The 24th Latvian Song and Dance Festival is now over. It was the biggest ever - with 38,000 people performing. (That would be 1 out of every 60 people in Latvia on stage in some event - is there any other country that has festivals of this scale?)
We also had the biggest ever shortage of tickets to many of the festival events. The tickets for the closing concert were reportedly being re-sold at 10 times the face value. One humorist referred to that as "Song, dance and ticket-scalper festival".
I was lucky to get tickets to the opening concert - the one which got a lot of criticism afterwards. Myself, I enjoyed the concert - but not as much as some of the past Song Festival concerts. The feeling of being there with tens of thousands of other people and listening to a thousand-people choir was great. The traditional Song Festival songs, performed for 5, 10 or 20 festivals in a row, were good. But the attempts to insert something more modern into the Festival program did not quite connect with me this time.
There were several songs sung by Renars Kaupers of Brainstorm (the best known Latvian pop music band), with youth choirs in the background. I like Brainstorm but there are so many other opportunities to listen to it. Song festival is only once in 5 years and I would have liked to hear the choir more and Kaupers less.
There were also several songs composed for this festival - and they did not have the same success as the traditional favorites. But I certainly enjoyed the concert and would have gone to it again. And I understand the need for creative experiments.
In the closing concert (which I watched on TV), they went back to the traditional Song Festival repertoire and it sounded great. And every one of my friends and every critic liked it. And it was followed by the choirs singing together with the audience until at least 4am. I really wish I had been there...
UPDATE: In comments, Pierre points out that Estonian song festival has 34,000 perfomers - which would be one out of 40 Estonians performing. So, we are not unique. Maybe Baltics together are unique in this aspect. And, in any case, it's very impressive...