Beautiful textures of Ešenvalds’ works performed by Portland State Chamber Choir

The choir works of Latvian choral composer Ēriks Ešenvalds have been sung and heard all over the world. Even if a listener does not understand the language of the text, Ešenvalds’ skills with melody and harmony allow him to speak clearly and personally to an audience.

Many choirs internationally have actively championed Ešenvalds’ works, among them being the Portland State Chamber Choir, conducted by Ethan Sperry, who released an album of Ešenvalds’ choir compositions, entitled The Doors of Heaven, in 2017. The choir has followed that recording up with Translations, released in 2020, which contains seven of Ešenvalds’ compositions.

One of Ešenvalds’ most popular choir works is the spiritually moving ‘O salutaris hostia’, a prayer for peace. The piece features many of Ešēnvalds’ trademark compositional approaches, such as the rich harmonies of the choir, spiritual longing, and beautiful textures. Combined with the performance of the soaring soprano soloists Kate Ledington and Maeve Stier, whose duet elevates this work to a truly heavenly level, this work has rightfully become one of the most performed of the composer’s choir songs.

Scored for a quartet of soloists, as well as a background choir quintet, the work ‘Translation’, with poetry by Paulann Petersen, is a reserved, meditative work. The soloists, whose voices flow together as if in a deep meditation, are enhanced by the wordless background vocalists, as well as the performance of handbells, which gives the work an otherworldly sound – appropriate, considering Petersen’s text referencing the moon.

Ešenvalds often presents stories in his music, allowing a choir to become a storyteller or a narrator, and one such legend presented on this CD is the story of Vineta, a mythical city on the Baltic Sea that was lost in a flood, due to its excessive ways. For the text, Ešenvalds used the poetry of German poet Wilhelm Müller. The choir creates an immersive performance – at times fearful, other times mystical, expressing a longing for this lost city. Bells are often heard throughout the work, perhaps to represent the tolling of the church bells of Vineta.

The tragic ‘Legend of the Walled-In Woman’, based on an Albanian folksong about a young maiden Rozafa, who, to ensure the castle remained standing, was sacrificed by being walled in in the walls of the castle that bears her name. A vocal quintet tells the tale in Albanian, in a Balkan singing style, with grief and woe expressed vividly in the performance. In a somewhat disconcerting moment, the choir (in a different key) joins in, giving the song an almost unearthly atmosphere. The song concludes with the English translation of a text by Albanian poet Martin Camaj, which, through the voice of the soprano soloist, emphasizes the sorrow and sadness of the legend.

The collection concludes with the epic ‘In Paradisum’, which begins with the mournful sounds of the cello, and a wordless vocalize sung by the choir about this journey into Paradise. The work builds into a crescendo as the choir sings the text of the Catholic liturgy, which leads into a seemingly random burst of sound from the strings as the choir’s voices soar higher. The powerful and reverent performance then slowly dissipates, as the strings play a gentle, tender melody to conclude the work.

The Portland State Chamber Choir and conductor Ethan Sperry, who have been performing the choir works of Ēriks Ešenvalds for more than a decade, have, with their intimate familiarity with the composer and his works, again displayed their skill on Translations. The choir and Sperry reveal the many nuances and layers of Ešenvalds’ works, confirming his status as one of the premiere living choir composers. Filled with moments of both breathtaking beauty, as well as spiritual richness, Translations confirms Ešenvalds’ ability to move audiences worldwide with his music.

For further information, please visit Ēriks Ešenvalds’ website, and the Portland State Chamber Choir website.

Ēriks Ešenvalds – Translations

Portland State Chamber Choir, Ethan Sperry conductor

Naxos 8.574124, 2020

Track listing

  1. O salutaris hostia
  2. The Heavens’ Flock
  3. Translation
  4. My Thoughts
  5. Vineta
  6. Legend of the Walled-In Woman
  7. In paradisum

Egils Kaljo is an American-born Latvian from the New York area . 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.

