Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Happy Janis's party time!

Annually, Latvians celebrate the summer solstice (the longest day of the year ), also called Janis Day, on June 23rd, leading into the 24th.  Traditionally, it's a time where many Latvians go to the country and "party like it's 1999."  With Bill arriving back home on Saturday, the Richardsons are now all back in the U.S., but we're staying in touch with our Baltic friends.  Being so far north, Latvian daylight lasts a LONG TIME in June, and the darkness could hardly be called "pitch-black."  We're sorry to have missed it...

Anyway, this gives us an excuse to discuss all the fun parties Bill experienced in the first few weeks of June.  With school-related activity slowing down, there was a bit more free time, as you will see.  There was a really fun get-together for U.S./Latvia cultural exchange programs at Ambassador Garber's residence in Jurmala on June 6.
Fulbrighters Michael Dozler, Ardyth Sohn, Ambassador Judith Garber, and Bill

While at the party, Bill met percussionist Rihards Fedotovs, who will be studying at the University for the Arts in Philadelphia, PA, this coming year.
By the way, U.S. taxpayers should be really proud of the Embassy and its staff in Latvia.  The staff are friendly, extraordinarily helpful, and a positive presence.  In addition, Madam Ambassador's residence is really beautiful.  It is clear that the U.S. diplomatic mission in Latvia is, and continues to be, a success.

After this party, Bill performed as member of the trumpet section and as trumpet soloist with the Jurmala Youth Wind Orchestra, Janis Kagis and Viesturs Galanieks, conducting.
Graduation exercises at the J.V.L.M.A. were Friday, June 12.  The Music Academy brass quintet performed for the processional and the national anthem, Dievs, svētī Latviju! (God Bless Latvia!).  Bill performed for the 2 p.m. ceremony.  Click (here) for video.  Here's a picture of the 10 a.m. ceremony:
The Music Academy's official song is Gaismas Pils (Castle of Light).  Click (here) to see and hear the J.V.L.M.A. Choir performing this beautiful piece.

There was a post-graduation celebration in J.V.L.M.A. Rector Artis Simanis' office immediately following the ceremony.
J.V.L.M.A. Brass Division Head Janis Retenais and Rector Artis Simanis

Later that evening, there was yet another party, this time in the Music Academy Student Club, a bar located in the basement of the music building that is large enough for live music and dancing.

On Saturday, June 13, Bill and several friends traveled to the Jelgava area for an outdoor concert and dance featuring some Latvian pop/rock music.  The group had an outstanding "substitute" bass player named Janis Retenais.  As you can see from the video (here), everyone had way too much fun!

On June 14, Carl and Becky Chaplin hosted a party at their apartment.  A great time was had by all.

Several brass players from the Latvian Brass Band, the National Opera, and the National Symphony organized a party on Tuesday, June 16.  We started by purchasing provisions at Maxima, a Wal-mart-ish kind of store that has everything.
Having purchased all the necessary food and beverages for a proper Latvian barbecue, we then traveled about 20 minutes outside Riga to an area of rental cabins for parties.
Then, of course, sauna.  I promised no pictures, but extreme heat followed by jumping into cool water, then repeating the process several times, is pretty intense.  Here's what we looked like afterward:
Fun times.  To paraphrase Benjamin Franklin, "Latvieski Alus is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy."

The next day we had a small gathering at the J.V.L.M.A. as kind of a send-off for Viljams.  Between the Fulbright "book allowance" and a few extra Lats, we were able to donate a new flugelhorn and a boat-load of trumpet literature to the music academy for future students to use in their studies.
In return, we ended up with a ton of parting gifts in the process.
On Thursday the 16th, Bill watched World Cup Football with Caleb (a missionary from North Carolina), Ungars, and Gundega from the Riga Reformed Church.  We had a great time watching the France-Mexico game.

Of course, Niki and the little ladies have had a few parties of their own, living with some of their American friends for a week, playdates, and the annual Maryville Young Players production.  Great times had by all!