National choir “Latvija” celebrates its anniversary and performs the sacral music

  • 2012-05-16
  • By Sam Logger

BACK TO THE ROOTS: The national choir “Latvia” represents an expression of past musical times.

RIGA - Little steps are what take everyone forward. Everything progresses, but it always remembers the roots. Music is also one of the tools which have historically evolved and added new values, while still retaining its past meanings. Sacral music has been an important way of expression of past times, and today it is showcased by the national choir “Latvija,” which performs John Chrysostom’s liturgy, written by the elite of the Russian composers. Along with the concert, which takes place on May 24 at Riga St. Peter’s Church, the choir celebrates its impressive run of 70 years.

The national academic choir “Latvija” is probably the most accurate sign of Latvia’s traditions in choir music. Founded in 1942 by the conductor Janis Ozolins to maintain the Latvian feeling amongst the deported musicians, the choir saw its second daylight in 1997, when the artistic director and main conductor, Maris Sirmais, and the director Maris Oslejs took over management of the choir. It turned out to be a success story, and today the choir is still serving as a good role model in both the national and global choir music arena. This is seen by the local appreciation, like being a fivefold winner in the Big Music Award, and on the international stage, participating in concerts and festivals in the United States, the Netherlands, Germany and Finland. Additionally, they collaborate with the leading orchestras in Europe: the Royal Concertgebouw Symphony Orchestra, Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra and London Philharmonic Orchestra are just some of them.

The choir is not afraid to experiment. This is why the repertoire is always full of changes and surprises as it gladly represents the symphonies, messes, cantatas and oratories, basically anything that can be found in the period from the early Renaissance till modern times. Hence the performance of John Chrysostom’s liturgy is another adventure that the choir invites listeners to attend.

What will the concert offer? John Chrysostom, the Archbishop of Constantinople, is considered to be the creator of the liturgy’s form, which is nowadays used in the Orthodox Church. Many Russian composers have written their compositions, inspired by the liturgy, and the most known are obviously the compositions by Sergei Rachmaninoff and Pyotr Tchaikovksy. Still, the choir and Maris Sirmais expand the theme, thereby also introducing pieces by Sergei Prokofiev, Mikhail Glinka and Igor Stravinsky, all of the pieces sung in the traditional order, making the liturgy of John Chrysostom a unified work.

Whenever there is a decision to visit a sacral music concert, it comes with an obligation to switch off the religious faith to be sure that the concert is strictly a musical experience, rather than an explanation of the trust issues. Otherwise the mind will oppose everything heard in the liturgy. The main task is to note that this music is not willing to change anything about the listener’s religious understanding (although it must be admitted that the concert’s topic can be confusing), therefore indicating the emotional pleasure which emerges from the musical implementation by the choir. And this is what really draws the biggest expectations!

The choir “Latvija” has proved that music can really be one of the most significant export products of the country. It is important to point out that Latvia, where choir traditions are perceived as a national treasure, has a choir which can demonstrate singing skills around the world and be praised for that. “Latvija” is full of powerful, hard-working and dedicated individuals who are ready to cross the musical borders just to find another road on which to go.
In the meantime the liturgy of John Chrysostom is just as powerful and meaningful, and will probably never lose its notability. Those who choose to attend the concert must be warned, though, that it is not simply entertainment. It possibly works as a purification from anger, rage and envy, and at the end of the day, maybe this is what everyone needs right now.

Ticket information can be found at