To meet high standarts. Interview with composer Jānis Lūsēns

To meet high standarts. Interview with composer Jānis Lūsēns
Kaspars Garda, Rīga 2014 . komponists Jānis Lūsēns
Una Griškeviča
17-07-2013 A+ A-
„It's all work, work, work!” – tells composer Jānis Lūsēns while expressing his thoughts about this summer. He has to join an event called „Vecpiebalga atver durvis!” („Vecpiebalga opens the door”) and they also perform at „Positivus Festival” together with his band „Zodiaks”. He also notes some other projects for this summer while we are having a cup of coffee at „Epikūra dārzs” („The Garden of Epicurus”) cafe.

You have undertaken „Vecpiebalga atver durvis” organising work. Why so?

It was a debut event last year. But, if you ask me, I have worked together with a producer Anda Zadovska for the last five years. She helps carrying out my creative artwork. All went well, so two years ago an idea rose of a decent Latvian festival with the main emphasize on „Latvian”. It would be theatre, music, various show-offs, folk costumes. There are people who may not know who Latvians really are and what they do in terms of cultural activities. So, now they can explore it. As we go to Vecpiebalga quite frequently, we have had a conversation with Ella Frīdvalde-Andersone, local government chairwoman. By the way, she works a great deal in order to show Vecpiebalga as a prestige and active city to live in. We got bigger support we even expected, so the event turned out to be as success. Seven hundred people came to a concert at „Saulrieti”, a house where Latvian writer Kārlis Skalbe lived, but the large-scale performance was viewed by three thousand people. The results are great, I think.

Considering the great amount of our summer festivals..

Maybe we did not go towards a pure business-minded way: just to do things cheap in order to sell them pricy. We'd rather offer people the atmosphere. Last year, the most paradoxical was my idea. Everyone seemed pretty amused when I told it would be great to have a churche concert after the large-scale performance, singalong and open-air party. Everyone had serious doubts because people might be asleep by that time. (Smiling.) But for the event at noon, the church was fully crowded up to the roof! People were sitting in a balcony. It means they were really interested in that.


Obviously, people need Latvian sense.

Yes, but in a personal, more intimate, way, not just some great patriotic form. All the events and everything else, did not mark a border between „we, the artists” and „rest of the people”. On Saturday, a singalong soon after large-scale performance was held at Alauksts open-air stage. Nobody from the actors had a contract with a special note they had to stay. They could easily take their cars and go back to Riga!

All actors stayed, danced with the people from country and sang together. Only because they wanted to. Nobody told them to stay.

I think, that's the most important task, to feel good, not in an entertainment perspective, but much rather to meet each other. It often seems that distance is so great between two people..

You continue this tradition this year.

Yes, also the large-scale performance idea will be continued. It's the very central event, I think, based on a mystery/play by Inguna Bauere where all the possible Piebalga residents are put together in one place. It, of course, would not happen in a real life. I got my inspiration from Marģers Zariņš novels „Kapelmeistara Kociņa”, „Trauksmainie trīsdesmit trīs” and other works where this method has been used, I like it quite a lot and find it interesting. This method will be also used in a childrens' play performed at „Saulrieti” for the first time. There will be such play characters as The White Cat, The Black Cat, Spirit of The Hill and The Devil together with Skalbe himself, The King and The Princess. I hope it will be as sweet and clear as it's in a creative work of Vairs Brasla, he is a director. It's no wonder we have booked him for the festival. He has the most intense sense of Latvian and he's got great works.

What else would you offer from the festival programme?

I would like to offer everything! (Laughing.) I'm especially interested in premiere performances and shows such as „Baltā kaķīša brīnumvārdi” at „Saulrieti” and a large-scale performance „Tad būs laba lustēšana” at Alauksts open-air stage.

 It's the biggest intrigue, the work Inguna Bauere creates together with Varis Brasla. Also famous Riga citizens such as Aspazija and Emīlija Benjamiņa take their parts at the play together with all those well-known men.

Nobody, including myself, has seen fragments from an upcoming show for 20 July, Saturday evening. In fact, there is no intrigue, everyone is still learning. All participants joining the show are true professionals. I am happy about the fact Uldis Dumpis agreed to join this year. He usually refuses his part for summer festivals.


It seems that you have a very busy weekend. You are playing with „Zodiaks” band at „Positivus Festival”.

It's all a bit messed up with „Zodiaks”. The band name was used for vocal instrumental ensemble during The Soviet Union. It has nothing to do with the first staff of „Zodiaks”, together with them we released 20 million records of „Disco Alliance” and „Music in Universe”. (Keeping silence.) I have to thank my son Jānis Jr. for the idea to renew the staff. We create arrangements together. He does the tones, I work with the form, so there would be a comon mix of the old and contemporary sound. We just had a pilot performance at „Shine Cafe” in Liepaja.

