You are cordially invited to the 8th annual Litvak Days – this year dedicated to mark the centenary of Lithuania’s restored statehood – on 28-29 November and 5 December, 2018. We are delighted to announce that music is at the heart of Litvak Days 2018.
On Wednesday evening, 28 November, the Embassy of Lithuania, in cooperation with University College London (UCL), invites you to a concert by the Lithuanian classical musicquartet. The four young but already prominent performers – violinist Dalia Dėdinskaitė, cellist Gleb Pyšniak, pianist Robertas Lozinskis and vibraphonist Marius Šinkūnas will present a special program Aerogram. The quartet is spectacularly talented and creative in bridging the past and present, Lithuania and the diaspora, in interpreting the legacies of richly-varied Litvak music.
On Thursday, 29 November, beginning in the morning, the Embassy and UCL request your company at the academic and informational portion of the event. This year’s conference reflects the theme of Music: Soundtracks of Jewish Life and the Wider World. As in years past, we present a number of distinguished speakers (and singers!) from around the world, including the internationally renowned Canadian Jewish folksinger and songwriter Batsheva, who will pay her tribute to the legacy of Leonard Cohen and his Litvak roots. She will also close the conference with a special program, performed exclusively for this event.
In addition: on Wednesday, 5 December, the Embassy of Lithuania and the Lithuanian Culture Institute join forces with Dash Arts productions for an evening of conversation, DJ patter and dance-beats. This event, Dash Café: Beats from a Vanished World, explores how the heritage of Lithuania’s nearly-entirely lost Jewish community inspires contemporary arts, culture and entertainment today.
In Jewish life, music and song have been constant companions. Chanting was an important element of Jewish prayer, and instrumental music played a significant part in Jewish weddings and other celebrations.
The child prodigy turned violin virtuoso Jascha Heifetz, composer George Gershwin, jazz great Benny Goodman, recently deceased folk-legend Leonard Cohen, and rock singer “Pink” are not only headline Jewish names from the world of music—they are among the many with Litvak ties. Traits of Lithuanian Jewish music, with strong religious strains, were established by the mid-18thcentury. Compared with Jewish music of Western Europe, influenced by the surrounding culture, and that of Southern Europe, also influenced by Hasidism, Litvak music tended to be conservative. At the beginning of the nineteenth century, however, Jews in music became increasingly significant almost everywhere.
A number of Litvak musicians enriched classical music of the 20th century – among them, piano virtuoso from Žasliai Leopold Godowsky; Vilnius’ born Jascha Heifetz; brothers Misha (cellist) and Alexander (violinist) Schneider, members of the famous Budapest Quartet; and the composer and violinist from Lazdijai, Joseph Achron, who became a renowned Los Angeles-based artist. Initiatives of Lithuania’s Jewish intelligentsia helped inspire the emergence of a national composers’ school. But due to the tragic events of the mid-20th century – the Holocaust and later Soviet occupation – this development was arrested.
The importance of Litvaks in music during the Holocaust is striking. Songs and musical performances helped inmates to document and even survive Nazi persecution and the Jewish partisans to draw strength from songs of bravery and defiance.
The collapse of the Soviet Union precipitated the more recent Litvak musical resurgence. This is exemplified by one of the most famous Lithuanian composers Anatolijus Šenderovas (born 1945), who incorporated ancient Jewish texts and music into a contemporary context. Jewish topics and nuances are reflected in Šenderovas’s works – from biblical phrases and archaic melodies, to colourful Sephardic songs, and nostalgic Eastern European Jewish melodies with klezmer elements.
The Litvaks contributed to the field of music in every genre. Today we see highly talented performers and groups that draw on this legacy, some using lyrics written in the past, as well as ensembles and Klezmer bands with a modern twist. We have chosen to honour and illuminate these traditions and folk melodies, as well as recent innovations, to celebrate this year’s Litvak Days. We seek to better understand and evoke the past as well as to enjoy its most contemporary incarnations.
All the Litvak Days’ events are free and open to the public but due to limited availability registration is essential. Please find the registration and eventdetails below.
Please also note that Day 1 and Day 2 will feature the exhibition One Century of Seven. Lietuva. Lita. Lite, which illustrates the history of the Lithuanian Jews from their settlement in the territories of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania in the 13th century to present day.
Wednesday, 28 November 2018:
Concert by the Lithuanian classical music quartet:
Aerogram: From the heritage of Lithuanian Jewish (Litvak) music
Venue: Embassy of Lithuania, 2 Bessborough Gardens, London SW1V 2JE
Time: 6:30 PM
Thursday, 29 November 2018:
Conference: Music: Soundtracks of Jewish Life and the Wider World
Venue: Embassy of Lithuania, 2 Bessborough
Gardens, London SW1V 2JE
Time: 10:00 AM
Wednesday, 5 December 2018:
Evening of conversations & dance: Dash Café: Beats from a Vanished World
Venue: Rich Mix, 35-47 Bethnal Green Road, London, E1 6LA
Time: 7:30 PM
Cover photo: Danielius Pomerancas and his ensemble around 1930. Courtesy of The Vilna Gaon State Jewish Museum.