International Singers-Songwriters’ Festival „This is Me”
On the third week in October, the International Singers-Songwriters’ Festival „This is Me“ has been annually held by the centre of culture and education Vilnius Teachers’ House since 2003. It is the only international event of this genre in Eastern Europe. Participants from Latvia, Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, Poland, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Germany, Czech Republic, Great Britain, Italy, Spain, Ireland, Scotland, France, Portugal, Bulgaria, Brazil, Argentina, Ecuador, the USA and, of course, Lithuania have appeared during these events. Concerts in different Lithuanian cities and towns and also in the neighbouring countries of Latvia and Poland last for a week. One of the most unique traits of the festival in the international context is the fact that the participants perform songs in their mother-tongue. In this way, the listeners are introduced not only to this genre of a specific country, but also to a part of its culture in a broader sense.
The festival did not originate out of nowhere. There was republic-wide singers-songwriters’ festival “Acacia Avenue” held in Kulautuva district in Kaunas and there were many single sung poetry events in different Lithuanian cities and towns. Vilnius Teachers’ House has run regular sung poetry music lounge concerts twice a month since 2001. It was the time in Lithuania when people spoke about the revival of this genre, a real Renaissance of it. However, they lacked an international event that could unite the bards in entire Lithuania and join foreign performers of this genre. Moreover, almost every other genre had their own international festival but sung poetry was almost the only one that was singled out by its national features, specific exclusiveness and attachment to the East, especially Russia. A Lithuanian listener could not even imagine that this genre would sound in any other languages than Lithuanian or Russian. Even though many of our country‘s bards „were born“ in the blaze of glory of “The Beatles“, they were the most enchanted by Vladimir Vysocky, Bulat Okudzhava and other Russian performers , many of whom visited Lithuania a number of times. Polish bards were known too and also influenced Lithuanians, but this influence was smaller, they were better known by the gourmets of the genre, the situation was influenced by the barbed wire fence with Poland, and only few could freely listen to the radio or watch TV of this country. The Russian language, until Lithuania broke free from the Soviet occupation in 1990, was the official language, only Russian radio and television could be freely used in each flat.
Sung poetry in other languages? Is this even possible? Must the text and direct understanding be very important? These are the questions that were called to attention by the people behind the festival, but mostly they interested journalists. We have to admit that we did consider what it will be like in reality but we did not give way to our internal misgivings. Creative-organizational stubbornness won, more from the love to this genre rather than egoistic organizational reasons. Why this, our nurtured genre, cannot have an international festival in Lithuania? This might be the reason why the first festival did not take place when Gediminas Storpirstis (the artistic director of the festival, Lithuanian theatre actor and bard) and we wanted, but it did a year later, in 2003. More mature, more developed.
Vytautas Kernagis (1951-2008) is considered to be the godfather of the festival and the pioneer of this genre in Lithuania. In 1978 on his initiative the genre was called sung poetry, as if copied from the Polish poezja spiewana. He suggested naming the festival “This is Me“. These are the words from one of his songs. The name suits the chamber-likeness of the genre, the relation between the listener and the performer and the work itself. And it is not unintentional that since his death in 2008, every year one of the festival’s performers is awarded with the guitar of V. Kernagis name. It is a way to make the memory of the festival’s godfather meaningful.
The first festival started with the discussion about the reviving bard music, its metamorphoses and its place on the modern (of the time, 2003) cultural map. Why did it have to be held? Was it the time when sung poetry genre was “experiencing its Renaissance “ in Lithuania? All its fans spoke of that, and we, the organizers of this festival, spoke of it in public? It seemed that such a young (officially only about 25 years old) but quite a popular genre in Lithuania was gaining evident popularity. However, both we and most performers could hardly name its specifics. And this was what was often talked about, interviewed by journalists, discussed between concerts and after them. This was the field that gave rise to the idea that the first International Singers-Songwriters’ Festival has to start with utterance to make sure, to tell each other and, with the participation of important propagators of this genre and its fans, set firmly what sung poetry in Lithuania is.
From the perspective of this day and the decade not only of the festival but also of sung poetry in general, some things have been tested by time and life. Things said then are true today, when bard lifestyle is even more rooted in Lithuania. Today our national sung poetry can be competitive in a European or worldwide context because during this time at the festival “This is Me” about several dozens of bards from different countries of the world appeared, not to mention joint projects of our performers and participants from abroad, or Lithuanian participants taking part in concerts abroad.
While reading the text of this discussion, another truth appears. If we invited everybody to a similar discussion again, we would be talking about the same thing. Nine years have not cleared much about the genre, the same problems remained, only... more concerts and festivals have taken place, sung poetry stage sees new and even more original performers. So, what is going on? What mysticism is on? Will Lithuania see the genius who will far-sightedly, clearly and finally sort out the characteristics of Lithuanian sung poetry?
We shaped the concert programme for the festival in a quite traditional way: Opening concert, Staying until Dawn (liberal night concerts), Authors’ concerts, Children’s concert “Bards to children” and Closing concerts. The structure of the concerts of “This is Me” festival has not changed during those nine years. Is it good or bad? Let the listeners decide. But the festival itself has expanded a lot during the time of its life. Every year something new appeared and something little by little, almost invisibly to the listener, was gone. Festival workshops for young performers started to be organised in 2004, the geography of the festival in 2005 expanded to Pasvalys, Skapiskis in Kupiskis district, Kaunas and Alytus. The same year saw the festival two days longer than usual. In 2006 the festival crossed borders in the north of Lithuania and some concerts took place in the capital of Latvia Riga (Riga secondary school for Lithuanians and “Imanta“ culture and free time centre). The festival took one day longer. In 2008 the festival participants travelled to their fellow country people in Punsk in the territory of Poland. In 2010 the festival prologue tradition was started to be set in Dieveniskes (Salcininkai district) “Rytas“secondary school. In this way the International Singers-Songwriters’ Festival “This is Me“ from three days turned into a serious week-long event, whose geography from Vilnius Teachers’ House spread to the whole of Lithuania and beyond.
It was an original concept to make the festival a contest. There were even terms being created in which the main aim of the festival was considered “to network with the genres of this festival in other countries and to stress the importance of sung poetry in Lithuania by showing the society that it is not only an amateur-propagated creation but also a musical expression of good, strong poetry aimed at people who are in search of a substitute for pop art, in search of alternative for other genres of music. And also to show sung poetry, common bard cultural traditions abroad to Lithuanian listeners and to compare with the living traditions in Lithuania. On the other hand, sung poetry as a separate, exclusive genre in Lithuania, is being ignored up to now. We believe that the events of this festival will put sung poetry next to other genres. “
While developing regulations of the festival (that are incomplete until this day), the stress was put on the cuurent issues of modern sung poetry that has not changed much until today. The genre lived, even prospered, halls were crowded, but some social layers had a silent approach to it, attributing it to amateurish art. In this regard, different critics might be right when attributing sung poetry to literature, because their relations are the strongest. Sung poetry is evaluated by time and the listener, whose taste is shaped by time. By keeping the listener, works of this genre, sometimes even called classics, appear in the chrestomathy of sung poetry.
Today the organisers still follow the aims that were raised and set in the project . But we do not look back to those old notes, we... are guided by them. But that is it, and the idea “to make the festival a competition” stayed only as archive material mentioning such attempts. The listener has remained the main judge. Polish bard Wojciech Lesniak, who participated in the festival in 2008, later said that his friends, upon his returning home to Szczecin, asked which place he had won in the festival, who had won the Grandprix. He told them that there were no places, nobody competed for them, and that was the best thing about the festival because there was common spirit where performers became friends, supporting each other.
