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Live! At the Library: Alilo’s Vocal Harmonies from Georgia

Head and shoulders view of six men, the members of Alilo

Georgian vocal ensemble Alilo. Publicity photo courtesy of the group. Compositing work by Stephen Winick

Way back in 2022, after the Homegrown Plus Premiere series from the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress was over, we managed to squeeze one more concert into the Homegrown 2022 season. With support from The Embassy of Georgia and The America-Georgia Business Council, we held a live a cappella holiday concert in the Coolidge Auditorium of the Library of Congress. The group was Alilo, a well known professional vocal ensemble from (you guessed it!) the country of Georgia. This blog presents the concert video, along with photos and links to more Georgian content.

Founded in 2000, Alilo performs a repertoire that  includes sacred and folk music dating from Georgia’s ancient past, reflecting the diverse musical regions within the country. They also interpret more modern “old town songs” from the early 20th century. Alilo has traveled widely within Georgia and internationally. Normally, the group has six members, but bass singer Saba Kemularia could not make the trip for logistical reasons. The members who sang for us in the Coolidge were Archil Beridze, George Davitiani, Lasha Glonti, Mikheil Chonishvili, and Aleksandre Kobakhidze.

Three men sing; one of them plays a guitar

Georgian vocal group Alilo performs in the Coolidge Auditorium on December 1, 2022. Photo by Stephen Winick.


The group’s name derives from special songs widely sung throughout Georgia as part of Christmas celebrations. Dating back more than a thousand years, this holiday song tradition was suppressed during the Soviet period but has regained popularity since Georgia became independent in 1991.

The Library of Congress was honored to have David Zalkaliani, Ambassador of Georgia to the United States, in the house to say a few words before the concert.

Five men and one woman sing

Georgian vocal group Alilo performs with special guest Thea Austen in the Coolidge Auditorium on December 1, 2022. Photo by Stephen Winick.

Also noteworthy was the fact that Alilo invited a very special guest onstage to sing with them: Theadocia Austen, the public events coordinator here at the American Folklife Center, who is also a fabulous singer. See the concert in the player below!

In case you’ve missed them, I’ll point out that we have several past posts on the blog about Georgian culture. These feature embedded videos of three more concerts, one lecture and performance, and three interviews, as well as links to Georgian content in the collections of the Library of Congress. You can find all of our blog posts about the country of Georgia at this link.

Thanks for watching, listening, reading, and exploring! The American Folklife Center’s Homegrown Concert Series brings music, dance, and spoken arts from across the country, and some from further afield, to the Library of Congress. For information on current concerts, visit the Folklife Concerts page at Concerts from the Library of Congress. For past concerts, including links to webcasts and other information, visit the Homegrown Concerts Online Archive.

Homegrown Plus: Ranina Quartet

Welcome to the Homegrown Plus series, in which we present Homegrown concerts that also had accompanying oral history interviews, placing both videos together in an easy-to-find blog post. We’re continuing the series with Ranina Quartet, a music ensemble from the Republic of Georgia. The Ranina Quartet was created out of a love for Georgian traditional music, including urban songs, folk songs, and chants. The current members include Tornike Kandelaki (first voice), Soso Kopaleishvili (second voice), Saba Peikrishvili (baritone), and Beka Kemularia (bass). They have been singing since they were little children, and individual members have performed in many ensembles. The quartet’s repertoire includes classic pieces from various genres including Georgian traditional folk songs, liturgical chants, and popular songs. We follow the concert video with two interviews, one with Ranina member Soso Kopaleishvili and the other with ethnomusicologist John A. Graham.

Homegrown Plus: Ialoni

In the Homegrown Plus series, we present Homegrown concerts that also had accompanying oral history interviews, placing both videos together in an easy-to-find blog post. We’re continuing the series with the Ialoni Ensemble. This women’s vocal and instrumental group was formed in 2009 in Tbilisi in the country of Georgia. Ialoni’s repertoire draws from all three branches of traditional Georgian vocal polyphony: ecclesiastical, folk, and city music. The group selects its repertoire from archival records and manuscripts, field recordings, and published transcriptions, with a special emphasis on reviving relatively unusual, original, and complex songs. They greatly value the character of different chanting schools, as well as the folk and city songs, originating from different regions, taking the time to comprehend them intimately and then bringing them to life with the ensemble’s own signature style. In the interview you’ll hear about the different types of Georgian polyphonic singing and the repertoires of religious songs, folk songs, and urban songs. We spoke about how Georgians typically learn this music, and where and when they sing and play it. We discuss the concept behind their beautiful concert video as well. We even got a demonstration of some of their favorite instruments. Watch both videos, and find interesting links to more Georgian content, in this post!

Songs for the Easter Season: Polyphonic Singing from the Republic of Georgia

Georgian polyphonic singing has a rich and ancient past. It predates Christianity and its pre-Christian roots are alive today in secular songs such as lullabies, harvest, hunting, and wedding songs. The Christian songs survived a dark time while Georgia was part of the Soviet Union, as the tradition was banned from 1921 to 1990. Monks […]