was written in the last 10 or 12 years," says Dolan.
And the reason has nothing to do with trying to stay contemporary. Under the Soviet system, writing sacred music was forbidden.
*Christ, Lord sorry
"Punk" style like this seems like it is the polar opposite of punk. Bradford Cox…
They're kind of starting to look like a joke of themselves. Song's good though.
All 80s movies want you...
Their show with Chris, Lord about 3 years at the Unicorn was the best.