Atklās reemigrantu ceļvežus: padomi gan vecākiem, gan skolotājiem

Latviešu valodas aģentūra aicina piedalīties rakstu krājumu „Ceļvedis pedagogiem darbam ar reemigrantu bērniem” un „Ceļvedis vecākiem: ģimenes atgriešanās Latvijā un bērna mācības Latvijas skolā” atvēršanas svētkos 2021. gada 29. aprīlī, plkst. 14.00 ZOOM tiešsaistes platformā.

Ceļveži domāti ģimenēm, kuras vēl plāno atgriezties, vai nesen atgriezušās Latvijā pēc dzīves ārpus Latvijas, kā arī Latvijas pedagogiem, kuru klasē ir bērni, kuri nesen ar ģimenēm pārcēlušies uz Latviju. Ceļvežos ir izklāstītas grūtības, kādas piedzīvojušas ģimenes pēc pārcelšanās un tiek sniegti padomi, kā tās novērst. Savukārt, ceļvedī pedagogi var atrast atbildes uz jautājumiem, kas viņiem varētu būt radušies par to, kā sekmīgi iekļaut reemigrējušos skolēnus savā klasē.

Reģistrācija dalībai tiešsaistes pasākumā vietnē līdz 2021. gada 28. aprīlim. Visu tālāko informāciju saņemsiet uz reģistrācijā norādīto e-pasta adresi.

Vairāk informācijas:

Latvian Verbs App redesigned

What comes to mind when you hear the words “Latvian verbs”? For most, it’s plain and boring grammatical tables you needed to memorise at Latvian school.

As a 16-year-old, attending Latvian school in Melbourne, and having to look at these tables every week, I was convinced that this challenging part of Latvian grammar could be digitalised to run on computers. That was thirty years ago when personal desktop computers first began to appear in schools, and I longed for the day to try out my new idea – even if it meant sneaking into the computer room after classes.

Fast forward to April, 2021 and the latest version of Latvian Verbs for iPhones and iPads is now available. It is a major upgrade after a 5-year hiatus – completely redesigned and redeveloped! The valuable feedback received from our users worldwide means that it is now even easier and friendlier to use.

Overview of the new Latvian Verbs App (30 secs)

To help illustrate how Latvian Verbs works, let’s look at the verb nopirkt (to buy) in the past tense:

The prefix is no, the verb stem is pirk with the suffix t. Depending upon the person (es, tu, viņš.. viņas) the suffix changes quite predictably and is shown highlighted in red.

Changing to the future tense, we can see a similar pattern: prefix, stem and endings highlighted in red.

In the present tense, it becomes trickier. In our example, the verb stem has changed from pirk to pērk, in the 2nd person singular, the stem ending changes from k -> c and there is no longer a vowel suffix.

If you tap on nopirkt you will get additional useful information about this verb. The classification provides hints on which conjugation rules to apply. The 1st conjugation refers to all verbs where the verb stem is only one syllable (there are also 2nd and 3rd conjugation verbs that end in -āt, -īt, -ēt, -ot, -ūt and have two or more syllables). The 1st conjugation is the most complex and is further divided into 5 groups – nopirkt belongs to the 2nd group and other similar verbs are listed as a reference. The prefixes section shows the most popular prefixes that can be used with the base verb pirkt. Changing a prefix will often change the overall verb meaning as well.

If you need help with the pronunciation of the verb forms, tap on the share icon, select the Izrunā ar Tildes Balsi option (this is a free App download from the AppStore) and listen to the audio. Alternatively, you can share the verb with others as well as mark it as a favourite for future reference.

The Lists section provides the top 50 and top 100 Latvian verbs and, as with all languages, there are also exceptions with additional notes that you can study further.

For more advanced learners, tap on the settings icon and choose the palatalised r and open/closed e options. The compound tense and passive voice (beginners should avoid the passive voice) are off by default. Switching these on reveals the complexity of Latvian verbs.

Advanced users can also choose from indicative, relative, conditional, debitive and imperative moods to further explore the many different Latvian verb forms.

All of the above works well on iPads in portrait as well as landscape modes.

To download Latvian Verbs from the AppStore just search for “Latvian Verbs”. If you would like to provide feedback or have any questions on Latvian Verbs, please use the contact link through the App or post on the Latvian Verbs Facebook page.