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

The Festival will include choral concerts and if you are preparing for one such concert, what could be better than learning from the talented Ints Teterovskis, one of the Principal Conductors for the Latvian Song Celebrations, which take place every five years. Well the answer to that is, the opportunity to learn from the conductor and then to perform with his choir, one of Latvia’s leading youth choirs, BALSIS. Australian Latvian choristers in Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide will have exactly that opportunity, as they prepare to launch the cultural activities which will take place during 2020 and which culminate in the events of the Festival week in December..

Ints Teterovskis and BALSIS are travelling to Australia at the invitation of the Festival Committee and their imminent arrival was discussed with enthusiasm by the audience members attending the 36th Latvian Youth Festival in Melbourne in December 2019. This should ensure that both the choristers and audience members are in for a treat this February.

BALSIS was formed 32 years ago. They have toured to diverse places in Europe, America, Australia and China. In 2018 the choir took out first place amongst the choirs battling it out in the competition, which is a part of the Song Celebration activities. The choir is definitely hard working – they have released 18 CDs to date!

The launch concerts will be in two parts. In the first half BALSIS will perform their own program, which will be a fitting tribute to the Festival. In the second half they will be joined by choristers from local Latvian choirs to perform songs that have had a place in the Latvian Song Celebrations or Australian Latvian Arts Festivals over the years.

The concerts will take place in: Sydney, February 2 at 2.00pm, Sydney Latvian House; Melbourne, February, 8 at 3.00pm, Melbourne Latvian House; Adelaide, February, 16 at 2.00pm, Adelaide Latvian Hall.

See you at the concerts!

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


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