21st International Sacred Music Festival

21st International Sacred Music Festival to take place from the 18th of August to the 8th of September

This summer, the State Choir Latvija along with Festival Artistic Director and Head Conductor Māris Sirmais again invites audiences to the International Sacred Music Festival. This marks the festival’s twenty-first year, and audiences can look forward to six concerts which will take place not only in the churches of Riga but also in Liepāja’s Great Amber concert hall and in a special centenary celebration concert at Stirniene St. Laurence Catholic Church.

The festival’s opening concert programme will be performed twice - on the 18th of August in Liepāja in collaboration with the Liepāja Summer Festival, and on the 23rd of August in Riga at St. Peter’s Church. The programme features the beloved classic, Giuseppe Verdi’s Requiem, which will be performed by the State Choir Latvija along with the Liepāja Symphony Orchestra and fiery conductor Gintaras Rinkevičius (Lithuania).

On the evening of the 25th of August in Riga’s St. Peter’s Church, the State Choir Latvia will host its special reunion with world-famous conductor Stephen Layton (Great Britain). Stephen Layton is one of the world’s greatest performers of choral music as a two-time Gramophone Awards prizewinner, a Diapason d’Or ECHO Klassik prizewinner, and a four-time Grammy nominee. For his concert with the State Choir Latvija, the conductor has chosen works by composers of which his performances have gained critical acclaim - the programme will include Francis Poulenc’s sacred music masterpiece Quatre Motets pour un temps de pénitence, Frank Martin’s magnificent Mass for Double Choir, and Ēriks Ešenvalds’ 2007 triumph The Sun Dogs.

On the 31st of August, as part of the Sacred Music Festival, the State Choir Latvija and conductor Māris Sirmais will present a concert at Stirniene St. Laurence Catholic Church. The concert, Shine, Stirniene, in Latvia’s Constellation, will be dedicated to Latvia’s centenary, in addition to marking Bishop Boļeslavs Sloskāns’ 125th birthday. Entrance to the concert will be free and open to all whom are interested.

A traditional audience favourite of the festival is the premiere concert of new works by Latvian composers. On the 4th of September at Old St. Gertrude’s Church, Riga, the State  Choir Latvija will perform Ādams un Ieva, a new work of composer and leader of vocal group Framest Jānis Ķirsis; Dziesmas par zemi, a new work from master of musical algorithm Platons Buravickis; a new composition by Latvian Voices singer, composer and arranger Laura Jēkabsone dedicated to the story of Lilith, Adam’s first wife in ancient Jewish mythology; and  a new work from pianist and composer Vestards Šimkus, a short mass for choir and instrumental trio (piano, cello, violin).

The festival closing concert will be performed on the 8th of September at the Riga Dome Cathedral honouring one of the musical giants of the 20th century, the genius, vivacious Leonard Bernstein. The composer, who this year would have celebrated his 100th birthday, will have his works presented by the State Choir Latvija together with the Latvian National Symphony Orchestra. The programme will feature Bernstein’s impressive vocal-symphonic work Chichester Psalms, one of his final works, the Missa Brevis, and his elegant Serenade for violin, orchestra and an impressive percussion group. The solo from the violin concerto has been entrusted to Sandis Šteinbergs, while the programme will be conducted by Festival Artistic Director and Head Conductor Māris Sirmais.        

The roots of the Sacred Music Festival can be found in 1998, when the State Choir Latvija first organised a festival with the goal of enriching the cultural life of Riga and renewing the spiritual position of society. The Sacred Music Festival introduced genre diversity to the festival movement in Latvia, drawing attention mainly to the performance of vocal-symphonic works and a cappella pieces.

Tickets to the festival’s concerts are available at Biļešu paradīze box offices throughout Latvia, as well as online:  www.bilesuparadize.lv