“Riga 2014 Solstice” in Mežaparks

“Riga 2014 Solstice” in Mežaparks
Mārtiņš Otto, Riga 2014
One of the largest 2014 European Capital of Culture events in Riga will take place in Mežaparks on the 21st and 22nd of June – “Riga 2014 Solstice” with a two-day programme of festivities, offering an opportunity for any Riga resident and guest of the city to experience the celebration of light mystery and see first-hand the surviving summer solstice celebration traditions in Latvia and the world.

The programme of “Riga 2014 Solstice” events in Mežaparks includes the impressive dance performance “Lec, saulīte!” (Rise, Fair Sun!), the World Summer Solstice Festival, where musicians from all over the world will present their creative, contemporary vision of summer solstice celebrations, a variety of beer brands from Latvia and other countries will be presented at the World Beer Parade, vendors and craftsmen will sell their wares at the Riga Solstice Fair, and there will be many more creative and entertaining events for visitors to see. “Riga 2014 Solstice” will close with the “Riga Swirling in Dance” ball featuring the most popular midsummer night songs and dance routines all night long. A painting created specifically for the celebration by artist Helēna Heinrihsone (see the top picture) represents the visual identity of “Riga 2014 Solstice”.

The summer solstice, or the longest day and the shortest night of the year, is celebrated not only in Latvia. The celebrations take place everywhere in the world, with a different name in every given country: Jāņu dienaJohannestag, Alban Heflin, Alben Heruin, Feast of Epona, Feill-Sheathain, Litha, Sankthansaften, Midsummer’s Eve, Sonnwend, Thing-Tide, Vestalia. In the northern hemisphere, the astronomical summer solstice on the 21st of June marks the middle of the summer, the day when the sun begins making its way towards the autumn. After the summer solstice, days begin to grow shorter and nights become longer. Traditionally, various people all over the world celebrated the summer solstice sometime in the period from the 20th to the 26th of June.

Riga Solstice Fair
21st and 22nd of June from 12 noon to 10 p.m.
Mežaparks Central Alley
Products and items made by craftsmen, snacks, caraway cheese and beer
Participants: craftsmen and vendors of organic products from all over Latvia
Admission free of charge

Everyone is invited to the Riga Solstice Fair where Latvian craftsmen and vendors will sell their wares. Visitors will have the opportunity to buy various crafts – a variety of wooden items, knitwear, tabletop games, smithwares, various braids, pottery and glassware. Also available will be lots of homemade delicacies essential for Līgo! celebrations – caraway cheese, smoked fish and meat products, traditional pies and much, much more. 

World Beer Parade
21st and 22nd of June from 12 noon to 10 p.m.
Mežaparks Grand Stage territory
Tasting and comparing beer brands from Latvia, Europe and the world, competitions
Participants: Latvian beer brewers, sellers, importers
Admission free of charge

The World Beer Parade in the territory of the Mežaparks Grand Stage, part of the “Riga 2014 Solstice” festivities, will give the visitors an opportunity to taste and compare a great variety of beer brands from Latvia, Europe and the world. Latvians will surely know and appreciate a good deal of them, but the other part will only be known to the true beer aficionados. During the World Beer Parade, beer brewers, sellers and pubkeepers will be able to share their experience of the beer brands most popular with customers, whereas parade visitors will have a chance to taste, and vote for, the best beer brands.

Līgo Sauna Festival
21st and 22nd of June from 12 noon to 10 p.m.
Mežaparks Grand Stage area

Exploring sauna traditions, a chance to go to a traditional sauna
Participants: certified Latvian sauna attendants
Admission free of charge

For Latvians, going to the sauna has been integral part of the summer solstice celebrations since ancient times. During the summer solstice celebrations in Mežaparks on the 21st and 22nd of June, “Riga 2014 Solstice” will present an opportunity to every visitor to go to all kinds of saunas, have various massages, participate in a workshop making birch bunches, learn valuable information about healthy lifestyle and the important role of the sauna, attend various master classes and watch all kinds of performances. They will also have the opportunity to purchase various sauna products, from birch bunches to the traditional bath attendant’s attire.