Everyone told us after the show: cool, you sound like „ Daft Punk” !

We tried to do in a way people would get the intrigue of what they can hear, maybe for the first time of their lives, so they would not stay indifferent. We don' t have such kind of music right now. (Thinking.) It' s a serious thing to poerform at "Positivus", we have rehearsals for the last six months. In fact, the music will be brand new with a bit of old song elements. I will be the only one from the old " Zodiaks" staff, rest of us will be the new guys for a modern sound. We can play rock with our old mates as it will be this autumn. It's going to be a project called "Sarkano vāveru prieks" with the poetry of Ojārs Vācietis and Ģirts Ķesteris starring in his leading role. We will play real blues and rock. In this case, music requires a modern sound. Mārcis Auziņš (guitar) and Mārtiņs Linde (bass) will play together with my son Jānis. Zigfrīds Muktupāvels will join from the old staff. Indeed, he won't sing, instead he wil play a super expensive violin from Italy.

We will play our concert on 31 October at "Palladium". But it will be a longer version, one hour and twenty minutes.

Do you feel nostalgic while playing the old songs?

Oh, I thought: do I need this all? Then my son told me to continue saying that it' s cool we have such tones. Then I got carried away and now I am happy we have professional staff. So the music is good, the groove is well-considered. We get what we need, and it's great.


Do you think about recording sessions?

Yes, we think of it, but, to be honest, we don' t have time for this until autumn with Meierovics musical at the Opera and Ojārcs Vācietis project. Maybe next year, because we are selecting some pieces together and creating some new material. It' s a thing we have to do.

You mentioned two big projects for this autumn period.

Last March, I don't even know why, several songs with the poetry of Ojārs Vācietie were created. I thought Vācietis was very attractive, unusual and vital!

I was keen of that creative mood, so I started to write rock songs.

„Sarkanu vāveru prieks” is very close to me. It will be held at „Totaldobže” Culture Centre in cooperation with Reinis Druvietis. Ģirts Ķesteris is gonna be a solo artist an provocateur. The form of this concert will be different every time considering a mood of the audience but also not marking strict borders. Evita Sniedze writes literary supplements to this work, but the stage and costumes are made by Kristiāna Dimitere. Besides, I have boight two „vintage” instruments for this project: for the sound and sight too.

Musical about Zigfrīds Anna Meierovics is made in cooperation with the dramatist Māra Zālīte in one year time. It will be about his life, women, him walking away, all those mysterious things that had happened in his life. We will try to explain it by joining all events together. Premiere show is scheduled on 18 November at The Latvian National Opera. Also a director Gatis Šmits will join for this production, he has another perspective of seeing the material. I can't wait for the rehearsals. I have to say thanks to the Opera for letting us on the stage. The stage is big enough and suitable for such megaprojects. Unfortunately, we won't have symphony orchestra. We just can't afford this, besides, there are no supporters for the project. I am collecting those rejections, so I have many of them and soon will be able to curate a refusal exhibitions..(Smiling ironically.)

Can you name the actors taking part in a show?

It's a bit too early to tell. Maybe something will happen tomorrow. Though, we created a good team also having some fights with the director. (Smiling.) Still, we all are cautious enough to think together. The result will be fine, I think.

It seems that „Ars Nova” musical theatre has its own place now.

Suitable space was the biggest problem for us, because there are many projects. I would like to take my chance to express my gratitude to Valmiera Drama Theatre who had the patience and let us perform „Agrā rūsa” and „Kaupēns” on really favourable dates. We were able to exist because of their good attitude towards us. Still, we can't live like that forever. So, our producer took the old spot of „Daile” cinema theatre.

It's being renovated for now, but soon there will be „Daile” Music House where several musical projects will be held.

Owner of the building, foreign Latvian Juris Nāruns, is very responsive and- thank goodness!- he cares what happens in there. It might be a good concert place for Riga for the reason we don't have an acoustic music venue yet. We will be able to organise acoustic events, because the venue will have good instruments, „ Yamaha” piano, required equipment, the lights, the stage we can transform however we like. Thus, we can organise everything from a fashion show to a theatre performance. We had a conversation with Māris Briežkalns about an option to organise „Vasaras ritmi” with big music stars visiting in here. Also Ingus Ulmanis is searching for a place to show „Brīnumskapis”.

„Daile” Music House will be a place where we can open a perspective for good-quality projects and meet high standarts. There are lots of great projects we may not discover just because we don't have a suitable performing space. I hope now it will be different. We think of opening „Daile” on the first half of November. Then again, we'll see.


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