Latvian Song Festivals History Tour

Artistic Latvian Song Festival poster from 1933 with a bearded man strumming a harp aand three female singers
Song Festival poster from 1933

Latvians have been singing one of the world's richest collection of folk songs since ancient times. And our five-yearly Song Festivals gathering 15,000 voices on stage at once are amongst humanity's great musical events, included on the UNESCO cultural heritage list.


This year is the 150th anniversary of the first festival in Riga. The Latvian Song Festivals History Tour is a journey into these celebrations, stopping at key points in the city centre linked to these magnificent occasions.


We'll meet amazing musical personalities, explore how Latvians have always kept in tune through good times and bad, and talk about folk costumes, rehearsals, conductors, controversies and other tuneful matters. And I'll play some music to really put you in the festival mood!

All Together Now!

Riga's Latvian Society House lit up at  night
Riga's Latvian Society House


The tour follows the route of the 1873 procession of singers through the city centre, from the Latvian Society House on Mērķeļa iela to Virsturdārzs Park, where the first culminating concert rang out.


Starting at the Latvian Society House, where the national anthem Dievs, svētī Latviju (God Bless Latvia) was sung for the first time ever in 1873, we'll learn about how Latvians forged their identity after centuries of oppression.

White granite frieze of choir singers on Riga's Freedom Monument
Choir singers frieze on the Freedom Monument

The second stop will be at the choir singers' frieze in the Freedom Monument to reflect on why singing is such a vital part of Latvian life. 


Then we move to the beautiful French Embassy to learn about Jānis Frīdrihs Baumanis, the building's architect. One of the dynamic self-made men who drove the first National Awakening, Baumanis was the key organiser of the first festival.


Next we pop in to Esplanāde Park, which hosted six festivals between 1888 and 1948. It is also home to a statue of the poet Rainis, who together with composer Emīls Dārziņš created classic choral works for the mass choirs.

Keeping Time

Monument in Riga's Viesturdarzs Park at the site of the first Latvian Song Festival in 1873 with cast bronze portraits of famous composers
Monument at the site of the First Song Festival

Then we enter the beautiful stairwell of the Riga Art Nouveau Centre. In the early 20th century, this building was home to the brilliant Latvian architect Konstantīns Pēkšēns, writer Rūdolfs Blaumanis and painter Janis Rozentāls, reflecting the remarkable cultural flowering of the age.


Next, we stop at the Berlin Wall/ 1991 Barricades monument and talk about how the song festivals boosted Latvian spirits through tyranny and occupation.


Finally, we arrive at Viesturdārzs, where the first combined choirs concert was held on 29 June 1873.

tour details

Women from the choir "Grīva" in colourful folk costumes with floral crowns and bunches of flowers in the parade at the 2018 Latvian Song Festival.
Flower power
  • The starting point for the tour is the Latvian Society House at Mērķela iela 13.
  • The tour runs for about 2.5 hours and the cost is 120 euros per group.
  • The maximum group size is 20 people. Please write to me for bookings.
  • I can guide the Song Festivals History Tour in Latvian or English, as you prefer.
  •  Please message me to book your tour!

Women in folk costumes in the mass choir of the 2018 Latvian Song Festival in Riga
In fine voice. Photo by Leah Zakss

Learn more about the very first Song Festival of 1873!

map of latvian song festivals history tour

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