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Traditionally performed by groups of female singers, sutartinės is a polyphonic singing style unique to North East Lithuania. The poetic texts that form their basis cover subjects central to the life of common people: work, festivities, weddings, family life, and even the vicissitudes of war.

The sutartinės as they develop through phrases performed at staggered intervals take on the form of a musical tapestry that assumes greater colour and substance as it progresses. Through these phrases and their accumulation, Lithuanian history, or rather the history of its working people, becomes a living-breathing thing. As these songs are woven in the air, the nation’s cultural identity comes to life. The choreography of performance is as spare, minimal and elegant as the songs themselves, with musical accompaniment being suitably minimal, including pan-pipes, horns, long wood trumpets, fipple flutes and plucked zithers.

Of course, the best place to hear sutartinės is at the Baltic Song and Dance Celebration, which is held every four years in Lithuania, and is celebrating its centenary in 2024. But this is not the only place. You’ll find group performances throughout the year. And if you are lucky enough to be in the country around Joninės (St. John’s Day), which falls on the night of the summer solstice, you’ll be able to catch the mystical and arcadian vision of women in traditional costume and flower wreaths singing sutartinės by candlelight at the edge of a calm, reflecting lake.

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