Songs from children’s musical are now on CD

Reiz bija… (A long, long time ago…), a new compact disc on the market in Latvia, is the soundtrack to a recent children’s musical in Rīga. The play itself is a typical folk tale, where the heroes go on a journey to find a special object or knowledge that will solve a problem. Along the way they meet both good and bad people and animals, who either help or hinder them in fulfilling their goal. In the end, the heroes return home with the required object or knowledge, solve the problem, and everyone lives happily ever after.

The heroes in Reiz bija… are a young brother and sister on a mission to find out how the world was formed. Their journey is based on motifs from Latvian folk songs and folk tales—for example, two yellow horses emerging from the sea, a sunken castle, Jumis, and the mythic river Daugava—and intertwined with folk tales about stars, birds, mountains and hedgehogs. The goal of the producers was to show present-day Latvians that even today we can tap into the knowledge and traditions of past generations and gather strength from them, and that we do not need to give up our traditions in order to “make it” in the modern world. Whether the project achieved its patriotic goal or not, reviews were for the most part good. My elementary school-aged children sat on the edges of their seats for the whole show and liked it very much.

As would be expected, most of the songs in Reiz bija… are traditional folk melodies and use traditional dainas texts. The rest are compositions by Ilga Reizniece, Gatis Gaujinieks and Dace Micāne-Zālīte. The accompaniments are clearly contemporary, as opposed to folk, but the style is not forced. Thankfully, the children’s singing is also natural. Adults sing only two of the songs: a warrior’s song of protection and a song by the “complainers,” annoying caricatures who humorously plead to God for justice and didn’t really seem to fit into the play. It’s nice to hear that many of the children’s songs have mythological themes. Here children are finally deemed capable of more serious subject matter, rather than just cute animals. The young singers are from RīBēJa MuTe, which is an acronym for Rīgas bērnu un jauniešu muzikālais teātris (the Rīga Children’s and Youths’ Musical Theater).

The liner notes provide texts to all of the songs. That’s so that you can sing along karaoke-style to tracks 17-30, which provide just the accompaniment to the preceding songs. The music is straightforward enough (if a bit monotonous—remember, it’s only the accompaniment!), although there are usually no cues as to where one ought to begin singing. This will hopefully stimulate kids (and adults) to sing, and maybe help train a musical ear to boot. Just the other day a friend and I found our children singing one of the Reiz bija… songs while playing together, which is proof the tunes are catchy.


Reiz bija…

RīBēJa MuTe

RīBēJa MuTe,  2006

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