The baltic chain, highway 2, ukmerge, near vilnius. august 23rd 1989. part of the 600 km human chain that stretched from vilnius,lithuania  through Riga,Latvia to tallinn, Estonia  Photo: Vladas Siavinskas, Lithuanian central state archive

The baltic chain, highway 2, ukmerge, near vilnius. august 23rd 1989. part of the 600 km human chain that stretched from vilnius,lithuania  through Riga,Latvia to tallinn, Estonia

Photo: Vladas Siavinskas, Lithuanian central state archive

The Power of Song

On Saturday evening May 12, 2018, Madison Vilnius Sister Cities, Inc. continues its exploration of the power of song in Lithuanian culture and history at its Annual Meeting & Banquet.  This year’s program features two very special guests:  Agne Giedraityte, a young, gifted soprano from Chicago who will share selections from her repertoire of traditional Lithuanian songs; and Dr. Guntis Smidchens, Head of the Baltic Studies Program at the University of Washington in Seattle, and author of The Power of Song: Nonviolent National Culture in the Baltic Singing Revolution.

Madison Vilnius Sister Cities, Inc. cordially invites members of the general public to attend this event at The Madison Club in downtown Madison.  The banquet features a traditional Lithuanian menu with a contemporary presentation. The Madison Club’s assistant general manager, who is from Lithuania, brings his expertise and delicious recipes.  A vegetarian option and a children’s option are also available.  The cost is $40 per adult meal and $15 for a child’s meal.  Registration is required. 

Please make your reservation by completing the Registration Form.

The registration deadline is May 7, 2018.  

Registration for the banquet meal is open to all.  However, it will not be necessary to purchase a banquet meal to attend the program featuring Agne Giedraityte and Guntis Smidchens.  The program presentations are free and open to the public.  See the Banquet Schedule below.

The Madison Club is located in a charming building just blocks from the State Capitol, near to Lake Monona.  Street parking is available (meters in operation until 6 pm on Saturdays).  There is also a city parking ramp nearby.  See City of Madison Parking at  for a map.

Banquet Schedule of Events – In the Lake Room, The Madison Club     

5:00 pm – Social Hour & Cash Bar

6:00 pm – Banquet - Three courses: Lithuanian Fusion Menu

7:00 pm – MVSC Business Meeting

7:20 pm – Program 

Agne Giedraityte will begin the banquet’s program with several traditional Lithuanian songs including Lietuva Brangi (Precious Lithuania) by the national poet Maironis. The courageous public singing of this song in Vilnius in 1987 helped spark Lithuania’s Singing Revolution.

Dr. Guntis Smidchens will explore the Lithuanian spirit of song in a presentation described in his own words below. It will be illustrated with images and resonant with sound.

The Voice of People in Songs, 1918-2018  

The twentieth century witnessed extreme acts of cruelty in Lithuania. And yet, over those same hundred years Lithuanians persisted, again and again, in expressing hope for a better world, guided by the most beautiful human aspirations.  In 1918, on the ashes of an absolutist monarchy Lithuanians established a Republic: A democracy to be ruled and owned by every one of its people. In 1988, Lithuanians set forth to renew and rebuild their country ravaged by Soviet Communism, through persistent, nonviolent political action. And in the summer of 2018, they’ll again come together to sing at their National Song Celebration. Music is a national mission that Lithuanians are happy to share, both among themselves and with the world’s other nations. Singing helps them find harmony in times of uncertainty and dissonance. Songs reveal who Lithuanians were, who they are and wish to be in the coming century. I’ll try to listen in on their voices, and to uncover and share meanings that enrich the celebration of Lithuania’s Independence Centennial.

Agne will sing several more traditional songs to close the evening.

More About Soprano Agne Giedraityte


Agne Giedraityte enchanted attendees at last year’s MVSC Banquet with her beautifully expressive, clear and heartfelt renditions of a variety of musical offerings.  Her wide repertoire includes classical works, Broadway hits, and popular tunes as well as beloved traditional Lithuanian songs.  This year at the MVSC Banquet, Agne will focus on the traditional songs of Lithuania, the country of her birth.  Earlier in the day, she will also participate in The Singing Revolution performance at the Wisconsin State Capitol, as a member of the guest choir Dainava, from Chicago.