Some awards appeared much later in 2008. Lithuanian Neighbouring Rights Association AGATA founded a prize and that was the guitar of Vytautas Kernagis name, in 2010 Agency of Lithuanian Copyright Protection Association LATGA-A founded a premium, Gold Star and Staying until Dawn winner. But all those awards are in no way for the competition. What happens at the festival is impossible to evaluate, and it is not only due to the age or experience difference among the participants, but due to the general atmosphere that joins the audience with the performer because it is “This is Me”, where every “me” is experienced differently, individually, and lyrically in a sense.
“The first pancake did not turn out the worst,- composer and performer Algirdas Klova wrote in magazine “Muzikos barai” after the first festival.-Hopefully, it will be a traditional, more international and really prestigious capital city event. Even more, the organisers, running “Sung Poetry Music Lounges” and song competitions, and thematic concert evenings do a lot to contribute to popularising the very genre and the entire bard movement in Lithuania.”
Why is the festival held by Vilnius Teachers’ House that at the first glance at its name should take care more of Vilnius teachers? What kind of institution is it? Vilnius Teachers’ House was founded in 1946 and functions as the centre of culture and education. It is one of the longest non-stop working centres of culture in Lithuania. It has been subject to Vilnius city municipality from 1989 (and education trade unions earlier). Teachers’ House hosts not only festival “This is Me”, but also a number of other cultural events, runs different cultural projects. They organise more than 300 events annually.
There was sung poetry in Vilnius Teachers’ House before the festival, as well as Sung Poetry Music Lounges author concerts. Bards used to be invited to different events to beautify them, to create cozy atmosphere. In April 2000, when organising the literature festival “Knygu pavasaris”, we thought to dedicate one evening to sung poetry and invited actor G. Storpirstis among other people and less known Lithuanian bards. After the concert, Gediminas said it would be nice for sung poetry to have its own home where regular concerts could take place, the audience would come not only to listen to the bards but also to communicate with them. This idea, still in progress, lived for one year until I offered Teachers’ House director Zita Zepnickiene together with G. Storpirstis to regularly hold sung poetry concerts, calling them Sung Poetry Music Lounge.
The first concert took place on 5th October, 2001. The main participant was G. Storpirstis himself. We also wanted to introduce young performers from the very first events. Ever since then, this genre has been living in Vilnius Teachers’ House until now. I hope that we will find it here, at its home, a decade later and more.
Ever since starting organising the first Sung Poetry Music Lounge concerts, we have been thinking of an international festival of this genre as a final point, as if linking the above-mentioned Music Lounge concerts. According to our idea, the first festival was supposed to be held in the spring of 2002, but we failed to realize this idea. When finishing the first season of the Music Lounge, we held a kind of small festival of three days to put the finishing touches of the festival. Young bards performed on 17th May (Friday) in the evening and the next day there were two concerts. One of them was for children and it was called “Bards to Children”, and the other one was for the whole public, in which the most famous bards of the country performed. And only one and a half year later, on 19-21st September 2003, the first International Singers-Songwriters’ Festival “This is Me” was held.
Today many in Lithuania cannot imagine Vilnius Teachers’ House activities without sung poetry .This House has become the centre of this genre, independent of the fact that the bard movement has even more spread up to the corners of the whole Lithuania. The major concerts take place in St. Catherine’s Church. It is administered by Vilnius Teachers’ House and now serves functions of a centre of culture.
International Singers-Songwriters’ Festival “This is Me” is undoubtedly the most important project of the year for Vilnius Teachers’ House. If the majority of the activities that take place here is more oriented towards a city dweller, this festival with its broad geography embraces entire Lithuania and beyond. Finally, it is the only international project of such scope that takes place here. And when during the third week in October (a set date for the festival since 2004) Vilnius becomes the capital of the bards of the world, Vilnius Teachers’ House undoubtedly becomes their centre.
