Shown here during a cultural performance at The 2016 New York Times Travel Show is the Lithuanian children’s group “Spindulėlis” (Little Sun Rays) under the direction of Violeta Kundrotienė. “Spindulėlis” is a Lithuanian instrumental-vocal-dance group and part of Violeta’s Music Studio. Photo: Ann Charles.
Shown here during a cultural performance at The 2016 New York Times Travel Show is the Lithuanian children’s group “Spindulėlis” (Little Sun Rays) under the direction of Violeta Kundrotienė. “Spindulėlis” is a Lithuanian instrumental-vocal-dance group and part of Violeta’s Music Studio. Photo: Ann Charles.

Inspired by Baltic song and dance celebrations listed on UNESCO’s World Heritage List, the children’s cultural performance by the Lithuanian instrumental-vocal-dance group “Spindulėlis” or Little Sun Rays under the direction of Violeta Kundrotienė, won global acclaim at The 2016 New York Times Travel Show.

Not only did their performances attract Lithuanians and Lithuanian-Americans alike to the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center in New York, but New Yorkers from all walks of life were encouraged to travel to Lithuania to explore for themselves the rich, cultural heritage of the Baltics, and to experience the famous Baltic song and dance celebrations known worldwide in Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania.

Mayor of New York City, Bill de Blasio, stated that “The New York Times Travel Show is a resource for New Yorkers willing to visit the land of their ancestors, those who want to know more about the vibrant cultures represented in our city, or people who simply want to get away. The show is considered the largest and longest running trade and travel show in North America.”

As members of “Spindulėlis” or Little Sun Rays who sing, dance, and play Lithuanian instruments. Chances are, these talented young performers may be back again next year to perform at the 2017 New York Times Travel Show which is scheduled for January 27-29, 2017 at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center. Friday, January 27 is for the travel trade only, and the dates of Saturday, January 28 and Sunday, January 29 are usually open for cultural performances on the Europe stage. Stay tuned!

This year, “Spindulėlis” was invited to perform at the show by The Office of the Consulate General of the Republic of Lithuania in New York and Lithuanian Consul General Julius Pranevičius, who introduced the group on stage.

Colorful travel brochures published by the Estonian Tourist Board/Enterprise Estonia, Tallinn, Estonia, the Latvian Tourism Development Agency, Riga, Latvia, and the Lithuanian State Department of Tourism under the Ministry of Economy, Vilnius, Lithuania were distributed at the Via Hansa Tours booth, in cooperation with Latvian Eriks Lingeberzins at The 2016 New York Times Travel Show.

Pictured at The 2016 New York Times Travel Show is director Violeta Kundrotienė, with Nora Farwell next to her on the left, and two other young performers from the Lithuanian children’s group “Spindulėlis” (Little Sun Rays) following a cultural performance at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center during The 2016 New York Times Travel Show. Photo: Ann Charles
Pictured at The 2016 New York Times Travel Show is director Violeta Kundrotienė, with Nora Farwell next to her on the left, and two other young performers from the Lithuanian children’s group “Spindulėlis” (Little Sun Rays) following a cultural performance at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center during The 2016 New York Times Travel Show. Photo: Ann Charles
Shown here folk dancing on the Europe cultural stage at The 2016 New York Times Travel Show too was “Viesulas” or Whirlwind from New Jersey. Their performance was presented on stage by the Office of the Consulate General of the Republic of Lithuania in New York under Julius Pranevičius, Lithuanian Consul General, in cooperation with Via Hansa Tours. Photo: Ann Charles
Shown here folk dancing on the Europe cultural stage at The 2016 New York Times Travel Show too was “Viesulas” or Whirlwind from New Jersey. Their performance was presented on stage by the Office of the Consulate General of the Republic of Lithuania in New York under Julius Pranevičius, Lithuanian Consul General, in cooperation with Via Hansa Tours. Photo: Ann Charles
Shown here next to the book entitled “VIA HANSA – 20 years – Service, sustainability, and innovation” is a Baltic vision brochure on “Guaranteed Escorted Tours Summer 2016.” Photo: Ann Charles
Shown here next to the book entitled “VIA HANSA – 20 years – Service, sustainability, and innovation” is a Baltic vision brochure on “Guaranteed Escorted Tours Summer 2016.” Photo: Ann Charles

Attracting attention at the Baltic booth this year was Lithuanian Jolanta Vitkauskaite, Vice Consul, Consulate General of the Republic of Lithuania in New York, and her colleague at the Via Hansabooth.

As you can see from this photo, there were images of the three Baltic countries in the background, namely, Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania. However, what also drew potential tourists to the booth, too, was the delicious Lithuanian TreeCake – Šakotis.

Pictured is Lithuanian Jolanta Vitkauskaite, Vice Counsul, Office of the Consulate General of the Republic of Lithuania in New York with Lithuania’s famous Tree Cake – Šakotis. Photo: Ann Charles
Pictured is Lithuanian Jolanta Vitkauskaite, Vice Counsul, Office of the Consulate General of the Republic of Lithuania in New York with Lithuania’s famous Tree Cake – Šakotis. Photo: Ann Charles

Featured at the Via Hansa booth was a well-rounded collection of tourism brochures on Lithuania published by the Lithuanian State Department of Tourism under the Ministry of Economy.

This attractive collection of tourism brochures included: “Let’ explore Jewish history and heritage in Lithuania”, “Cultural Holidays in Lithuania”, “Lithuania – Get more “, a tourism map of Lithuania, and the popular “Baltic States: Three-in- one holiday.” Brochures promoting Estonia, as well as Latvia, were available at the Via Hansa Tours booth.

