‘Distant light’: sacred and secular compositions for trumpet and organ

The organ and the trumpet feature on the album Distant Light, released in 2020 by the Latvian national record label Skani. Performed by trumpetist Jānis Porietis and organist Ilze Reine, this slightly unusual combination of instruments has still generated interest and contributions from Latvian composers, and Distant Light, with eleven compositions by eight different composers, displays the many textures and sound palettes that are available when putting the trumpet and organ together.

Composer Maija Einfelde supplies two compositions to this collection, ‘Zvaigžņu kalns’ (Hill of Stars) and ‘Gloria’. ‘Zvaigžņu kalns’ ir a work for solo trumpet, and Porietis’ rich and melodious sound enriches this work, making the long notes of the work almost float and soar in the distance. On ‘Gloria’, Porietis is joined by Reine, and this work, as its title would suggest, is celebratory, almost triumphant. However, as with many of Einfelde’s works, there are still moments and flashes of darkness and harshness, as the organ suddenly becomes weighty, the trumpet becomes contemplative, and the work has a somber tone, but returns to elation at the work’s conclusion.

Rihards Dubra, a composer whose works often are deeply spiritual, provides ‘Kyrie’ and ‘Agnus Dei’, two works inspired by the Christian mass. ‘Kyrie’, as befitting a prayer, has Reine performing a tender, fragile melody in the organ, while Porietis’ trumpet sounds as if at a distance. ‘Agnus Dei’ is more contemplative, reserved. Dubra commented that his goal with these works is to make the trumpet a kind of ‘singer’, and Porietis’ performance resembles a vocal melody, as the trumpet and the organ both soar to the conclusion of the work.

Along with Einfelde’s ‘Gloria’, Dubra’s ‘Kyrie’ and ‘Agnus Dei’, composer Alvils Altmanis contributes additional mass sections – ‘Sanctus’ and ‘Benedictus’. Though the sections are by three different composers, the works flow together with Reine and Porietis providing the overarching spiritual foundation for the performance. Altmanis’ ‘Sanctus’, a song of praise, is weighty, yet calm, with Porietis’ soft tones layered on top of Reine’s understated performance. ‘Benedictus’ is even more reserved, with a very gentle trumpet melody together with a quiet, reflective organ song.

“Jūras paņemtajiem” (To Those Taken by the Sea), a work by Ilze Arne, is dedicated to those who have lost their lives at sea and is a work full or tragedy and longing for those lost. Porietis’ trumpet playing is expressive, while Reine’s gently flowing organ imbues this work with sadness and melancholy.

Romualds Jermaks’ ‘Lux Aeterna’ continues the spiritual themes of many of the works on this album, and is a gentle prayer for peace, while Dzintra Kurme-Gedroica’s expansive ‘Quo vadis’, the longest work on the album, is a contemplative, philosophical work, pondering questions of humanity and where are we all headed.

‘Larghetto from the Concerto for Trumpet’ by Goergs Pelēcis, one of the earliest works on this collection, is also envisioned as a walk around Tempļa iela, a street in the Pāŗdaugava area of Rīga. Porietis and Reine conjure up an image of a solitary evening walk, of cobblestones and wooden houses.

Renāte Stivriņa’s ‘Gaviles’ (Rejoicing), a work inspired by the Latvian Song Festival, also uses the sound of the trumpet to mimic a human singing voice and is perhaps the most Latvian of all the works on the album – a celebration of singing and the importance of song throughout Latvia’s history.

Besides displaying the skills of trumpetist Jānis Porietis and organist Ilze Reine, Distant Light also reveals the singular skills of many Latvian composers, their ability to compose distinct and individual works for this combination of instruments. The resonance of the trumpet and the richness of the Rīga Cathedral organ, throughout compositions both sacred and secular, make for a rewarding listen.