Norwegian Kalle Zwilgmeyer (1937-2010) was the real ambassador of the festival in Scandinavian countries. Owing to him, most guests at the first festival came from Nordic countries: three Norwegians, one person from the Faroe Islands, two Danes… ( and only young musicians’ group “La bricole” from France took part with Scandinavians at the first “This is Me” festival ). Mr. Zwilgmeyer took care of the festival until his death in 2010. The musicians of Nordic countries respectfully called K. Zwilgmeyer “a spider in the cobweb”, most likely because he was really involved in the activity to bind sung poetry performers of all nations.
During the first years of the festival (until 2008) the song “It’s Good to See You” by Allan Taylor was its improvised anthem, and the initiators of it were favourites of the audience Danes Bente Kure and Leif Ernstsen. This song grabbed everybody’s heart. In a few years time, the audience sang it along with the participants at the Closing concert. Kalle participated all the time, though as a performer only once in 2005. When the festival would come to the closing part, he would always be invited on the stage to sing the above-mentioned song together with everybody. Approximately in the middle of it, he sang solo, including one stanza in Lithuanian.
In the beginning, some would call the festival as Lithuanian-Scandinavian. We did not mind that much, even though after it ended we, the organizers, sat down and searched for ways to invite more different European performers. Thanks to Kalle, the audience of the festival discovered works of Scandinavian bards and general cultural traditions of these countries.
Attention to children has been paid beginning with the first year. Earlier, in the spring of 2002, when finishing the first Sung Poetry Music Lounge season, we held a concert “Bards to Children” in Vilnius Teachers’ House Great Hall. So, when thinking of the programme for the little ones at the festival, we did not have to worry about the concert’s name. “Bards to Children” is the name that exists today and we want to believe that this will live on.
A concert for children (parents and grandparents are also welcome) is subtle. Every year organisers have to think hard how to make it interesting, it is important that exclusive performers who know how to find a common language with children agree to participate. Well, of course, they have to be good performers as well. It is here that the young listener has their first acquaintance with sung poetry and it might be their first live contact with a bard. A disappointed young listener might never come back to the genre and that includes their understanding of other music and poetic texts that are decoded by the sung poetry, unbound in their meaning, and supplied in an easier form to the reader. Fortunately, there are bards working for children in Lithuania. And more and more of them appear. Even foreign performers with their mimic and melodic songs can enchant the youngest festival’s listener-viewer.
“Staying till Dawn” concerts have been on the programme of the festival from the very start. It is thanks to them that more fans of the genre appeared, the circle of sung poetry performers expanded greatly. The youth joined significantly. When thinking about these concerts, we tried to recreate popular jazz festivals night concerts “jam session” or night readings from our most correlated in this sense festival “Poetry Spring”. We called it “Staying till Dawn” in Lithuanian, providing the opportunity for all performers, who we did not know, to appear here. The age and stage experience of the participants of these evenings is very different and ranges from quite well known famous song authors and performers to complete “newbies”.
These concerts are a great opportunity for everybody to make themselves heard, for example, less known creators of mature age, and of course especially the youth. Every “Staying till Dawn” attender has been and is still granted the right to be called a participant of the festival. Not all “Staying till Dawn” attenders are active participants of the concerts of this genre, some later chose nother activities. Others have stayed, regardless the fact that today the sung poetry is rather a hobby.
“Text is the base of sung poetry”- this is how we called the second festival’s discussion, taking place in 2004. It has always been a rule that a sung poetry text has to be only good and very good. Such a code was given from the start of the genre in Lithuania. “Sung poetry is indeed the leverage to cheap pop music lyrics, clichéd up to sickness”- V. Kernagis said back in 1977 during one of his interviews.
A lot was talked about the relation between the text and the music during this discussion. Spaniards Nerea Saenz and Carlos Aguado, Norwegian K. Zwilgmeyer also spoke in it, together with Lithuanians. Both Lithuanian discussion participants and guests admitted the same truth that the text in this genre is very important, but music also plays a significant part. It is best when there is creative harmony between the two, neither giving way to another.
