The Birštonas international biannual jazz festival is traditionally held on the last weekend in March in the cosy resort of Birštonas. It is the oldest festival in Lithuania,which started more than 35 years ago, in 1980. This year the festival will take place from April 1 to 3 .
The event earned the resort of Birštonas the title Lithuanian Mecca of jazz. It attracts jazz “pilgrims” from Lithuania and other countries. Every two years about 3 000 jazz fans flock to the town which has a population of just 2 900! The radio and TV records of this
festival are almost the most comprehensive document of the Lithuanian jazz history. At length, the jazz forum in Birštonas encouraged jazz enthusiasts from Vilnius, Kaunas and Klaipėda to organize the similar events in these cities.
The Birštonas jazz festival is not only the oldest but also the most democratic jazz forum in Lithuania.It presents a variety of jazz aspects, genres and styles, form Dixieland to the experiments and innovations of modern jazz. The event represents a true jazz marathon – usually more than 20 jazz bands give their performances during a three-day weekend. Most of the performances are given by Lithuanian jazz players, so the Birštonas jazz festival could be called the mirror of Lithuanian jazz – it presents jazz players making their debut as well as internationally recognized musicians to who the Birštonas stage was once a springboard to the international jazz arena. The Birštonas stage is open not only to mature and famous Lithuanian jazz players but also their young colleagues.
The Birštonas jazz festival has its own Grand Prix, the so-called Lithuanian jazz Oscar, an award for remarkable contribution to Lithuanian jazz. 18 Grand Prix awards, created by well-known Lithuanian artists, have already been granted to 18 performers. The 19th award will be given to the most deserved jazzman of Lithuania of 2016.
The creators of jazz from other countries have been participating in the festival since its very beginning,and thanks to their participation we can assess the skills of Lithuanian jazz musicians in the international context.
The specific feature of the event is its organisers’motto according to which“the stage is for art performances”. Therefore, you don’t find the names of sponsors here (as you would in other places), and the scenography is a unique work of art that creates a space for jazz being played and sometimes even gives extra impulses for creativity. Since the beginning of the festival, its symbols have been created by artist Rimvydas Kepežinskas. For each festival he designs a smart sign on the subject of musical instruments.Traditionally, the guests of the festival are welcome to see a jazz photo exhibition.
The Birštonas jazz festival has an international resonance – it is known in Europe and is attended by the organisers,producers and managers of other festivals as well as jazz critics and journalists from foreign countries. The festival is regularly filmed for Lithuanian television and radio broadcasts and documentaries are being created about the history of Lithuanian jazz.