World Summer Solstice Festival
21st and 22nd of June from 12 noon to 9 p.m. 
The field next to the Mežaparks Grand Stage
Sun songs, dances and rituals, master classes in various ethnic cuisines, wreath and garland making workshops
Participants: folklore ensembles “Kokle”, “Laiksne” and “Oglīte” (Latvia), Bremen choir “Bremer RathsChor” (Germany), folklore ensemble “Tarbatu” (Estonia), Focșani folklore ensemble “Tara Vrancei” (Vrancea County, Romania), traditional music ensemble “Tanec” (Macedonia), Tbilisi jazz ensemble “Tbilisi Big-Band” (Georgia), Tato Marenco and “via 40” (Colombia).
Admission free of charge

The programme of the World Summer Solstice Festival includes songs, dances and rituals, from performances by popular folksong singers in Latvia and neighbour countries to Romanian and Macedonian traditions, to the sun-filled jazz from Tbilisi and the traditional Colombian percussions. The festival will also host master classes in various traditional ethnic cuisines, Latvian wreath and garland making workshops, workshops teaching how to make the special midsummer soap with traditional herbs, and workshops on making traditional Latvian musical instruments.

Dance performance “Lec, saulīte!”
Mežaparks Grand Stage
21st and 22nd of June at 10 p.m. (admission begins at 8 p.m.) 
Participants: several thousand dancers from the best dance ensembles of Riga and Latvia, choirs, soloists, “Lec, saulīte!” orchestra and the bagpipe ensemble “Auļi”
Tickets available from “Biļešu serviss” outlets and “Riga 2014” culture chalet “Esplanade 2014”

The main character of the dance performance “Lec, saulīte!” (Rise, Fair Sun!) is a girl who symbolises two thematic lines – tradition and love. The summer solstice traditions are a testimony to the vitality of a nation, awareness of one’s roots, and the performance is based on a story that will temporarily take everyone who hears, sees and experiences it to the world of celebration of light and the traditional rituals of the vital festival. The spectator zone of the Mežaparks Grand Stage will be transformed into Jānis Mountain, whereas spectators will be seated in an unusual area – where the joint choir singers usually stand during the Song Festival. The performance will have music composed specifically for it.

The performance’s creative group is made up of the artistic director Jānis Ērglis, stage director Elmārs Seņkovs, composer Raimonds Tiguls, author Rasa Bugavičute, choreographers Jānis Ērglis, Jānis Purviņš, Agris Daņiļevičs, set designer Reinis Suhanovs, costume designer Evija Dāboliņa. Participating in the performance will be several thousand dancers from the best dance ensembles of Riga and Latvia, choirs, soloists, the “Lec, saulīte!” orchestra and the bagpipe ensemble “Auļi”.

About 4,000 tickets to either performance will be available in total. Pre-sale ticket price – EUR 10 to EUR 35.

Night ball “Riga Twirling in Dance”
The 23rd of June from 1 a.m.
Mežaparks Grand Stage
Programme: singing and dancing to the most popular Līgo! songs as well as traditional dances from the various parts of the world

Tickets available from “Biļešu serviss” outlets and “Riga 2014” culture chalet “Esplanade 2014”

“Riga 2014 Solstice” will close with a ball all night long – dancing to and singing songs from Latvia, Europe and the world. All the participants, ensembles, soloists and guests of “Riga 2014 Solstice” festival, led by the event’s musical director Juris Vaivods, will be able to stretch their legs going through traditional dance routines from all over the world – the ball will feature not only traditional folk music of Latvia, but also the Greek sirtaki, Spanish flamenco, German polka, Finnish letkis and much more. Everyone is invited to the night ball, which will be the largest night-time event to take place at the Mežaparks Stage in 2014.

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