From August 3 – 17, 2013, Youth Choir BALSIS participated in the international Bayreuth Festival of Young Artists (Festival Jünger Künstler Bayreuth).  As part of the festival, the choir gave four concerts, presenting both sacred repertoire and folk song arrangements.  All concerts were well-received by the audiences, earning the choir standing ovations every time.

Aside from the choir’s solo concerts, the festival provided opportunities to gain new perspectives, new friends, to learn different styles of choral music which were new for the choir.  Most interesting for the choir was the opportunity to sing alongside choirs from around the world:  T.U.I.S.T. (Tuna Universitária do Instituto Superior Técnico) from Lisbon, Portugal; MuniChor, a choir of Chinese singers studying and working in Munich, Germany; the University of the East Chorale from Manila, Philippines; the Beijing Foreign Language University Choir; and the youth choir TONIS from Bayreuth.

All of these choirs were also part of a week-long workshop with renowned Swedish conductor Fred Sjӧberg, who worked with three groups of choirs to teach them repertoire for two concerts at the close of the festival.  BALSIS and the University of the East Chorale were in group A, which sang the full concert programme.  The rest of the choirs sang in B and C groups, which comprised mostly popular music arrangements for choir, Spirituals and the beautiful Japanese folk song arrangement Sakura.

Group A repertoire comprised a broad range of difficult and interesting music from several different eras, starting with Allegri’s, Miserere mei Deus and leading all the way to 21st Century compositions, including American composer Eric Whitacre’s Leonardo Dreams of His Flying Machine and Swedish composer Sven-David Sandstrӧm’s To See a World.

In order to prepare the repertoire well, the choirs spent many hours in rehearsals, often rehearsing six hours a day and sometimes also performing on the same day.   In terms of the workload and test of strength and stamina, this festival felt like the Latvian Song and Dance Festival which we just experienced this past summer in Riga, and not one of the singers’ voices faltered throughout the festival.  In order to have a break from rehearsals, the choirs would spend time together in the evenings, talking, partying, and singing together.  These evenings were instrumental in bringing the choirs together as a solid mass choir, and in the process, new and meaningful friendships were formed.

One of the more interesting concerts during the festival took place in an old chocolate factory which was renovated by a youth group to create an indoor skateboard park.  BALSIS has always loved the challenge of performing in unusual spaces, which is why the performances by various choirs on and around the skateboard ramps were particularly interesting and grabbed the attention of the audience. 

For the festival’s talent night – All Stars Evening – the choirs had to prepare three performances each, which would introduce an aspect of each choir’s culture, musical talents or sense of humour to the other choirs.  The most interesting and memorable performances were a Chinese chorister’s beautiful playing of a traditional Chinese flute; the demonstration  of the Portuguese choir’s unique instruments and explanation of their traditional costumes; the theatrical and sometimes humorous performances of the Philippine choir’s song arrangements.

BALSIS singers demonstrated their talents in many different ways, with a small group of instrumentalists and singers performing Gjallarhorn’s Suvetar, the BALSIS men performing Piekalnē kārkli līgojās (sung to Fred Sjӧberg’s wife, Gunell), and our own Anete singing Marhilevičs’ beautiful Lūgums, accompanied by Emils.

During the festival there were also a number of workshops.  One of the more unique workshops for both BALSIS and the rest of the choirs was our conductor Ints Teterovskis’ workshop about Latvian choral music.  The choristers not only had an opportunity to listen to Ints speak about this subject and to hear BALSIS sing some traditional folk song arrangements, but were also asked to join BALSIS in singing some better known folk songs, like Pūt vējiņi, which was particularly well-loved by the other choirs – so much so that they may add it to their repertoire!

To view photos, click HERE


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