Guitarist Kaspars Zemītis joined by Latvian State Choir Latvija on new CD

Guitarist Kaspars Zemītis has for many years been considered one of the premiere guitarists in Latvia. A member of the seminal Latvian jazz pop group Time After Time, Zemītis has also made a name for himself as a solo performer, and has turned more to academic music in recent years.

Not only is Zemītis a performer, but has also branched out as a composer, and one of his recent major compositions – a mass for choir and guitar – was released as part of the album Mana lūgšana – a collection of sacred works released in 2016.

Zemītis, performing guitar on the record, is joined by the Latvian State Choir Latvija, conducted by Māris Sirmais. Zemītis has worked with the choir in the past, performing guitar on the choir’s recording of ‘Ave Regina caelorum’ by composer Gabriel Jackson on the album A Ship with Unfurled Sails in 2013, and now has collaborated with the choir on one of his own compositions.

Zemītis’ ‘Mesa’ (or Mass), the focal point of this collection, is presented in the traditional thematic style of the classic Latin Masses, and it is clear that Zemītis was inspired by the great musical masses of centuries past, as well as his own faith. Overall, it is a very reflective and calm mass, perhaps to suggest a spiritual tranquility and closeness to God.

The mass begins with the brief introduction ‘Zvani’ (bells), with the sound of church bells being made by guitar harmonics, which then moves into the ‘Kyrie eleison’ section, which begins with the bass voices supported by Zemītis’ acoustic guitar. Each voice group then joins in succession, as the voices swell this song of penitence.

The ‘Gloria’ section of the Mass begins with an extended solo guitar performance, which then expands to an energetic song of the glory of God, at once exuberant and reverent. ‘Credo’ is a more restrained performance, with a vocalise in the women’s voices blended with a Gregorian style performance by the male voices.

Soprano Inese Romancāne and mezzo soprano Dace Bite are featured on ‘Agnus Dei’ and their soaring, wordless duet presents a musical contrast to the slower and more deliberate singing of the choir. This then leads into the closing section of the mass – ‘Āmen’, a serene and uplifting conclusion to this work, with the repeated words ‘Allelūja’ and ‘Āmen’, become ever quieter and quieter, making for a peaceful and placid finale.

Besides the Mass, the album also contains a few instrumental works by Zemītis. Zemītis is joined by a string quartet (Ineta Abakuka, Guna Āboltiņa, Agnese Kanniņa-Liepiņa, and Kristiāna Šīrante) for ‘Agnus Dei’, and Zemītis’ guitar seamless blends in with the stringed instruments, and though the work is without words, its spiritual nature shines through.

Zemītis also provides an arrangement of the Latvian Christmas song ‘Kas ir šis bērns’ (sung to the tune of the English folk song ‘Greensleeves’). The song, performed almost entirely without words, features the melody flowing from one vocal group to another, all the while Zemītis’ guitar performance binds all the voices, making for a memorable arrangement of this beloved melody.

Mana lūgšana confirms Kaspars Zemītis’ status as not just one of the most accomplished Latvian guitar players, but also as an accomplished composer. The album is Zemītis’ spiritual journey, and displays his adeptness in working with both choirs and string quartets. His Mass is a particularly accomplished work, melodious and captivating, and the performance is made even more memorable by the powerful and rich voices of the Latvian State Choir Latvija and conductor Māris Sirmais. Mana lūgšana is a powerful and very personal achievement.

For further information, please visit Kaspars Zemītis’ website.

Kaspars Zemītis

Mana lūgšana
SIA ZeArts, 2016

Track listing:

  1. Prelūdija sveces gaismai

Mesa

  1. Zvani
  2. Kyrie eleison
  3. Gloria
  4. Credo
  5. Sanctus
  6. Agnus Dei
  7. Āmen
  8. Agnus Dei
  9. Lūgšana
  10. Kas ir šis bērns
  11. ***

 

Egils Kaljo is an American-born Latvian from the New York area who lives in Rīga, Latvia. When not working in the information technology field, he sings in the Latvian Academy of Culture mixed choir Sõla, does occasional translation work, and has been known to sing and play guitar at the Folkklubs Ala Pagrabs in Old Rīga. Kaljo began listening to Latvian music as soon as he was able to put a record on a record player, and still has old Bellacord 78 rpm records lying around somewhere.

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