On Friday, January 27, fans of the great Lithuanian balladeer, singer and entertainer Vytautas Kernagis gathered at the Resurrection Parish hall to enjoy a film about the popular folk hero. Famous for his sung poetry, his unique voice, his troupe and their cabaret performances, Kernagis was known during the Soviet era for his irreverent parodies of the institutions that suppressed creative spirits and tried to make abnormal rules seem normal. After the troupe disbanded, Kernagis became an entertainer and show host, but died in 2008 at the young age of 57, leaving a treasury of songs and close to 600 hours of video footage of performances, interviews and candid moments in his life. With the help of his family, friends and fans, a one-and one-half hour documentary was created about his life – a tribute to the man they called “maestro“.
His son, also Vytautas, is currently travelling to various Lithuanian communities throughout North America to show the film and raise funds for the Vytautas Kernagis Foundation, established by his father, to support cancer patients and to promote creativity, especially among youth. Another fundraiser is the last CD of his songs, published to mark the 70th anniversary of his birth, and featuring a previously unrecorded song “Tu esi man… Pasilik” (You are For Me… Stay). First performed by the “Ąžuoliukai” choir in 2020, the song was written 44 years ago. As choir director Vytautas Miškinis said, the song sounds as if it was written today.
His music is difficult to describe, as it spans many genres. But it rings true, it comes from the heart, and it is unforgettable. Information about the “maestro” and his work, and the projects funded by his foundation is available at www.kernagis.lt.