The 14th International Sacred Music Festival. August 13 - 28

This year it will be already the 14th summer when the State Choir Latvija and its artistic director Māris Sirmais invites everyone to the International Sacred Music Festival. In 2011 the concerts will be held between 13th and 28th of August.

 The festival will open with a concert in Riga Dome on 13th August, 7 pm. Under the direction of American conductor Donald Nally, the choir will perform several pieces that are composed by contemporary American composers and are little known for Latvian audiences, including works by Edwin Fissinger, Lee Hoiby, Samuel Barber, David Lang, William Albright and Ingram Marshall. Donald Nally, who has been the choir master of the Lyric Opera of Chicago, is currently leading one of the most prominent professional choirs in the USA, “The Crossing”. His repertoire, for which he received a special award by American Choral Directors Association, includes a fair share of pieces by Latvian composers – Ešenvalds, Vasks, Einfelde and others.

On 16th August, 7 PM in St. Joseph’s cathedral, Liepaja and on 17th August, 7 pm in Great Guild Hall, Riga music of three composers will be performed. These concerts will be a simultaneous continuation of three traditions – to successfully collaborate with Liepaja Symphony Orchestra, to commission new pieces by Latvian composers and to invite an internationally acknowledged composer to be the festival’s guest of honour.Paweł Łukaszewski is currently one of the most eminent figures in Polish music scene. His compositions can be frequently heard in festivals throughout Europe. Concerts in Liepaja and Riga will be the Latvian premieres of Łukaszewski’s Symphony No. 2 “Festinemus amare homines” and the a capella piece for choir “Veni creator”.The up-and-coming Kristaps Pētersons has composed an opus especially for the festival. “Paradise” will be a reflection on the concept of paradise in various religions across the world.Both concerts will as well include “Mākoņi” (“The Clouds”) for symphonic orchestra by Ēriks Ešenvalds, a piece dedicated to the memory of composer’s brother.The performances will feature the State Choir Latvija, Liepaja Symphony Orchestra, soloists Sandis Šteinbergs (violin), Kristīne Gailīte and Liene Kinča (soprano). Conductor: Māris Sirmais.

On 19th August, 7 PM in St. Peter’s church in Riga another premiere will occur – it will be Peter Vähi’s “Mary Magdalene Gospel”. It is one of the most mysterious gospels from the New Testament. Unlike other passions, this piece does not tell about suffering of Christ, but rather reflects His thoughts. The composition is sung in coptic language that was spoken in Egypt until the 16th century. The piece will be performed by the State Choir Latvija, Latvian National Symphony Orchestra, Riga Dome Cathedral Boys Choir. In the role of Mary Magdalene - Sevara Nazarkhan (Uzbekistan), conductor – Risto Joost (Estonia). Sevara Nazarkhan has gained international praise as a singer in world music genre and after frequent performances together with Peter Gabriel.After the concert there will be a chance to meet the musicians in informal atmosphere in the world music club “Bubamara” (8 Audeju str., Riga).

On 27th and 28th August, 7 pm in the Latvian Railway History Museum in Riga the festival will offer this year’s special production. Each concert will encompass two pieces by stylistically different composers – Luis Bacalov’s “Misa Tango” and Arthur Honeger’s “The Dance of the Dead”.Luis Bacalov is an Italian composer of Argentinian descent. He is the author of many film scores, including Pier Paolo Pasolini’s “The Gospel According to St. Matthew”, for which Bacalov received an Oscar nomination. He however won the prize for music in movie “Il Postino” by Michael Radford. The plot of the film is based on a fictional tale about an episode in Pablo Neruda’s life. Some of Bacalov’s pieces are also used in Quentin Tarantino’s cult movie “Kill Bill”.Arthur Honegger is one of the greatest French composers, although in Latvia his music is performed rather seldom. “The Dance of the Dead” is a large scale staging for choir, orchestra, soloists, actors and dancers. It deals with the theme of a medieval tradition – Danse Macabre (dances of the dead, dances of death) – ritual dances in graveyards.A great team has been gathered to prepare this production – it’s the master of Argentinian bandoneon Hector Ulises Passarella (Argentina / Italy), soloists Inga Šļubovska, Ilona Bagele and Jānis Apeinis; Olga Žitluhina with her dance group and choreography; Mārtiņš Vilkārsis (stage design); Margita Zālīte as the director; State Choir Latvija, Latvian National Symphonic Orchestra and conductor Māris Sirmais.

Tickets for all of the concerts are available at “Biļešu paradīze” box offices in Latvia and on the internet,