Singing traditions in Kupiškis from the 20th century to nowadays: a look at the centenary history and development

Daiva Vyčinienė

From the beginning of the 20th century to nowadays, there are abundant samples of singing folklore recorded in Kupiškis area. Many of these songs have been published in various songbooks and audio-records. Priceless audio records done before the WWII and stored at the Lithuanian Literature and Folklore Institute reveal not only large variety of genres but also a rather motley styles of singing. Special attention should be given to glees of Kupiškis people recorded by phonograph; although being from the same period (1935–1937), they are heterogeneous and reflecting the decline of group singing tradition and attempts (not always successful) to reconstruct it, as well as its variation. All this create favourable conditions to study the changes in singing tradition in this area during nearly a 100-year period.

The data of the folklore expedition organised in 2012 are especially important for the studies of changes in singing traditions because of rich material of audio and video records of songs and canticles, as well as stories and comments of the presenters collected. The methods of observation, as well as formal and informal semi-structured deep interviews with folklore presenters enabled to choose approaches of phenomenological anthropological research. The repertoires of some visited presenters were noticed to contain distinct traces of old singing tradition (characteristic singing and chanting manner, unforgotten information about the circumstances of the performance etc.), which more or less are affected by new cultural environment. For instance, within the ethnocultural expression by Vilhelmina Elskienė, the old tradition is harmoniously intertwined with chanting (in the churches), with the repertoire of “Senųjų kupiškėnų vestuvės” (Ancient Wedding of Kupiškis People), with the writing culture–news songs, which came through the songbook parts etc.

The investigation was targeted not into the folklore records, but mainly into the understanding and interpretation by presenters, as well as folklore practicing under certain life circumstances. Valuable context narrations around the songs enabled to disclose the singing tradition in Kupiškis not only from outside (an etic approach), but also from inside (emic), as well as to study evident changes of the tradition during the last century.