Agne embodies the Lithuanian love of song.  She began taking vocal and piano lessons at age 8, and has since developed a soprano voice that brings a lovely, poised presence to her selections. She has performed throughout the U.S. and Europe including New York City’s Carnegie Hall. Agne has won many awards, among them 1st place and Audience Favorite winner at the 2015 Sinfonetta Bel Canto “The Voice” competition.  An active member of the Lithuanian community, Agne has performed at numerous festivals including the 2015 Dainu Svente in Chicago and “Lithuanian Days” in Los Angeles. Agne was a guest soloist at Dainava’s April 2017 “Sunrise” concert celebrating the arrival of spring; and at the Opening of the Ciurlionis Art Gallery Exhibition in Chicago.

Agne appears on several recordings including her 2015 debut album Dream – Never Let Go Of Your Dreams and in the recent collaborative effort, Getting to Know You, as a member of Tre Principesse.  For more information go to:

More About Dr. Guntis Šmidchens

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Dr. Guntis Smidchens is Associate Professor of Scandinavian Studies and the Kazickas Family Endowed Professor in Baltic Studies at the University of Washington in Seattle, where students may earn a minor in Lithuanian studies or specialize in Lithuanian as part of a bachelor’s, master’s or doctoral degree.  He directs the Baltic Studies Program there.

He has spent well over two decades researching Lithuanian, Latvian and Estonian music and the role that song has and continues to play in everyday life and in critical times, with special focus on The Singing Revolution (1987-1991). Guntis has written articles for publications as diverse as the Foreign Policy Research Institute: Baltic Bulletin; Lituanus: the Lithuanian Quarterly Journal of Arts & Sciences  and Culture Crossroads. His research is multi-faceted, incorporating history, ethnography, musical analysis and political science into a rich and deep exploration of this historic, ethnic and regional phenomenon. His book, The Power of Song: Nonviolent National Culture in the Baltic Singing Revolution, is a result of this thorough and engaging approach. Fluency in all three Baltic languages – Lithuanian, Latvian and Estonian – has given him access to a wide range of primary historical sources as well as to substantive interviews with current residents of the Baltics. He is particularly insightful in observing the ways that song and nonviolent action intertwined to create circumstances and support for Lithuanians, Latvians and Estonians as they kept moving forward with strength and tenacity, arm in arm, on the Baltic Way to freedom. 

This book also contains a gift to those who read in English but not in the Baltic languages.  His translations and descriptions provide access to thoughts, accounts and ideas published in Baltic-language primary source materials, articles and books that have not been translated into English. Thank you!   Guntis Smidchens has a PhD from Indiana University.

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More About The Power of Song:  Nonviolent National Culture in the Baltic Singing Revolution.

The Power of Song is available in hardcover and paperback from the University of Washington Press which published it in 2014.  For more information phone 1-800-537-5487 or go online    

Words about The Power of Song:

The Power of Song serves not only as the quintessential study of what constitutes the heart of the remarkable and inspiring movements of the Baltic people, it will stand as a distinct contribution to the study of civic resistance movements overall.”

Peter Ackerman, founding chair of the International Center on Nonviolent Conflict and coauthor of Strategic Nonviolent Conflict and A Force More Powerful

“A monumental study addressing a sorely neglected aspect of one of the last century’s most dramatic geopolitical upheavals.  This book will stand for years and even decades to come, as the standard, authoritative source on its topic.”

                             Kevin C. Karnes, Emory University

A story by Nancy Joseph about the book appears in the University of Washington’s Perspectives Newsletter, December 2013 titled, “When Songs Trumped Rifles”   

For a list of resources to find out more about the power of song, nonviolent action and The Singing Revolution click on the Learn More button: