Latvian Radio Choir album reveals beauty of Plakidis’ choral works

Latvian composer Pēteris Plakidis, who passed away in 2017, left behind an impressive body of work – solo songs, chamber music, symphonic music, and choir music, to name just a few of the genres he composed for. Though many of his works were weighty and dramatic, Plakidis is the rare Latvian composer to include occasional flashes of humor in his works.

Though his contribution to the field of choir music has been significant, and many of his choir pieces are regularly performed in Latvia, up until recently there has been no full album of his choir works. The youth choir Kamēr… released a choir music CD called Plakidis / Pelēcis in 2017 that was half Plakidis’ works, half works by composer Georgs Pelēcis. To further reaffirm Plakidis’ valuable contributions to Latvian choir music, the Latvian Radio Choir, conducted by Sigvards Kļava, released a full CD of Plakidis’ choir works entitled Eternity (or Mūžība) in 2021.

Plakidis uses his dramatic skills to full effect on ‘Teiksma’, based on a poem by poet Rainis (which is taken from the prologue of Rainis’ play Uguns un nakts). The work begins quietly, reservedly, with its mysterious text about the moon conjuring a bridge of moonbeams. Using Rainis’ poetry, Plakidis conjures a mystical atmosphere with his music, and the song takes a sudden, startling turn with the loud male voices singing about the spirits of those lost to war. The Latvian Radio Choir skillfully presents this contrast between the two sections of the work, making for an engaging, immersive listen.

 A soft, almost distant vocalize opens ‘Mūžība’, which is then joined by the somber voices of the men’s choir. The text is by Jānis Jaunsudrabiņš, and is a rumination on eternity, with the wordless women’s voices perhaps painting a picture of an endless eternity. Plakidis brings forth the deep sadness in Jaunsudrabiņš’ poetry – “Un naktī, lielās bēdās, kad vēlos mirt un gaist” (And at night, in great sorrow, when I wish to die and fade away) – but also the hopeful moments – “Ar sauli vaigu vaigā kad dienu runājos” (When in daytime, cheek to cheek, I speak so fondly with the sun), this work reveals Plakidis’ abilities to effectively weave together disparate emotions in one song, and the Radio Choir adeptly perform this multifaceted work.

Poet Māris Čaklais’ poem ‘Izkapts ābelē’ is a barely veiled criticism of the forces occupying Latvia, and Plakidis creates a brief choir miniature from the text. The Radio Choir give an indignant, incensed performance, with an audible contempt heard in their singing of text like “svešā mēlē tiem virsū bļāva, un izkapts palika ābelē” (someone yelled at them in a foreign tongue, and the scythe remained in the apple tree). Perhaps it is no surprise that Plakidis was hesitant to publish this work, as it could have had severe consequences during the time of Soviet occupation.

Perhaps Plakidis’ best known choir work is ‘Tavas saknes tavā zemē’ (text by Vizma Belševica), though also composed during Soviet occupation, is a song of stubborn faith and belief (indicated in the repeated text – ‘Esi mierīgs. Tici. Zini. – Tava zeme paliks.’ (Stay calm. Have faith. Know. Your land will remain) – that even during that dark era there remained hope for a better future. This song still resonates today and is a source of inspiration.

The somber and beautiful ‘In Memoriam’ (poetry by Broņislava Martuževa) with its repeated, soaring ‘Viss labais aiziet debesīs’ (Everything that is good moves on), is presented in a particularly moving performance by the Latvian Radio Choir, and Plakidis’ music captures the beauty and uplifting nature of Martuževa’s words.

Composer Pēteris Plakidis’ contribution to the field of Latvian choir music is a singular and exceptional achievement. The composer’s talents with not just dramatic arrangements, but also his ability to reveal the deep emotional currents within the texts with his music, resulted in a body of choir work that is timeless and always able to affect and move listeners. The ever skillful and exceptional Latvian Radio Choir and conductor Sigvards Kļava have, on Eternity, indisputably confirmed the vital essence and beauty of Pēteris Plakidis’ choir music.

For further information please visit the Latvian Radio Choir website and the Skani website.

Pēteris Plakidis – Eternity

Latvian Radio Choir

Track listing:

1. Teiksma

2. Zvana vārdi

3. Izkapts ābelē

4. Mūžība

5. Papardes zieds

Div’ buramdziesmas

6. Mana galva sastīpota

7. Dod mums, Māriņ, to ūdentiņu

8. Maizes dziesma

Divi dziedājumi no Vecās Derības / Two Chants from the Old Testament

9. Verti me ad alia…

10. Et cognovi…

11. Kurzemes krasts, Vidzemes krasts


12. Tuksnešu karstos putekļos

13. Kas kaitēja nedzīvot

14. Meža vīriņš

15. Rudenī

16. Saulīt, mīļā māmulīt

17. Mūža aina

18. Ausmas stundā

19. Jāņa bērnam

20. In memoriam

21. Tavas saknes tavā zemē

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.

Sviests 9 a refreshing mix of Latvian folk groups and songs

The Sviests folk compilation, featuring new recordings by Latvian artists of not just folk songs, but also songs inspired by Latvian (and other cultures’) folk music, is normally released every other year. Though the previous release – Sviests 8 – was released in 2019, due to the pandemic (with its significant impact on performance and music making) meant that the latest entry in the series – Sviests 9 – was only released in 2022.

Though it was released with a small delay, the Sviests 9 compilation, compiled by the Lauska folk music label, brings together twenty new recordings by both well established and new artists and ensembles.

Along well-known names like Tautumeitas (who perform a modern version of the song ‘Brosnej, puika, tū dzeršonu’ – which originally appeared on their album Dziesmas no Aulejas), and Auļi (who, along with Lithuanian singer Laurita Peleniūte perform ‘Sveteilai’ – or ‘Ciemiņi’) are newer faces such as Pupa, performing the wedding song ‘Taisās kāzas’, and Ududu, performing the Mārtiņi celebration song ‘Mārtiņš kūra uguntiņu’.

Dark folk ensemble Rāva present ‘Ceļa māte’, singer Elīna Līce performs the Latvian folk song ‘Nāk rudentiņis’, folk / blues / bluegrass group Rahu the Fool offer ‘Daliņa kājas’, and vocalist Katrīna Dimanta sings about bees in ‘Bites dziesma’. Banga sing in Yiddish on ‘Di Bayke’, and Kārlis Rudra Jirgens mixes the kokle with electronic effects on ‘Kokle dub’.

The CD booklet contains detailed information on the artists and the songs, and helps the listener appreciate the many ways Latvian folk music and culture can be interpreted – both in traditional ways, but also with more modern elements – like jazz and electronic music. The booklet also notes the appearance of many new solo artists (perhaps a consequence of pandemic restrictions – unable to meet others, many musicians had to perform on their own).

For further information, please visit the Lauska website

Sviests 9


  1. Saucējas – Es iesēju kanapīt’
  2. Laurita Peleniūte & Auļi – Sveteilai/ Ciemiņi
  3. Rīgas saksofonu kvartets un Valdis Muktupāvels – Visādi putni
  4. Kalnejas – Raganiņa
  5. Svīres – Velc, pelīte
  6. Edgars Zilberts pied. Staņislavs Judins – Izlietus
  7. TKP – Suņi
  8. FOLK 7 – Vonogu dancs
  9. Tautumeitas – Brosnej, puika, tū dzeršonu
  10. Rahu the Fool – Daliņa kājas
  11. Elīna Līce – Nāk rudentiņis
  12. Ududu – Mārtiņš kūra uguntiņu
  13. Zane Sniķere – Atvasaras vakarā. Iemīlies.
  14. Rāva – Ceļa māte
  15. Jūra – Oj, agri
  16. Dārdi – Raiba govs
  17. Pupa – Taisās kāzas
  18. Katrīna Dimanta – Bites dziesma
  19. Banga – Di Bayke
  20. Kārlis Rudra Jirgens – Kokle dub

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.

Band Together: Ukrainian & American punk & hardcore groups support Ukraine

Like many millions around the world, Jānis Čakars was horrified by the events of February 24, 2022. On that day, Russia began an unprovoked military invasion of Ukraine that not only shocked, but also changed the world. A terrifying reality began to set in – if Russia was willing to brutally invade one former Soviet republic, then other former Soviet republics (Moldova, Georgia, the Baltic States), perhaps even former Soviet satellite states like Poland and Bulgaria, would likely be next.

