IIIth St. James festival, 2013
About the festival
Filling the vaults of St. Apostles Philip and James Church on the edge of Lukiškės Square with the gorgeous sound of sacred music, the International St. James Festival came to town on 8–28 September for a third year in a row. Concerts in Vilnius and Kaunas brought together prominent Lithuanian and international choirs including the Academic Choir of Belarusian Television and Radio (artistic director and conductor Pavel Šepelev), JAUNA MUZIKA Vilnius Municipal Chamber Choir (artistic director and conductor Professor Vaclovas Augustinas) and most importantly, the hosts of the Festival, VILNIUS Choir (artistic director and principal conductor Professor Povilas Gylys, conductor Artūras Dambrauskas).
The Festival presented two premieres: Rorate Caeli Desuper for mezzosoprano (Ieva Prudnikovaitė), mixed choir and brass quintet composed by Donatas Zakaras in occasion of the return of Our Lady of Lukiškės icon to the church and Passio Domini nostri Jesu Christi secundum Joannem for five soloists and mixed choir a capella by Vytautas Miškinis.
St. James Festival culminated with a performance of Mozart’s Great Mass in C minor at a closing concert on 28 September. VILNIUS Choir (artistic director and principal conductor Professor Povilas Gylys), JAUNA MUZIKA Vilnius Municipal Chamber Choir (artistic director and conductor Professor Vaclovas Augustinas), Vilnius City Municipality’s St. Christopher Chamber Orchestra (artistic director and conductor Professor Donatas Katkus), a wind band and soloists Joana Gedmintaitė (soprano), Jomantė Šležaitė (mezzosoprano), Algirdas Janutas (tenor) and Arūnas Malikėnas (bass) were led by one of the most eminent Lithuanian conductors, friend of VILNIUS Choir, Professor Saulius Sondeckis.
The program of the festival
The Academic Choir of the Belarusian National State Television and Radio
The Academic Choir of the Belarusian National State Television and Radio was created in 1931 and during the pre-war era it worked exclusively on air. From the 1960s to the 1980s its primary task was to continuously add to the audio archives with recordings of Belarusian academic music and arrangements of folksongs. However, in the 1990s this group also started touring. For more than 40 years the choir was led by the famous Victor Rovdo; since 2008, after his death, it has been headed by Olga Yanum, a graduate of the Belarusian State Academy of Music specializing in choral conducting and singing. Nowadays the choir is involved in a new creative search, turning to the most recent Belarusian scores. Nevertheless, taking into consideration the kaleidoscopic nature of the repertoire of the choir, the group’s performances of religious music of different denominations remain their uneclipsed achievement.
Artistic director and conductor Pavel Šepelev.
Vilnius city municipal choir Jauna Muzika
Professional chamber choir, led by conductor and composer Vaclovas Augustinas, is regarded as one of the most prominent and most capable vocal groups that annually organizes over 30 concerts in its own country and abroad. The choir “Jauna Muzika” is the winner of fifteen international choir competitions. In 1993 – winner of the Grand Prix Contest held in Varna (Bulgaria) at the International Choir Contest Association – the European Choral Grand Prix. For almost 30 years, “Jauna Muzika” has accumulated a diverse and valuable repertoire that includes scores from all age masters for choir a cappella, vocal-instrumental music masterpieces and premiere. The contemporary works of foreign and Lithuanian composers play an important role in the choral repertoire.
The Vilnius City Municipality St. Christopher Chamber Orchestra
The Vilnius City Municipality St. Christopher Chamber Orchestra (artistic director and chief conductor – Modestas Barkauskas, honorary conductor – Donatas Katkus) is a collective widely known for its universality, professionalism, and artistic imagination. The orchestra is an eagerly awaited guest not just in prestigious concert halls in Lithuania and abroad, such as the Théâtre des Champs-Élysées in Paris, the Harpa in Reikjavik, the Berwaldhallen in Stockholm, at the UNESCO headquarters in Paris, or the Royal Palace in Warsaw, St Petersburg’s M. Glinka Hall, or Moscow’s P. Tchaikovsky’s Conservatory, but also in less predictable places like outdoor stages or even sand quarries.
The orchestra was formed in 1994 by the initiative of Prof. Donatas Katkus, its artistic director and conductor, who at first envisaged creating a baroque orchestra. At the time there were few ensembles in Lithuania who were dedicated to performing music of this era, and the director was guided by the principles of the Russian romantic school for its interpretation. Talented, young Vilnius musicians from various orchestras in Vilnius gathered at the first rehearsals of this new collective and held their first concerts in February of that same year.
Many have noted that the St. Christopher Chamber Orchestra stands out from other collectives in Lithuania for its special stylistic universality. Having earned the reputation of a “baroque orchestra” and the reviver of rare partitures, musicologists have termed the orchestra “an excellent base for all of Lithuania’s composers’ conceptions”. Today its repertoire boasts over thirty opuses by Lithuanian authors: from early music to works by students from the Lithuanian Academy of Music. The orchestra has performed almost all of the string pieces F. Bajoras, B. Kutavičius and O. Balakauskas. It gives no less attention to the music of contemporary foreign composers, playing works by P. Vasks, E.-S. Tüür, J. McCabe, Shin, A. Ruoff, R. Sierra and other composers.
Choir Vilnius is on of the most mature and strongest choirs in Lithuania. It is the innovative, flexible, creative, highly artistic and one of the most prominent concert groups of today’s Lithuania, which raised a number of talented professional singers and prepared dozens of programmes. The choir develops activities mindful of the Lithuanian culture by offering the audience the most beautiful moments of choral music performance. In cooperation with the famous Lithuanian performers, the choir annually organises more than 70 concerts, where one can hear the works of different styles from all the eras: from the tunes of the ancient music to the popular dissonance chimes and complex modern music.
Since the beginning of creation of the choir, the group has been directed by Rimantas Zdanavičius (1970-1976), Antanas Jozėnas (1976-1992), Jurijus Kalcas (1992-2001), Povilas Gylys (2001-2015). Fifty professional singers, who completed the choral conducting and choral singing studies, are singing in the choir. The vocal singing skills are taught by Asta Krikščiūnaitė, the laureate of the national awards, while the pianist Dainius Jozėnas accompanies the choir during the concerts.