The first festivals were more European, some might feel them as Lithuanian-Scandinavian. Later geography expanded and crossed European borders, let alone Russia, Ukraine. The last three festivals always featured performers from the USA, Ecuadorian and Argentinean bards sang to our audience, and during the jubilee concert Vincent Freire from exotic Brazil appeared. During the first years, knowing that the Lithuanian viewer knows Russian bard culture quite well, we oriented towards West more, trying to introduce Scandinavian, British, French, Spanish, Italian performers to our listeners as much as we could. The first Russian bard, Viaceslav Kovoliov, participated only in the festival of 2007. Later Aleksej Ivascenka, Galina Chomcik, Viktor Tretjakov came from Russia.
Questions and hints about understanding the text of an unknown language are still with us today. But we have answers too - our audience understands and the language in which words are sung does not matter. The same goes for the little listeners of concerts “Bards to Children”. Musical layer, thanks to which the performer communicates with the listener, helps understand the text.
Beautiful creative projects between Lithuanian and foreign participants are born almost annually. The networking is being developed in all four directions. A significant number of such joint creative projects appeared after 2005, when “This is Me” expanded from Vilnius. While travelling, the performers had more time to communicate, find things in common and show a joint creative product to the audience live. Vygandas Kazlauskas with French Laurent Secco, participants of 2010 festival, later recorded several joint songs in the French language. Other performers communicate by letters, exchange creative ideas. We declared it at the beginning that one of the aims of the festival is to facilitate friendship between Lithuanians and foreigners, joint creative projects are realised, one could visit the other even if there is no festival on. We globalise the world in our own way, trying to assist our guests and also take what is best from them because there are no borders for cultural communication. There is absolutely no age limit among our guests and Lithuanian performers. (Come to think of it, it does not exist among our own citizens as well.)
Some other performers borrowed the ideas of the festival “This is Me”. Mostly, in my opinion, they found home in Italy, in the legendary city of Verona. Bard Stefan Cobello, who visited us several times from there, became fascinated with the festival. Ieva Narkute, Kestutis Pleita, Auguste Bartkeviciute and other Lithuanians and Scottish Steve Dowling, Stanley Samuelsen from the Faroe Islands have visited Verona a number of times. Great attention is paid to Lithuania and the festival itself at concerts and creative workshops held there, where participants from eight European countries gather. Concerts are held in different halls, from suburban villas to the medieval castle of Verona.
Steve Dowling from Scotland was one of those bards who got “hooked” by the festival idea and its name. From the first visit to Lithuania (and there have been more than one) he pondered over the very genre for a long time, about the differences in each country, word sound, and especially about the name of our festival. He took all these expressed loudly thoughts and our comments with him to Scotland. A few years later, he invited a group of Lithuanians and S. Cobello from Italy to Scotland.
Creative workshops for beginner bards have been organised since 2004. The participants come to the first workshops with several songs of theirs. One song from the pool is chosen and it becomes the main material for work and creativity. The final touchable result is the preparation of the song for the Closing concert of the festival when the whole group performs it together. Such workshops are one of the most important educational moments of the festival, when creating takes place on the spot and almost a new work is born.
In 2005 we started hosting concerts not only in Vilnius, but also in other parts of Lithuania. First visiting concerts took place in Pasvalys, Skapiskis (Kupiskis district), Kaunas, Alytus, followed by Varena, Veisiejai (Lazdijai district), Kedainiai, Radviliskis, Siauliai, Klaipeda, Panevezys, Gargzdai, Sirvintos, etc. Several Lithuanian and foreign bards took part in them.
Many visiting concerts of the festival become the celebration for the local community, especially where there are real owners and not just hall managers. Sometimes, in some places a festival concert was the reason to invite singing people from own country to meet up or to congratulate festivals held there already (in Varena Province Singers-Songwriters’ Festival “Dainuojancios bites”, in Gargzdai “Skambant gitarai”, etc.). During one of the first festival trips to Skapiskis, the staff of a local culture house invited not only own bards from Kupiskis region, but also the ones from nearby Rokiskis.