Čakars, a professor of communication and digital media at Neumann University, is of Latvian descent, and, having taught Latvian history for ten years at the Philadelphia Latvian School, was well aware of the horrors of Soviet occupation. Like many, feelings of helplessness grew as the grim events unfolded, but Čakars quickly realized that there was still something he could do to help.

When not teaching, Čakars is also a musician, and has played guitar in multiple punk and hardcore bands in Philadelphia for decades. He has played with groups like Citizens Arrest and Grey C.E.L.L., among others. Čakars is also no stranger to activism – he, along with bandmate Derik Moore, compiled a Black Lives Matter inspired collection called 19 Notes on a Broken System in 2020. In a few short days, using his existing contacts in the music scene as well as reaching out to Ukrainian artists, Čakars helped compile Band Together: A Benefit for Ukraine – an album that contains songs by both American and Ukrainian performers. All proceeds from the album go to the charity Razom.

Though many of the songs on the album are in a punk or hardcore style, Band Together has an eclectic assortment of bands, with many styles represented, like folk, post-punk, metal, and others. Ukrainian artists on the record include Morwan, Kat, Pušča, Terrorscum, Sasha Boole, Death Pill, and The Raw. Many well-known American bands participated as well, including punk singer-songwriter Ted Leo, who provided the new song ‘The Clearing of the Land’ (inspired by the invasion), as well as groups like noise rock stalwarts Unsane, Brooklyn-based The World/Inferno Friendship Society, and many representatives of the Philadelphia scene, like Erin Incoherent, FRIGHT, and Cross Control. Čakars’ own bands Grey C.E.L.L. and Citizens Arrest also feature on the compilation. Though some of the songs were written long before recent events, some of the songs are eerily prescient, like the World Inferno song with its lyric ‘We got our dignity, we fought for that’ (bringing to mind the Ukrainian ‘Revolution of Dignity’), as well as Citizens Arrest’s song about nuclear war.

It was fortunate that Čakars could get recordings from some of the Ukrainian artists in time – events being so fast moving in Ukraine, many of the groups’ members have been displaced and some have enlisted in the effort to defend their homeland. Members of Death Pill, the first all-female punk band in Ukraine, were forced to flee, while Kat, from Kharkiv, are enduring relentless, indiscriminate bombing, Sasha Boole is serving in the army, and members of Pušča have been helping the effort by weaving camouflage nets.

Čakars is also planning a cassette release of the album in the near future, with possible releases on vinyl and CD as well. As there has been a lot of interest in this project, there may also be a possibility of a Volume 2, with artists from additional areas, like the Baltic States. Concerts featuring some of the American groups on Band Together are also planned, initially in the Philadelphia area, but potentially elsewhere. There has been a lot of interest in the project, and there have been articles in the Philadelphia Inquirer, Punk News, NPR, and other sites, and Čakars has an interview planned with the Latvian magazine Ir.

With his decades of performing in punk bands, Čakars even inspired a Latvian band to name themselves after him. The band – Jānis Čakars – was active in the 2010s, but appears to have gone on hiatus.

Čakars is also the editor of a forthcoming book – Information Wars in the Baltic States: Russia’s Long Shadow – which was completed right as the Russian army was massing on the the Ukrainian border.

Band Together: A Benefit for Ukraine is available as a digital download via Bandcamp.

Band Together : A Benefit for Ukraine

Track listing:

1. Morwan – Где-то там вдали

2. Ted Leo – The Clearing of the Land

3. Кат – Атлантида

4. The World/Inferno Friendship Society – Cats Are Not Lucky Creatures

5. Citizens Arrest – Death Threat

6. Death Pill – Расцарапаю Ебало

7. Unsane – Cracked Up

8. The Raw – 3a ветром

9. Grey C.E.L.L. – Opinion Piece

10. Пуща (Pušča) – Jardin de Verre Brisé

11. FRIGHT – Hands Claw Open Eyes

12. Terrorscum – Battered Knees

13. Under Attack – Mentally Collapsed

14. Cross Control – Diadem

15. Erin Incoherent – Songs for the Revolution

16. Sasha Boole – Плющ (Ivy)

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.