St. James Festival
About the festival
Founded in 2011, the International St. James Music Festival brings together professional, mostly choral groups from all over Lithuania and abroad. Every autumn the warmth of sacred music fills the Festival’s home, the Church of St. Apostles Philip and James Vilnius, and other venues. Within the framework of the Festival, concerts are annually held in Kaunas, too. In 2017, the map of the Festival came to encompass Alytus, and in 2018, even more towns on the St. James Lithuanian route including Panevėžys, Šiauliai and Šiluva, which are expected to become regular venues for the Festival concerts. St. James Festival has made professional quality music accessible for small town communities of Trakai, Šalčininkai, Vievis and Videniškiai.
The Festival resulted from the common initiative of VILNIUS Choir and Dominican brothers, whose aim was to get closer to people through choral music and at the same time serve society by setting up Vilnius carillon and reviving Lukiškės Square as a cultural hub. The Festival is still organised by VILNIUS Choir in cooperation with the Dominicans; the many colours of sacred music can be enjoyed by anyone who wants to as all concerts are free. By introducing a wide range of Lithuanian and modern/contemporary music, the Festival broadens its patrons’ horizons and knowledge of sacred music.
The moments of the festival
Apart from regular participation of Lithuanian groups including VILNIUS Choir, Šiauliai State Chamber Choir POLIFONIJA, Šiauliai Boys’ and Youth Choir DAGILĖLIS, Vilnius University Schola Cantorum Vilnensis, JAUNA MUZIKA Vilnius Municipal Chamber Choir and others, guest ensembles from abroad enrich the Festival’s programme every year. St. James Festival has attracted choirs from Hartberg (Austria), Belarus, Hamburg and Erfurt (Germany), Bialystok (Poland), Moscow (Russia), Ukraine, UK, Norway, Sweden and Latvia. In 2018, the Festival presented Kaliningrad Oblast Symphony Orchestra.
In 2017, the Festival took a new conceptual turn. To justify its name, the event was dedicated to the Way of St. James (Camino de Santiago) and the 30th anniversary of the Declaration of Santiago de Compostela. Back in 1987, the Council of Europe had declared Camino de Santiago as the first cultural route and symbol of European identity and heritage – a collective memory site transgressing distances, borders and language barriers. In the attempt to finalize the Festival concept and highlight universal values of Christian culture, great importance is placed on the continuity of the idea: future editions of the Festival will also be dedicated to the Way of St. James. The Festival’s new cultural definition and partnership with the Association of Friends of the Camino de Santiago have paved the way for the new development strategies and cooperation opportunities, expanded the map of concert activities and enhanced the Festival’s role in the country’s cultural life.
In acknowledgement of its artistic and public importance, President of the Republic of Lithuania, Dalia Grybauskaitė, and Archbishop of Vilnius, Gintaras Grušas, have become patrons of the International St. James Sacred Music Festival.