Category Archives: I’m a Diva

Full Circle

The Lithuanian word for song  – “daina” – can be traced back to the Indo-European “dhaina,” which means, “to give thought to.” It has been an integral part of Lithuanian life since time immemorial, and some of Lithuania’s most haunting ballads hearken back to our pagan roots, a time when vestal virgins kept round-the clock vigil over the eternal flame and the sun and moon were animate entities.

Lithuanians sing. We sing to our children. We sing in happiness and we sing in grief.  Wherever Lithuanians are gathered, you can bet someone is standing at their center with an accordion. We even sang our way to independence – the term “Singing Revolution” was coined to describe the Baltic independence movement of the late 80s, when Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia used song to protest peacefully against the Soviet occupation.

Last weekend, over 1,000 Lithuanians from America, Canada, Lithuania, and England gathered at Toronto’s Hershey Centre for the IX Lithuanian Song Festival.  Yup. We got together just to sing.  It was a huge event four years in the making, and it was worth every hour of the many rehearsals leading up to it.

The song festival tradition started in Lithuania in 1924 (where it is still held annually).  The first such event in North America occurred in 1956 and has been held seven times since then.  The people who gathered in Chicago in 1956 were first generation Lithuanian Americans who had fled their homeland during the Second World War.  This year’s festival included members of that generation, and three generations following it.

This year’s logo was a sun, half obscured by night. It represented the dawn of civilization and the songs that gave voice to the human condition. We began with songs of the dawn and, in the space of three hours, sang our way through a full 24 hour cycle, ending with a new morning, symbolic of continuity, of the migration of people from east to west, and the passing of the cultural baton. Fittingly, I had the pleasure of watching one of my closest friends – who has dreamed of conducting since we were children at summer camp – direct one of my favorite songs, and I had the privilege of singing a brand new composition written by another friend – the one who always dreamed of composing and used to walk around summer camp with an accordion around his neck.

The experience of singing in an an amphitheater with over a thousand people and accompanied by a full orchestra is hard to describe.  When a perfect chord is struck, the sympathetic vibrations are overwhelming. The tidal wave of sound takes you back to the forest primeval, to your ancient roots, and reminds you that you are a part of something much bigger than yourself.

It reignites the creative spark, and it gives you the strength to ignore you childrens’ nightly request for “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star” and instead keep singing them the ancient lullaby that saw you to adulthood, in hopes that it will leave the same imprint in them that it did in you.

Did you like this? Subscribe to the blog. (It's free!)

It’s Not Over ‘Till the Fat Guy Wakes Up

Where do party animals such as the P-Dawg and myself go of a Saturday night?

Why, to the symphony, of course.

We saw a magnificent performance of Mahler’s Second, The Resurrection, this past weekend.

I was especially riveted by the two sopranos who chimed in to accompany the orchestra at one point, though I must admit to seething a little in my plush concert hall chair, just thinking about how the fulfillment of my greatest wish would be nothing less than to stand up on that stage and belt out an aria or two myself.

Although convinced that I could have easily one-upped the mezzo who subscribed to the Miss Piggy school of operatic theatrics, I remained a model patron of the arts, sitting with head tilted and nylon-clad legs crossed, a thoughtful smile playing upon my lips as I immersed myself in the music.

Until my hyper-vigilant sense of hearing began to pick up the unmistakable, rhythmic, and utterly intolerable sound of snoring.

Dude behind me was out like a light.

As you might imagine, it took every ounce of self-restraint I had not to swivel around and fix the offender with my patented Stare of Damnation, but even I recognized the futility of this measure, considering the fact that he was asleep.

I briefly contemplated whipping out the Snickers bar the P-Dawg always makes sure I have stashed in my purse in case of a hunger induced freakout scenario and loudly crackling the wrapper directly in front of the snorer’s face.

Oh, who am I kidding? I wanted to use that Snicker’s bar as a projectile weapon.

But I decided against it, concluding that the action might only serve to draw more attention to me than to the crisis at hand.

There was a lady in the row in front of me who did turn completely around in her seat and scowled mightily at my neighbor for a very commendable minute or two. This was, of course, to no avail.

I gave her the look of solidarity that is recognizable to all PAPSSS (People Against Public Snoring, Snorting and Snuffling).

The snoring was nearly drowned out during the louder parts of the performance, but irritatingly consistent in rhythm and meter during the more subdued portions. And, of course, the occasional Holy frijoles, was I asleep? snort that would only briefly jolt my enemy from slumber practically sent me through the roof every single time it occurred.

I did manage to enjoy the concert when I wasn’t busy counting to ten in my head, biting my tongue, and jamming the stiletto heel of my right shoe into the tender flesh of the top of my left foot, a measure I often take to prevent myself from speaking out of turn or generally going berserk.

As soon as the finale concluded, the audience rose in one great wave for a standing ovation.

Guess who was practically falling over with the zealousness of his applause? Repeatedly shouting BRAVO! until he turned blue in the face, and generally acting like the exact opposite of a person who just spent the last hour and a half drooling on his own collar?

Mr. Sleepypants himself.

Even the P-dog noted, “What is that guy so excited about? He was asleep for the whole damn show.”

I gave him the Death Stare on my way out, but he was quite unaffected.

Did you like this? Subscribe to the blog. (It's free!)