The festival has annually expanded to different Lithuanian regions. Some places have been visited almost every year, while some others - just a few times. There, where the tradition rooted, we went more often, where the tradition was weaker- we took a break. We know, we realize that the audience needs to be nurtured, cultivated, trained, however, it cannot be let go free. In this way we almost never let go of Skapiskis, Pasvalys, Varena, Veisiejai and in recent years -Dieveniskes. In every of these places concerts of the festival have own colours and sub-colours. If in Varena mostly district people gather, fans of this music from surrounding areas come to Pasvalys and Veisiejai. The concert in Dieveniskes stands out from the festival programme not only because it is the first event of the festival. The concert that we organise together with Dieveniskes historical regional park takes place in local “Rytas” Secondary School (even though all the subjects are taught in Lithuanian, many pupils are from either mixed or not completely Lithuanian families). The main audience is the pupils and the teachers. Salcininkai district is multilingual, has a rich and at the same time complex historical layout. During long decades this country (I mean the entire Vilnija) was quite abandoned, forgotten, even journalists sent here were unwilling to go. That is why our concert to school pupils contributes at least a little to cultural socialization of the youth of this region, allows them to learn about Lithuanian and foreign bards works independently. This is the mission of the festival. On the other hand, this place, in our opinion, must be interesting to our festival participants from abroad because on the map of Lithuania it is called “the appendicitis” and catches an eye immediately. Is it not interesting to go along the road in Lithuania and see another republic of Belarus on both sides?
The festival “This is Me” ha become one of the few festivals held in Lithuania whose concerts expand to the most remote areas of Lithuania, let alone crossing the state borders in the south into Punsk (Polish territory) or the north to Riga and other Latvian cities. Only half of events of the festival take place in Vilnius, we share the rest with entire Lithuania. Only two festivals in our country have such mobile relationship and they are “This is Me” and the international poetry festival “Poetry Spring”. Without any doubt, the latter one, held for more than half a century, is the leader.
Norwegian Olaf Stenstad (1950-2006) is another participant of the festival about who we speak about in the past tense. This virtuoso musician, one of the best buzuki (bouzouki) artists in the world, first came to the festival in 2004. The most striking Olaf’s part at the festival was in 2005 during the joint performance at the main concert with Lithuanian singer, traditional Lithuanian songs promoter Veronika Povilioniene. At the festival they performed several songs togerher and managed to rouse euphoria in the audience with “Ilgesio daina” (words by Algimantas Baltakis, music by Algimantas Brazinskas). O. Stenstad later included it into his repertoire, he had plans to include it into the future compact disc. Alas…
When the festival was in progress and bonds with neighbours Latvians grew stronger, we decided that it was high time we shared “This is Me” with the Latvian listeners. On 21st October, 2006, the festival first crossed the northern border of Lithuania. The first concert beyond Lithuanian borders took place in the center of culture and free time “Imanta” in Riga. Colleagues from Latvia found a separate name for this festival and called it “Bardu rudens”. During later years concerts took place in Riga Lithuanians and No. 69 Secondary Schools, Aizkraukles Music School of Peteris Barisons name.
In 2008 the cultural programme of the festival expanded into the Polish territory of Punsk, where many Lithuanians live. (More than 80 % of thepopulation in Punsk in the territory of Poland are Lithuanians. They are not emigrants but Lithuanians with long roots in this land of their own. It is Lithuanian ethnic land.)
