There was an air of anticipation as the audience gathered to celebrate the launch of events that would lead to the 58th Festival on Sunday February 2, 2020. Wandering through the foyer and cafē,  amongst Latvian  attendees there were excited discussions about the previous visit by BALSIS. Other concert goers were new to performances by BALSIS and had very different backgrounds: Asian, European and English.

The concert started at the back of the hall with the young choristers clear and precise voices being raised in prayer (Ābele, Lūgšana). The meditative feeling continued with works by Dubra (Exaudi nos) and Garūta’s The Lord’s Prayer. Itself part of a much larger cantata, which played with planned repetition, chordal sounds and relied on the beauty of the human voice to breathe life into the music.

Then the concert moved to another level with Pūce’s Seasons (Gadalaiki) with pieces reflecting the moods and tones of spring, summer, autumn and winter. The choristers deep understanding of what they were singing impressed, as did the harmonious weaving together of the many different voices.

Venta, a part of the River Cycle by Latvia’s foremost popular music composer, Raimonds Pauls, with haunting words by Inese Zandere centred the audience’s attention, with its ability to influence directly the emotions of the listener. The choir reinforced this with its solid performance of an emotionally charged song.

The first section of the concert concluded with the works of well-known Latvian composer, Imants Kalniņš: a prayer and a promise. Again emotionally charged and importantly the choirs performance encouraged listeners to find their own meaning, rather than one prescribed one.

In the second half the choir was joined, partially, the the Sydney Latvian Mixed Choir. The gave a foretaste of not only the music that will be heard at the 58th Festival, but also  of the potential power of the the main choral performance of the Festival – the combined choirs concert. The two choirs worked to-gether to produce at times a forceful sound and at other times playful.  As all the songs were either part of earlier Song Celebrations or Latvian Arts Festivals in Australia, the audience readily related to them and would have happily listened to many more. The selection was just enough to wet the audience’s appetite for the Festival’s choral concerts.

 

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