The Niagara Music Festival is an important North American cultural event, meant to promote classical and contemporary chamber music as well as youth talent. Led by Artistic Director Atis Bankas, this is a non-profit event, held annually to present new musical discoveries and interesting performers, and has often included Lithuanians.
The Toronto Lithuanian Mixed Choir “Volunge” and the “Volunge” Women’s Vocal Ensemble participated in the 21st Niagara Music Festival held November 16-25, 2019. It was the first time the Festival included choral groups. Nine concerts were staged in various venues, and included experienced groups: The Elmer Iseler Singers, The Avanti Chamber Singers, The Victoria Scholars (men’s choir), The Celaya Conservatory Children’s Choir (from Mexico), A Sing-Along Messiah (with 95 performers), the Ukrainian choir “Vesnivka”, Toronto Lithuanian choir “Volunge”, The Laura Secord Concert Choir, and the Hamilton children’s choir (with violinist Jasimn Lin).
Toronto Lithuanian choir “Volunge” and the Ukrainian choir “Vesnivka” also performed in a concert on November 24 at St. Mark’s Anglican church. “Volunge” (with director/conductor Dalia Skrinskas-Viskontas, accompanist Ilona Damasiute-Beres, choirmaster Danguole Radtke) and the “Volunge” Women’s Vocal Ensemble presented a 40-minute program of Lithuanian folk songs, two of them based on ancient rounds. There were also war songs and pieces by contemporary composers V. Augustinas and V. Kernagis. The audience was enthusiastic and even joined in some of the singing. The songs were sung in Lithuanian, but were introduced in English, so listeners were able to understand what the choir was singing about. This program was certainly a memorable musical event.