The festival celebrated its first five -year anniversary in 2007. Traditional concerts had their viewer already, no urgent changes were necessary, but there was a desire to mark the fifth year with something special than Opening and Closing, Author or Children concerts, so we held a concert of the most famous Lithuanian bards. The hall could not seat everybody who wanted to attend. Upon seeing such success, we decided to dedicate Saturday night of the festival to extraordinary meetings, exceptional concerts annually. In 2008 there was a concert “Singing Composers and Others” where frequent participants of the genre famous Lithuanian composers Andrius Kulikauskas, Alvydas Jegelevicius, Arnoldas Jalianiauskas performed their author songs. Other participants joined them to sing together their author songs. A year later, in 2009, there was a concert of bards’ groups as this genre has recently expanded in Lithuania so much that it does not fit into its chamber-likeness. Groups started to be created in the tenth decade of the 20th century. The first one was “Aktoriu trio” (here some of the most famous Lithuanian bards Kostas Smoriginas, Saulius Bareikis, Olegas Ditkovskis took part ), later there were groups „Atika“, „Stipriai kitaip“, „Liudni slibinai“, theatre „Atviras ratas“ (now „Solo ansamblis“). Some Lithuanian bards, having performed solo before, also started creating musical groups. At this concert Gediminas Storpirstis and Domantas Razauskas also participated with groups.
One of the major projects of “This is Me” festival called “You haven’t heard this…” happens to be a concert of the most famous Lithuanian bards with Vilnius City Municipality St. Christopher Chamber Orchestra (conductor-artistic director professor Donatas Katkus). A. Kulikauskas created song arrangement especially for this concert. K. Smoriginas, O. Ditkovskis, S. Bareikis, Aidas Giniotis, G. Storpirstis, A. Kulikauskas and D. Razauskas took part in this project as well. While concert pieces were being played, silent euphoria hung in the audience. After each one ended, there were long applauses. All performers were very thrilled before the concert because it was their first time singing with an orchestra.
“Keistuoliai” theatre actor Andrius Kaniava was invited to the festival premiere in 2011. He is loved by the audience not only for his parts on the stage, but also for songs that are lively and do not lack energy and playfulness. In this way, orchestra “Muse” (that was living a decade ago) was reborn, but this time with a different team and “heavier”. The concert “Andrius Kaniava and heavy music orchestra “Muse” was well received by the audience. It was repeated a number of times in various Lithuanian concert halls after the festival.
Since 2008 one of the Lithuanian bards has been awarded with the guitar of Vytautas Kernagis name and the premium founder is Lithuanian Neighbouring Rights Association (AGATA). In this way not only awarded bard is honoured, but so is late pioneer of the genre in Lithuania V. Kernagis. The guitar is presented independently of the bard’s age. The prize is awarded for authentic professionalism, best recent one-year’s poetry translation into the language of music, or the entire input to sung poetry. The winner must continue V. Kernagis’ cherished and spread novelty of Lithuanian sung poetry, and treasure the best national poetry and music traditions by creatively joining them into one work. Upon hearing the candidatures, attention is paid to popularising V. Kernagis’ creative heritage in the past year. A candidate for the award must not be indifferent to national culture, which is one of the priorities when organising this festival. Four Lithuanian bards were awarded this prize: D. Razauskas (2008), A. Kulikauskas (2009), S. Bareikis (2010), Virgis Stakenas (2011). The winner of 2012 will be announced during the Closing concert of the festival.
For the creative input to national sung poetry one of Lithuanian poets has been awarded since 2010. The Prize and premium were founded by Agency of Lithuanian Copyright Protection Association LATGA-A .The winner receives Gold Star (and sometimes a monetary prize). Two Lithuanian poets were awarded and they were winners of national culture and art premium of Lithuania Marcelijus Martinaitis (2010) and Juozas Erlickas (2011).
A beautiful tradition of the festival to hold an event “Bard Carriage” appeared in 2007. It was done on “This is Me” eve by playing music and singing on the train. It was born as an advertising event but later became quite an independent one, even a social one with concerts in towns’ children boarding homes or hospitals. In the beginning mostly young bards participated at the event, but later foreign guests from abroad, who managed to come earlier than necessary, also joined. During that time improvised concerts were held at railways stations. Bards played with passengers on the trains. There were cases when people knew about the event in advance and bought return tickets especially for them.