Shown is a collection of Lithuanian promotional travel brochures at The 2016 New York Times Travel Show. Photo: Ann Charles
Shown is a collection of Lithuanian promotional travel brochures at The 2016 New York Times Travel Show. Photo: Ann Charles

“Spindulėlis” was the only Lithuanian instrumental-vocal-dance group for children performing on the cultural stage at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center in 2016.

The New York Times Travel Show is considered the largest and longest-running trade and consumer travel show in North America. The group which made its debut in 2012, was actually a dream for the Lithuanian pianist, educator, and music teacher, Violeta Kundrotienė.

As Violeta Kundrotienė, pictured playing the accordion in the back row, puts it, “the dream for Spindulėlis was simple: to work not for your own good, but to work to preserve Lithuanian roots.” Photo: Ann Charles
As Violeta Kundrotienė, pictured playing the accordion in the back row, puts it, “the dream for Spindulėlis was simple: to work not for your own good, but to work to preserve Lithuanian roots.” Photo: Ann Charles
Pictured here is Julius Pranevičius, Consul General of the Republic of Lithuania in New York, who presented “Spindulėlis” (Little Sun Rays) on the cultural stage at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center during the 2016 New York Times Travel Show. Photo: Ann Charles
Pictured here is Julius Pranevičius, Consul General of the Republic of Lithuania in New York, who presented “Spindulėlis” (Little Sun Rays) on the cultural stage at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center during the 2016 New York Times Travel Show. Photo: Ann Charles

As Violeta explained in an interview with Dovile Farwell, “after moving to New Jersey eight years ago, at first, the folkloric group appeared merely as a dream for the pianist, educator, and music teacher. Violeta Kundrotienė. The dream was simple—to work not for your own good, but to work in order to preserve Lithuanian roots.”

After moving to New Jersey, the dream of the “Spindulėlis” leader was to create a music group keeping higher goals in mind.

The goals were to promote children’s Lithuanian identity, the dream was to share knowledge of national culture, to introduce children to Lithuanian music and composers, to teach the language while singing the songs, and to teach stage manners.

That is how the Litte Sun Rays began together and started to play as a group.”

 

“This musical family has substantially grown in the last three years. from six young hearts in the beginning to 17 at the moment,” says Violeta.

They are Gabriele Balkius, Erik Balkius, Saule Amber, Simona Imbrasa, Kristina Tirva, Gabriele Tirva, Lukas Latvys, Povilas Vaivilavicius, Simona Jasinskas, Nora Farwell, Gabija Zukas, Lucas Vilimaitis, Silvia Clemens, Rusne Sakavickas, Gustas Sakaviskas, and Greta Danileviciute, and the artistic teacher, Violeta Kundrotienė.

“Violeta gets the children together to play instruments, sing. and also celebrate the most important holidays of the year” says Dovile Farwell. Her daughter Nora really enjoys singing, dancing, and playing Lithuanian instruments.

The slogan of “Spindulėlis” is: “We play Lithuanian music with Lithuanian instruments that are from Lithuania.

As stated by Violeta, “the children play a variety of instruments such as panpipes, fifes, wooden xylophones, clay birds that sound like birds chirping, a handful of rhythmic instruments, wooden spoons and sticks. They were handcrafted creations of the folklore artist E. Virbasius.”

“Accordion and piano are the inseparable parts of the music”, says Violeta. “The majority of children in the group also take additional piano lessons,” she explains. “Spindulėlis” is growing and so is their repertoire of Lithuanian folkloric music. Songs like “Kalvelis” (Little Blacksmith), “Vabaliukai” (Little Bugs), “Arkliukas” (Little Horse) and others are popular among the audience and get numerous encores,” according to Violeta.

As you can see from this photo taken at The 2016 New York Times Travel Show, performing on stage to traditional Lithuanian music, playing handmade Lithuanian instruments, and sharing their Lithuanian culture with a global audience, instills pride in being Lithuanian. Photo: Ann Charles
As you can see from this photo taken at The 2016 New York Times Travel Show, performing on stage to traditional Lithuanian music, playing handmade Lithuanian instruments, and sharing their Lithuanian culture with a global audience, instills pride in being Lithuanian. Photo: Ann Charles

Where has this delightful young group of Lithuanians performed?

Here is a quick review of their many performances: “Spindulėlis” has received many invitations and participated in various events such as Lithuanian Independence Day commemorations, Baltic Festival, and Summer Solstice Festivals called “Jonines” in New Jersey.

In addition, they have participated in the annual arts and crafts show “Mugė” in Philadelphia, knicknamed the “Pancake Festival, a” charitable project “Vaikų svajonės’ (Dreams of Children), the opening of the exhibition of children’s books/illustrations in Philadelphia, and a mutual project with the famous singer from Lithuania, Nojus.

“Spindulėlis” has also performed – in concerts at the Lithuanian Community in Elizabeth, New Jersey, The New York Times Travel Show, the Embassy of Lithuania in Washington, D.C., and the Lithuanian Song Fesitval of North America. In addition, “Spindulėlis” was the winner and received the main prize at the Yamaha Festival which took place at the Freehold Music Center in New Jersey.

What does being a member of the Lithuanian group “Spindulėlis” mean to these young children?

“We study songs, we utter and learn Lithuanian words. We play music and our hearts sing about our love of Lithuania. We are delighted that each one of us is a part of
“Spindulėlis”. We are proud to be Lithuanians” – every member reassures.

According to Violeta, “a lot has been achieved, and although more plans, ideas, goals, and dreams are to come, even bigger accomplishments are on the horizon.”

Ann Charles
Ann Charles is UN Bureau Chief of “Baltic Review” based in New York City. She covers diplomatic activities at United Nations Headquarters in New York and the world body’s work in human rights, education, culture, the environment, and tourism, among other global concerns.