Riga is music; any season, but in summer, everything and everyone moves outdoors. The winters are long, dark, and cold, and Latvians figure to get the sun and fresh air while it’s available; plenty of time to rest after the leaves start to fall. Everywhere you look, people are picnicking in the parks, or boating on the canal, or just sitting at cafes. Nobody sleeps, really. Many are the deep, peaceful slumbers, when it finally gets dark, interrupted by a full-throated early morning choir of well-lubricated revelers, their songs echoing back and forth between the buildings, much as they themselves might bounce between the same walls. Latvians love their beer, and it is excellent; this fact in turn invites like-minded tourists to join in. The saving grace is that the most violence you’re likely to see is perpetrated against the principles of harmony, and not people. My view is that if I must put up with drunks, I much prefer them prone to outbursts of song than to outbursts of violence!
There is a plethora of music in official venues: concert halls, arenas, amphitheaters, and bars. But to me, what really defines Riga in the summertime is the street music. It is actively encouraged; the many local music schools even send their students out on the streets to perform, as a way of getting experience. And, of course, there is the usual variety of street buskers, although it’s not everywhere that they set up complete with generators and amplified instruments. The sheer range of talent and production value on the street is astonishing.
I wish I could have sampled the sounds for you, but I’m afraid it’s beyond my small competence to putt something like that together. So here’s a photographic journey instead.
This trio was playing a Boccherini quartet. If they had another person, I guess they could have gone for a quintet. They were fantastic.
There was even the occasional official paid gig, like this one at an upscale hotel. Outdoors, of course.
Big production number here; very professional, great vocalist. They had a gas generator with a long enough extension cord so that it didn’t interfere too much.
Then there was this guy, a marvelous operatic baritone.
I actually thought I might know this blues harp player from my checkered past. Then I realized I’m old enough to be his father.
They start young. Good posture, sweet sound.
A one-woman band, and with an attitude. Her schtick was to ask passers-by to sing a verse of their national anthem. Then she would make it sound like everything else she played.
Ragtime Cowboy Joe.
Not a cowboy. Some people apparently just needed the money. The quality of this group was variable, but you had to give them credit for doing something, and not just begging.
Even Anonymous apparently was represented. An interesting cure for stage fright!
Very proper, and with a beautiful clear voice. She played a traditional instrument and sang Latvian folk songs, even dressed the part.
Of course, it’s always nice if you have a buddy to help with the music.
Uh, no comment.
More solid traditional music, despite the cowboy hats.
Some interesting combinations…
Lots of brass bands. These guys were excellent; no need for amps here!
Or here, for Mr.Cool.
Another brass band.
That’s all, folks!