Performers and their performed works are only one side of the festival. Speaking only about that would be speaking only about part of the festival. The other part is the whole organisational work that also needs to be done by people, as if making a string of beads of a team. They are a team of volunteers, dedicated people, and loyal fans of the genre. Volunteers are more than support to the main festival organisers, working at Vilnius Teachers’ House because every year they do more than a half of organisational work from the search of sponsors to media relations.
One of the most important and longest working volunteers Alina Semionova is an international relations director of the festival. She is one of the most important and strongest pillars of the project, without whom “This is Me” cannot be imagined. She is loved and respected by all foreign participants. She has never abandoned a thing halfway, she is always in touch with people. They, having noticed such Alina’s protection, do not leave her alone later, when other organisers invite them to events in Lithuania. Russian bard, famous actor, musical’s “Nord-Ost” author Aleksej Ivascenka, who came to the festival in 2010, would not go to dinner without her. Bard culture to Alina is more than a hobby; it is a lifestyle no matter what other work keeps her busy.
Julita Polkaita, Migle Zukauskaite, Ernesta Krusnaite, Gytis Valatka, Agne Lasinskaite, Egle Kancleryte, Saulius Grazys, Eimantas Morkus, Vytautas Ulozas, Justina Baliunaite, Edvinas Naraveckas, Agne Siauciunaite, Aivara Bartoska, Simona Griskute can be boldly enslited as the most important volunteers. Not all of them work for the festival today, but after graduation and starting to work paid jobs, they still remain loyal fans of the festival, sung poetry concerts’ attenders. Benas Jakstas has been one of the most important team members of the festival in recent years. He started working at the festival as a volunteer and today he is Vilnius Teachers’ House events coordinator, using his managerial skills subtly to ensure the success of the festival.
All in all, past and present staff members of Vilnius Teachers’ House are not indifferent to the festival. Some are sort of supposed to perform tasks as part of their job description, others contribute more than duty requires. They are Jurate Kloviene, Egle Trataite, Onute Ruzgiene, Lina Gerdvilyte, Agne Vadlugaite, Jonas Gvildys, Edita Dermontaite, Ksystofas Mockevicius, Darius Rybaltovicius, Justinas Suksta, Ramune Butkute, Marius Kavaliauskas and others. They realise that this event, made from many concerts and meetings, is one of the most important projects of the institution. They are the first ones who we suffer organisational failures and joys with, or are happy with good evaluations and sad about flops.
Media relations are one of the most important publicising issues of any cultural project. We have always paid a lot of attention to this area when organising the festival. Different commercials on TV or the radio or advertisements in the printed media are not as effective in inviting the viewer to the halls as a well made media release (description or interview) or speaking at TV or radio programmes. The first ones are more homage to sponsors, who still pay great attention to publicising their logo; the other ones are more adapted for the viewer. A person responsible for “This is Me” information spread in the media must also be a fanatic, a fan of the genre. This is where a carefully laid plan, upon work in progress, changes a lot and many unexpected things come up. This is creative work in its own right. This might be so because most festivals media representatives were more fans of the sung poetry rather than “dry” journalists. They are Giedre Ciuzaite, Viktorija Vitkauskaite, Monika Smalinskaite, Mindaugas Linkaitis, Gintare Satkauskaite, Vaida Tomkeviciute-Jurkeniene, and Agne Vareikaite. They not only make the festival known but also do other related organisational work.
The tenth, jubilee, International Singers-Songwriters’ Festival “This is Me” is the least mentioned in this book. This is because the process of writing the book coincided with organisational work of the festival. I cannot disclose some things in advance, I do not dare speak of some things because we do not know how they go. But the reader, holding this book in their hands in any country of the world, hopefully feels all those ten festivals that beautifully link a greater part of our planet. So what that it means only one or two participants of every country, but together they all make a beautiful bardic bouquet which blossoms in specific splendour on the third week of October in Lithuania.
Juozas Žitkauskas. TAI-AŠ. (This is Me). Bard story. The first international festival.