Music of Changes: New Hall and Festival in Klaipėda

The winds of change are blowing in Klaipėda not only because the city is situated at the Baltic Sea, which brings the constant change of weather. With the founding of a new concert hall in Klaipėda this April, the general cultural climate of the city began to change. Equipped with recently refurbished facilities, consisting of a 600-seat concert hall, spacious rehearsal rooms, studios and multipurpose public areas, and run by a small yet tireless team of concert organizers, programmers and forward-looking leaders, the Klaipėda Concert Hall is a new home of live music, whose long-term ambition is the enrichment of the local music scene through innovative and community-oriented projects. Currently it gathers under one roof a chamber orchestra, a mixed choir, a brass quintet and two carillon players.

From the very beginning of its first concert season, the Klaipėda Concert Hall offered a number of ongoing concert series, educational and outreach programmes and four annual festivals, including the "Music of Changes", which was held for the first time from September 21 to October 17 this year. The new festival has been named after the manifesto work by John Cage with the aim of indicating the change that the establishment of a new hall has brought to the city, and the music to which this festival has turned its attention. In the words of the artistic director of the festival Loreta Narvilaitė, a composer from Klaipėda, "along with contemporary music, the festival presents time-proven and well regarded 20th-century works that have influenced and still influence the process of music history, i.e. its changes. In compiling the programme of the festival, first of all we sought to discover the fundamental points of reference in this ever-changing world."

The six concerts and four video screenings of the first festival encompassed a very wide range of music – from harmonised folk songs to electronic music, from video opera to jazz. The search for reference points began from the very first concert with the programme called "Following Čiurlionis", dedicated to the 130th birth anniversary of Mikalojus Konstantinas Čiurlionis. Presented by the local groups – the Klaipėda Chamber Orchestra (under the baton of Robertas Šervenikas) and the "Aukuras" Choir (under the artistic leadership of Alfonsas Vildžiūnas) – it included his folk song arrangements, original religious compositions for mixed choir and piano works (pianist Živilė Karkauskaitė), along with the tributes to Čiurlionis composed in different years by Bronius Kutavičius, Algirdas Martinaitis and Mindaugas Urbaitis. A programme of homages to the music of the past was also presented by the Gaida Ensemble Soloists, including works by Balakauskas, Narbutaitė, Bartulis, Kučinskas and Merkelys (read more about this project here). Another epoch-making work in the development of 20th-century music, Arnold Schönberg's Pierrot Lunaire (1912), became an inspiration behind a programme, presented by some of the most adventurous Lithuanian musicians, which combined theatrical elements (such as in Shostakovich's Satyres) with emphatic expressivity of musical works (including Zita Bružaitė's Sonnet II (Rain Loves Me) and Loreta Narvilaitė's Take a Seat Underneath a Red Rowan Tree for soprano and chamber ensemble).

Organising its first contemporary music festival this year, the Klaipėda Concert Hall not only focused on works that spurred significant transformations, but also ventured to make a step towards innovations. It even surpassed the capital in presenting the solo project "Neogard-club-electronic" of the composer, DJ and VJ, Vytautas V. Jurgutis, which aimed to make maximum use of the spaces of the hall and the possibilities of its sound and video systems. A similar project by Jurgutis combining live mix of his electronic tracks and his real time video projections, was presented last spring at the "Turning Sounds2" event in Warsaw.

Two more projects migrated from other festivals to the "Music of Changes". In collaboration with the festival Vilnius Jazz, the unique Dutch jazz orchestra - Willem Breuker Kollektief, whose playful tricks have been disturbing the peace of those who live in separate ghettoes of jazz and contemporary academic music, visited Klaipėda for the first time. Quasar Saxophone Quartet from Canada that had prepared a special programme for the Gaida Festival also extended its first visit to Lithuania with an additional concert in Klaipėda.

Apart from inciting changes in the soundscape of the city, the "Music of Changes" signals an attempt of the local live wires to make Klaipėda not only a busy harbour for ships from all around the world, but also an inviting city that harbours a potent enough cultural infrastructure to receive the flagships from the big wide world of contemporary music.

© Veronika Janatjeva

Lithuanian Music Link No. 11

For more information, please visit the Klaipėda Concert Hall website: