Birth of a new choir. Interview with Kaspars Putniņš

Birth of a new choir. Interview with Kaspars Putniņš
Kaspars Garda, Rīga 2014 . Conductor Kaspars Putniņš
08-08-2013 A+ A-
On 8 August, the newly-established project, „TENSO” Youth Chamber Choir, performed their first concert at Sigulda Lutheran Church. They are 24 singing young people from 11 European countries who rehearsed for the whole week and attended summer camp led by a conductor Kaspars Putniņš and other teachers. Therefore, the result will be showed three times, on 8 August, at Sigulda Lutheran Church, 9 August at Riga St. John's Church and on 10 August at the Kaarli or Charles XI Lutheran Church. We met Latvian Radio Choir conductor Kaspars Putniņš in order to find more about „TENSO” project.

Brought under a real Latvian „screening”

„”TENSO„ is a cooperation unit of the best European professional choirs. Its initiative and aim is to make the best new European choir singers' union. I have the honour to start writing union's history exactly in Latvia,” tells Kaspars Putniņš at the beginning of this interview. It's hardly possible not to see sparkles in his eyes while he is waiting for a six-day working session at Sigulda Arts School „Baltais Flīģelis”.

A couple of months ago, announcement for new choir applicants was made, back then, website had more than thousand viewers every day. Putniņš says it's a pretty good result considering the fact that the new project is unpopular. „Of course, 60 applications is not much, but they had to meet hard criteria and standarts. Potential choir singers were really prepared, so those 24 singers are the best!”


When selecting choir singers, technical and musical information was evaluated. „We prepared a decent list of the things they had to record and send that to us.”

If speaking Latvian, It was a serious „screening” that presented their voice qualities and abilities to orientate themselves into a complex repertoire, also their potential to prepare various music pieces in a beautiful and valuable way.

As soon as we got everything together, we could define what we are dealing with,„ tells Putniņš, not denying that sometimes the application process was complex and painful. ”Everything went well, the weakest applicants were a bit frightened from the application criteria and requirements they needed to prepare at home."

During the conversation, Putniņš emphasizes again and again that the project is just started and the main promoter in a musical environment is the prestige of „TENSO”. „We have only information about the idea itself, so we might think the result will be good.”


Everything comes to light within the process

When telling about a one-week summer camp at Sigulda Arts School at „Baltais Flīģelis”, Putniņš says: "We had classes where either one-to-one or group sessions were held. Everything you can imagine. We had a precise plan but we also had to react sharply to several situations and change rehearsal structure and plans. Everything comes out within the process.

You can write on a paper everything you like but the process shows what is what."

Putniņš reminds that most of the choir participants are young people who are still in search of the best European chamber choirs. „They want to perform profesionally in ensembles or chamber choirs, so this camp was a place to gain great experience. Some of them had sung in great choirs before. For example, I met one Spanish girl who lives in France when I conducted an excellent choir in Ghent. In the Netherlands, I met Alexander Kumala from Belarus, he studied in the Netherlands that time. He is now the creative leader of Belarusian national chapel. And he wants to join our camp,” tells conductor about his choir singers also adding that Krista Audera will also take part. „I've heard her voice. She is a participant of new and attractive ensembles. Thus, we have a material we can work with.” Portugal is on top one when speaking of the total participant's number at „TENSO”, they are six. Then comes Germany with five singers.

Programme needs to create a beautiful entirety

Speaking of the repertoire choir had to learn, Putniņš tells that it was chosen as various as possible deliberately. "One of the reason of this decision was to work with a wide range of questions related to performing and several problems that we meet in choir and ensemble singing process.

That's why the repertoire is like this: renaissance, polyphony, baroque, music from the 19th century and contemporary avantgarde.

At the same time, I always work with programme details very seriously, so I hope that it will be not only just various, nice and interesting, but it will create a beautiful entirety, as well."


Several works composed by Latvians are included in the programme. „I am glad we will sing ”Jūras dziesmas„ (”The Sea Songs„), it's a piece I haven't heard in Riga for a while. I think, it's one of the absolute Latvian music hits, a decent value. Also a four-part cycle by Kristaps Pētersons will be performed for the first time at our concerts, so I turns out to be a world premiere.”

Singers received their sheets a while ago, but the project curators rely on them thinking that they did their homeworks. „I receive good and precise questions about how to react or whether we can change some voice combinations. It only means that they take it seriously,” joyfully says Putniņš. Is one week enough to make 24 singers a whole new collective? „Of course, this is extreme, says Putniņš. ”But from the other side, every day costs great money, although I would like to live like that through a whole summer. These ten days were a minimum in order to make the idea happen in real life.

I did not have doubts about them understanding each other. I have leaded such groups before, I know that an intense and informative whirlwind appears in such an intense regime when all the things happen in enormous speed.

I find this process much better than „what if..”, because this unique intensity and stress in a positive way and also the chance for them to meet people who think similarly as they do and are well prepared to perform, it stimulates to work hard and gives energy. So, we can do a lot within short time.„ Putniņš laughs that Latvian Radio Choir often has to prepare the programme in two days. ”Radio Choir is one of the fastest groups I have worked with. I would only name „BBC Singers” who could do things like that."

Next year, „TENSO” Youth Chamber Choir will offer a musical series „Seriāls” („The Serial”) composed by Kristaps Pētersons. The piece is included into „Rīga 2014” programme, at „TENSO” Youth night concert on 24 to 25 October. The event will happen within „TENSO” days in Riga. „This piece is still being made, we are in the middle of this. It will include not only music, but some quotes from the 19th and 20th century works. I would not tell more for now,” says Putniņš who also adds that around 70 percent from „TENSO” choir will take part. „Of course, the choir will be renewed every year, the third part will be new singers, the rest of them will be former participants. That's why we work every day with a director Zane Kreicberga for an hour, to improve some stage art knowledges we need. It includes to be aware of stage, some communication mechanisms that exist in music, but not only. These studies will serve as a workshop for the next year's project development.”


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