For more information, please visit the Skani website

Distant Light

Jānis Porietis – trumpet, Ilze Reine – organ

LMIC/SKANi 094, 2020

Track listing

  1. Maija Einfelde – “Zvaigžņu kalns”
  2. Rihards Dubra – Kyrie
  3. Maija Einfelde – Gloria
  4. Alvils Altmanis – Sanctus
  5. Alvils Altmanis – Benedictus
  6. Rihards Dubra – Agnus Dei
  7. Ilze Arne – “Jūras paņemtajiem”
  8. Romualds Jermaks – Lux aeterna
  9. Dzintra Kurme-Gedroica – “Quo vadis”
  10. Georgs Pelēcis – Larghetto no Koncerta trompetei
  11. Renāte Stivriņa – “Gaviles”

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.

Sveiciens Latvijas 103. Valsts svētkos!

Latvians Online sveic visus Latvijas 103. Valsts svētkos! Saules mūžu Latvijai!

Daina Gross is editor of Latvians Online. An Australian-Latvian she is also a migration researcher at the University of Latvia, PhD candidate, formerly a member of the board of the World Federation of Free Latvians, an author and translator into English of various books on industrial history in Latvia.

New Saucējas album celebrates the beauty of Latvian nature and folksongs

The thousands of Latvian folk songs cover just about every imaginable theme. All aspects of life, all the possible events in a year, one can find a song for every moment. A recurring theme in folk songs is nature – whether appreciating the beauty of the birds, rivers, hills, and many other natural features, or songs about working outside, plowing fields and sowing seeds. Many songs are meant to be sung outdoors, and there is an extensive tradition of outdoor singing, particularly around the time of Jāni (Midsummer).

With the goal of recreating the atmosphere and sound of singing outdoors, the traditional folk ensemble Saucējas, a group of ten women led by Iveta Tāle, undertook one of the most ambitious recent folk music projects – to perform and record songs entirely outdoors. The project – entitled ‘Dziedāšāna dabas akustiskajā telpā’ or ‘Traditional Singing in Nature’s Acoustic Environment’ – resulted in the two CD, 60 song collection entitled Dabā, released in 2021.

Singing (as well as recording) outdoors brings its own unique challenges. However, the ten powerful voices of the Saucējas are more than up to this challenge, and, over the course of sixty songs (recorded in many different locations throughout Latvia), the group leads the listener on a journey throughout both the grandeur of nature, as well as all the seasons in Latvia.

To create an immersive, authentic performance, the group recorded not just the voices, but all background sounds as well, particularly bird songs. ‘Ar dziesmiņu laukā gāju’ begins with birds chirping, while in ‘Skaņu balsini palaidu’ it almost seems like the singers are in the background, more distant, while the birds are in the foreground. This adds to the atmosphere, almost like the listener is on top of one hill, while the singers are on the top of another. And it is not just songbirds – ‘Ai dzeltena linu druva’ has what sounds like turkeys and chickens in the background, which would not be surprising, as the song was recorded at the farmyard ‘Lazdas’.

A major event in the Latvian calendar is the midsummer celebration of Jāņi, and there is a series of songs on the album for this time of year, and several of them were recorded at the ‘Ruķeli’ farmstead, and, to add to the atmosphere, the singers were recorded around a bonfire. In songs like ‘Es atradu siera dūci’, one clearly hears crickets chirping, which adds to the nighttime atmosphere.

Even when performing and recording outdoors, there are still plenty of opportunities for harmonies to be heard, such as in ‘Ik vakara dziedāt gāju’ and ‘Aiz upītes ūzulini’, and though much of the singing is powerful, and necessarily loud, there are still many moments of tenderness and gentleness, such as ‘Kiukoj, uoru dzagiuzeite’ and ‘Es pazinu bārainīti’.

Of course, when recording outside, one loses a certain amount of clarity in the voices. For example, in the often discordant ‘Nakūko(i), dzaguzīte / Aiz Daugavas melni meži’, a song of spring, each singer seems to sing in her own tempo, and the result is a bit harsh and difficult to understand at times, but that adds to the authenticity of this project.

