I have written about Kamēr… before but this is important. Last weekend, in their 25th anniversary year, under the auspices of Latvia’s EU Presidency, these fantastic young singers from Riga visited the UK for the first time. And what a debut it was!
On Saturday, in the musicians’ church St Sepulchre’s in London, they gave an astonishing display of choral artistry. “Jaw-droppingly amazing” said the internet, and “Every choral director in London ought to go”. Certainly we in the United Kingdom are so (inordinately?) proud of our own choral tradition that we are sometimes guilty of failing to look beyond our own shores to the great singing cultures of other nations. And where better to learn from than Latvia, where singing is an integral part of life and the nation’s sense of identity?Photo: O Pastars
In a programme of Baltic classics and a selection from Amber Songs, the choir’s latest project (to which I contributed a piece), Kamēr… demonstrated the flawless balance, perfect intonation, clear yet resonant sonority, huge dynamic range and stunning virtuosity which are their hallmarks. But there was something else, more rare and more special: an intense emotional identification and communicative power that was quite mesmerising. Conductor Jānis Liepiņš spoke eloquently about his country’s troubled past and the very real threat the Baltic states face today; the performances of Pēteris Vasks’ Zīles ziņa and Veljo Tormis’ Curse upon Iron that followed were scarifying, with a raw authenticty and compulsive theatricality that were electrifying.
Latvian audiences have known about the wonders of Kamēr… since Māris Sirmais founded the group 25 years ago. I first experienced the Kamēr… magic in Copenhagen in 2007, two of the finest concerts I’ve ever heard. And now the word is out in the UK about one of the great choirs of the world. Guys, please come back soon!