(K. Brent Tomer),
IT’S eight o’clock at the Taurenitis School in Jurmala, a resort town some 25km west of Riga. 78 children, half of the school’s total number, have assembled for their twice-weekly choir practice. Sitting with their backs straight, and giving the conductor their full attention, they rehearse Latvian folk songs—as do children in ordinary state schools across Latvia every week. This early choir drilling has turned Latvia into the superpower of choral singing.
“Singing is just something Latvians do,” says Diana Stirna, a 20-year-old student in Riga. Ever since the Soviet era, they’ve done so in a highly organised fashion. Latvia’s Soviet school curriculum featured mandatory ensemble singing starting in the first year of primary school; singing for all pupils was one of the few Soviet policies Latvia chose to keep. Ms Stirna, who began singing in first grade, now sings soprano in Sola, a professional-level youth choir in Riga.
Latvia, with a population of 2m, has some ten youth choirs of international prizewinning calibre. In the 2014 World Choir Games in Riga (awarded to the city after another Latvian youth…Continue reading