The two CDs come packaged with a book, which provides extensive detail on the songs included on the album, as well as the recording process. Songs were recorded in fourteen different locations throughout Latvia, including by lakes, hillforts, forests, even a bog. The singers even had to start singing very early in the morning for some of the recordings, and, to ensure no unexpected sounds, they even checked airplane flight paths to make sure no planes were going to fly over during their recording sessions. One of the recording engineers, Gatis Gaujenieks, also offers insights into the recording process, including fascinating details such as to how the microphones were placed, and which specific microphones were used.

Over two CDs and sixty songs, Dabā celebrates the beauty of both Latvian nature and Latvian folk songs. An immersive experience, listening to the album is like being in the Latvian countryside, and hearing singing both nearby and in the distance. The singers of Saucējas blend with the sounds of nature, creating an authentic, pastoral listening experience.

For further information, please visit the Saucējas Facebook page



Lauska CD093, 2021

Track listing:

CD 1

  1. Ar dziesmiņu laukā gāju
  2. Aiz Daugavas melni meži
  3. Puri, puri, meži, meži / Ganiņš gana ceļmalā(i) / Bitīt, tavu šuvumiņu
  4. Ūsi, ūsi, kod lapuosi
  5. Aiz upītes ūzulini
  6. Nakūko(i), dzaguzīte
  7. Es dziedāju, gavilēju / Aiz upītes kalniņā(i) / Ē, citi gani!
  8. Dziediet, meitas, vokorā
  9. Es pazinu bārainīti
  10. Kiukoj, uoru dzagiuzeite
  11. Bitīt, tavu šuvumiņu
  12. Nakūko(i), dzaguzīte / Aiz Daugavas melni meži
  13. Ganiņš gana ceļmalā(i)
  14. Kiukoj, uora zagiuzīte
  15. Iz pīguli, iz pīguli
  16. Puri, puri, meži meži / Bitīt, tavu šuvumiņu
  17. Viņpus upes ozoliņi
  18. Kiukoj dzagiuze, i dzīd laksteigola
  19. Ai, jel manu skaņu balsu / Nākat, puiši, nelepojat / Tumsīnāji, naksnīnāji
  20. Sīneņu guoju kasdama
  21. Ai ganiņi, nedzeniet / Tad talka diža, talka maza / Gosniņ, mana raibulīte
  22. Gotiņ, gotiņ!
  23. Oi, egle, egle
  24. Ūgu, ūgu, sēņu, sēņu
  25. Oi, egle, egle

CD 2

  1. Kas visiem(i) bāriņiemi
  2. Kā tā māva raibuliņa / Ko gavilē, tautu meit
  3. Ik vakara dziedāt gāju
  4. Skaņu balsini palaidu
  5. Pļaunit, bruoļi, pūrva pļovas
  6. Aiz upeitys meitys dzīd(i)
  7. Tak upeite pret upeiti
  8. Ai ganiņi, nedzeniet / Gosniņ, mana raibulīte
  9. Gotiņ, mana raibaliņa
  10. Jauna gāju tautīnās(i)
  11. Kas gribēja baltaitiņu
  12. Vokars īti, vokars īti
  13. Elo, paelo!
  14. Ganiņš gana ceļmalā(i) / Ar dziesmiņu laukā gāju
  15. Klusiņām(i) izganiju
  16. Oruojeņi, acātuoji
  17. Kas Jānīti ieleiguoja
  18. Jāņi nāca, Jāņi nāca
  19. Es atradu siera dūci
  20. Zīdi, zīdi, lynu druva
  21. Ē, citi gani!
  22. Dyuce bite, kamaneite
  23. Ēluja, ēlu!
  24. Ko gavilē, tautu meit’
  25. Bolta eju, bolta taku
  26. Sīneņu guoju kasdama
  27. Man patika mīžu druva
  28. Kur, Jumeiti, tu gulieji
  29. Tolka lila, tolka moza
  30. Ai dzeltena linu druva
  31. Atīt zūses klaiguodamas
  32. Nākat, puiši, nelepojat
  33. Dziedātāju māsu devu
  34. Skaņi dziedu, gavilēju
  35. Gavil’ pieci, gavil’ seši / Rāmi, rāmi es dziedāju

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.