What do you get when you put together 40 talented and energetic young singers, a creative and persistent conductor, Ints Teterovskis, the River Daugava and the Latvian countryside? You get 17 inspired concerts in a range of uncommon and more familiar venues and gratified audiences, as well as some amazing experiences for the choristers and the author.

This was the final year that the Youth Choir BALSIS headed down the Daugava, this time finishing in Riga, with a flow-on effect to Stockholm, having started at the Belarus border seven years ago. As they travel along the Daugava, they stop to perform concerts on both sides of the river.

  

This year they braved all sorts of weather conditions, including winds that churned up the waters of the Daugava and dowsed the boats, driving rain which soaked all of the choristers and rolling waves that made them totter on the ferry crossing like teenage girls in their first pair of stilettos. Yet they don’t mind because they want to sing, they love Latvian choral music and they want to share this love, and they all revere the opportunity to take part in these trips and point out the joy that they experience when they perform in country venues. And it is all worth it, because when they stop and start to sing, the everyday recedes, their skill with harmonies, with musical dynamics takes hold of their audiences, delights them, sometimes challenges them (they have an impressive repertoire in a range of languages) but always leaves them wanting more. Audience members always tell me how pleased they are that the choir took the time to visit in their neck of the woods, that they haven’t been forgotten, that they enjoyed hearing favourites but also new pieces, that they appreciate the thought that has gone into creating unusual experiences an they value the opportunity to hear such superior concerts. 

 

The choristers are up for challenges as well. With such an enterprising conductor they end up performing some curious concerts. This year that included a concert where the choir was scattered around a small lake rather than in a block together, concerts in ruins or singing on the ferry (well, the ferry wasn’t that extreme, but how often do you hear a choral concert on a ferry or ship?).

  

Other challenges included keeping dry (while singing over water is beneficial especially for the listeners, singing drenched to the bone is contra-indicated), the need for acrobatic skills to board the boats or scale the banks, sufficient energy to hike, boat, rehearse, perform three concerts each day and remain cheerful and adjusted. All of this was achieved with aplomb!

 Naturally there was some time to rest: by leaping around learning Latvian folk dances, canoeing for three hours just for fun or…singing.

 

Occasionally, they’re joined by other singers. This year they shared a concert with a local folkloric group and choir, offered the opportunity for singers in Riga to join them in one of their concerts focused on Song Celebration 2018 songs and shared the bill in Stockholm with a wonderful student choir from the Stockholm Musikgymnasium and the Stockholm Latvian Choir. Travelling to Stockholm provided another opportunity. The choir introduced Latvia’s traditions, such as choral singing to the Swedish audience, but also some of its enterprises, such as Brivosta of Riga and Riga Live, and such global networking is important because, yes Latvians love to sing, but they are skilled at other things as well!

 

Thank you to the young enthusiastic choristers, to Ints Teterovskis, their inspiring conductor, for the opportunity to share some remarkable adventures and astounding concerts and to Tallink for providing the possibility of extending this experience to the Tallink and Stockholm concerts.

 

 

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