This year we will still have our Youth Choir Balsis Christmas concert, but instead of it being possible to hear it three times, as usual, this year it is up to you, choose the play button as many times as you want to!

Obviously it won’t be the usual two part programme that Balsis usually performs in the Anglican Church in Rīga, but you will still be able to hear the essence of this programme.  It is the 24th Christmas concert programme that the artistic director, Ints Teterovskis, has conducted. For his relatively new assistant conductor, Laura Elizabete Godiņa, it is her first Christmas concert with Balsis. Laura and the choristers have designed  a programme  which has a somewhat Scandinavian flavor, with the envisaged programme containing songs from the Baltics and Scandinavia. The choir has prepared several Estonian and Norwegian songs but a cycle of  Reinis Sējāns songs  was also intended. This year’s current “essence “ programme won’t allow for that, but hopefully it will be performed live in its entirety in the future. As well, Balsis along the New York Latvian Choir have recorded it and the new album will soon be accessible worldwide. You can also listen to it on Spotify.

Currently, you are about to enjoy an excerpt of the planned Christmas programme. This consists of three songs, from the heart and, importantly continuing a tradition, from the Anglican Church in Rīga. The choristers start with a Swedish song, which is then followed by a Norwegian folksong. Naturally Silent Night, Holy Night is part of the concert, this time as arranged by Uģis Prauliņš. But wait! That’s not all! There is another tradition that we continue with this concert. The Christian Heinrich Rinck and Johans Vilhelms Hejs song “Every year the Christ child comes again…”is traditionally performed at the Balsis Christmas concert – not just by the choir but with the audience singing along. So please join us! Merry Christmas!

There was an air of anticipation as the audience gathered to celebrate the launch of events that would lead to the 58th Festival on Sunday February 2, 2020. Wandering through the foyer and cafē,  amongst Latvian  attendees there were excited discussions about the previous visit by BALSIS. Other concert goers were new to performances by BALSIS and had very different backgrounds: Asian, European and English.

The concert started at the back of the hall with the young choristers clear and precise voices being raised in prayer (Ābele, Lūgšana). The meditative feeling continued with works by Dubra (Exaudi nos) and Garūta’s The Lord’s Prayer. Itself part of a much larger cantata, which played with planned repetition, chordal sounds and relied on the beauty of the human voice to breathe life into the music.

Then the concert moved to another level with Pūce’s Seasons (Gadalaiki) with pieces reflecting the moods and tones of spring, summer, autumn and winter. The choristers deep understanding of what they were singing impressed, as did the harmonious weaving together of the many different voices.

Venta, a part of the River Cycle by Latvia’s foremost popular music composer, Raimonds Pauls, with haunting words by Inese Zandere centred the audience’s attention, with its ability to influence directly the emotions of the listener. The choir reinforced this with its solid performance of an emotionally charged song.

The first section of the concert concluded with the works of well-known Latvian composer, Imants Kalniņš: a prayer and a promise. Again emotionally charged and importantly the choirs performance encouraged listeners to find their own meaning, rather than one prescribed one.

In the second half the choir was joined, partially, the the Sydney Latvian Mixed Choir. The gave a foretaste of not only the music that will be heard at the 58th Festival, but also  of the potential power of the the main choral performance of the Festival – the combined choirs concert. The two choirs worked to-gether to produce at times a forceful sound and at other times playful.  As all the songs were either part of earlier Song Celebrations or Latvian Arts Festivals in Australia, the audience readily related to them and would have happily listened to many more. The selection was just enough to wet the audience’s appetite for the Festival’s choral concerts.

The obvious answer is that they are travelling to help launch the year of cultural activities which will lead up to the 58 th Australian Latvian Arts Festival in Sydney in 2020. But, That is not all! The Australian Latvian Arts Festivals are all about celebrating, enjoying and sharing insights into Latvian culture. For this reason it’s importanat that everyone has a chance to become acquainted with Latvian culture and the arts. For this reason BALSIS is also performing with Australian choirs at concerts specifically designed with Australian audiences in mind. In Sydney BALSIS will be joined by the Sydney Philharmonia Choir VOX and the Inner West Chamber Choir (IWCC). VOX is a youth choir, which is known for its inspiring performance of classical, popular and contemporary vocal work. IWCC sings contemporary, pop, gospel, traditional and folk music. Outstanding conductor and expert in Baltic choral music, Ints Teterovskis, has worked with IWCC previously. The three choirs will hold jint rehearsals and then perform on Saturday, February 1, at St Stephen’s Chorch, Newtown at 6.30pm. In Melbourne BALSIS will be performing by themselves, but in concerts geared for an Australian audience. One will bea pop-up event in the renowned State Libarary of Victoria at 5.00pm on Friday 7, February. The other will be at Tempo Rubato, with a program commencing at 8.00pm. In Adelaide BALSIS will perform at concert of sacred choral music in the Pilgrim Uniting Church, Friday 14, February at 7.00pm. One thing is clear, BALSIS will deliver very different programs within each concert, be that in Latvian or other concert settings, and it will be worth going to every one!

Ilona and Klāra Bruveris
Artistic Directors,
58 th Latvian Arts Festival in Australia


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