The CIURLIONIS LITHUANIAN NATIONAL ART ENSEMBLE was an internationally known group of entertainers formed in 1940 in Vilnius, Lithuania, by Alfonsas Mikulskis. It was organized to keep the nationalist spirit alive in the people despite Soviet and Nazi domination. The Ciurlionis, named after the noted Lithuanian composer Mikalojus K. Ciurlionis, featured Lithuanian dance, music, and song, performed in traditional costumes. Following the second invasion of Lithuania by the Soviets in 1944, the ensemble escaped to Vienna, Austria, where they reestablished and began touring Austria and Germany. They eventually settled in Cleveland in 1949. Mikulskis, founder of the Ciurlionis Art Ensemble and its director until his death, studied at the Klaipeda and Kaunas conservatories and at the Stuttgart Academy of Music. A former director of the Lithuanian Philharmonic Chorus and Symphony Orchestra, he was also a member of the Lithuanian underground during occupation. He was aided by his wife, Ona, who also studied music and directed the Lithuanian Kankles (a mandolin-like instrument) Natl. Ensemble. After settling in Cleveland, the Ciurlionis gave its first concert in 1950 at SEVERANCE HALL. It appeared at Lincoln Center and Carnegie Hall and toured extensively throughout the U.S., Canada, and South America. From about 40 members in 1949, the number had grown to nearly 70 in the 1980s. The aging of the membership along with the difficulty of finding a director prompted the disbanding of the group in 1992, 2 years after it had experienced the fulfillment of a final tour back to a free Lithuania.

Cadzow, John F. Lithuanian Americans and Their Communities of Cleveland (1976).

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