Youth choir «MASKA» is one of the best mixed amateur choirs in Latvia. Choir proudly represents Babīte municipality and Latvia by taking part in international choral contests and performing in different concerts. Choir «MASKA» is glad to collaborate with the best Latvian musicians, including vocal group «Latvian Voices» and instrumental group «Xylem Trio». Every time when creating a new program, always at least several pieces created by Latvian composers are included that helps to promote Latvian choral music both locally and globally. Youth choir «MASKA» and conductor Jānis Ozols is a creative community with its own charm and style that is characterized by musicality, movement towards the goal and daring to be different.
Most important facts:
- Youth choir MASKA was established in 2000
- Average count of singers is 40
- Conductor and artistic director is Jānis Ozols
- Choir master is Laura Jēkabsone
- Vocal teacher is Eduards Vācietis
Jānis Ozols (1980) is one of the well-recognized and promising new conductors in Latvia and is also known as one of the former vocal group “Cosmos” singers.
Jānis started to obtain his musical education in Emīls Dārziņš Music School, later continuing it in Riga Cathedral Choir School’s class of choir conducting. He acquired a bachelor’s degree in Jāzeps Vītols Latvian Academy of Music also in the class of choir conducting with the professor Sigvards Kļava and a master’s degree in choir conducting was supported by professor Jānis Zirnis. During 2013 and 2014 Jānis Ozols studied symphony orchestra conducting in Royal College of Music, Stockholm.
While being the baritone singer of the vocal a cappella group “Cosmos”, Jānis has worked along with world known musicians. This includes master classes and concerts with Bobby McFerrin, “The Real Group”, “Take 6”, “The Manhattan Transfer”, “The Hilliard Ensemble”, “The New York Voices” and the Icelandic music icon Björk. “Cosmos” were the winners of contest New Wave in 2004. They have attained several prestige prizes and awards through different contests and events including the Great Latvian Music Award in 2009.
Besides singing in “Cosmos” Jānis has proven him as one of the most talented Latvian conductors. He has reached notable achievements and won many prizes in Latvia and abroad. Jānis is conducting choir “Maska” which he established in 2000 and that is now one of the best amateur choirs in Latvia. Jānis has also proven his talent by taking the honourable 3rd place in the International Conductor Contest of Jazeps Vitols in 2009 as well as by attaining the unique and unprecedented prize of “The Best Young Conductor” in the 49th International Choir Singing Contest “Seghizzi” in Italy for which he was invited to take part in the jury in 2011.
Jānis takes active role in the field of academic music in Latvia, being the conductor and artistic director of several choirs and the head conductor of Riga region choirs of the XXV Latvian Song festival.
Jānis does not stop at the achieved and constantly keeps developing himself. His musical view and interpretation often differs from the usual. Being open to creative innovations and musical experiments is what highlights him among other conductors and helps in fulfilling his own ideas which are highly appreciated both by music professionals and lovers.
Jānis is married, a father of two, and proud owner of two cats. He also manages to squeeze in his hobby in the tight schedule of his – Jānis likes to cook and publishes his culinary achievements in his blog “Restaurant at Home and not only…” (dirigents.blogspot.com)
Laura Jēkabsone (1985) is a diverse artist, who is well-known as the leader of vocal group “Latvian Voices” and composer.
Laura started her musical education in Jāzeps Mediņš Secondary Music School where in 2005 graduated from class of choir conducting. She continued her studies in Jāzeps Vītols Latvian Academy of Music in 2009 acquiring a bachelor’s degree in music education.
In addition to the academic education, Laura has attended master classes in choir conducting with Rafael Immos (Switzerland) and a capella singing with King Singers (United Kingdom), The Hilliard Ensemble (United Kingdom) and Kim Nazarian (New York Voices, USA).
Laura has been a part of Latvian academic and choir music for a quite a long time, already since year 2000 working as a music educator and conducting various collectives. First one that Laura took the lead of was Tilža House of Culture children’s vocal study “Evrili”. It was followed by becoming artistic director of E. Kauliņš Lielvārde High school mixed choir “Bel Canto”, meanwhile taking the leadership of Skrīveri Culture centre women vocal ensemble “Akcents”, where she is still working. Laura was a music educator of preparatory class in Riga Cathedral Choir School. Since 2006 Laura is an integral part of choir “Maska”.
In 2009 Laura together with six other genial singers founded vocal ensemble “Latvian Voices” that definitely has a special place in her life. Most of “Latvian Voices” original music is created by Laura. Together with the ensemble she has won Vokal Total contest in Graz, Austria (2011), A Capella festival in Leipzig, Germany (2012) and 7th World Choir Games in Cincinnati, USA (2012).
Besides signing, Laura Jēkabsone is a recognized composer both locally in Latvia and globally. She has won vocal group’s Amarcord (Germany) arrangement contest (2011) for an arrangement of Latvian folk song “Pūt Vējiņi”. Laura was also nominated for Contemporary A Capella Award for Best folk/world song (2014) and has got into the final of International Jan Sibelius composition contest (2015). She is creating original compositions for a variety of musical collectives. Choir “Maska” is proud to perform Laura’s original music and choir’s favourite piece “Dindaru Dandaru” has been included in the collection “Latvian Voices: Dziesmu izlase I” (2015), where Laura’s a capella compositions for women choirs and ensembles have been compiled. In 2015 Laura was asked to create a special composition for XI Latvian School and Youth Song Festival’s concert of sacred music “Prayer for Latvia”, for what she created an arrangement of most popular Lithuanian church melody “Marija, Marija”. The latest compositions created by Laura was done in cooperation with Swedish a capella group “The Real Group”, creating an arrangement of Latvian folk song “Tumša nakte, zaļa zāle”.
In the spare time of music world, Laura spends time with her friends, doing many other creative activities. Most significant of them is creating short video clips that has transformed into a professional form, since Laura has become an anchor person (“Hobby Saturday”, TV360). When Laura is alone, you will always find a book by her side.
Eduards Vācietis (1989) has a bachelor’s degree from The Norwegian Academy of Music in Oslo, vocal class of Barbro Marklund-Petersone. In 2009 Eduards graduated from Riga Cathedral Choir School, vocal singing class of Valda Tračuma.
Already in his childhood, Eduards proved himself as a talented and perspective singer, taking part in V.A. Mozart’s “Magic flute” in The Latvian National Opera (he was one of the three geniuses). Eduards has participated in master classes lead by Association of Latvian vocal pedagogues. 1st prize in Alīna Vāne international vocalist contest (2008), 3rd prize in State vocalist contests in Daugavpils (2008). Participated in Stuttgart Bach academy’s project, which was lead by Helmuth Rilling, carrying out “War requiem” by Benjamin Britten (2007). Participated in the staging of W.A.Mozart’s “Don Jon” in Wilhelm theatre in Stuttgart (2013) as well as in Oslo Opera festival (2013). Has participated in various master classes lead by Sir Thomas Allen (The United Kingdom), Anita Garanča (Latvia), David L. Jones (USA), Emma Kirkby (The United Kingdom), Benton Hess (USA) and others.
In 2013 gave F. Schubert vocal music concerts in Rundāle and Riga. Eduards also has cooperated with “Latvijas Koncerti”, singing solos of “Elijah” by F. Mendelssohn Bartholdy, “Carmina Burana” by K. Orff and others. Has participated in dubbing the BBC series “War and piece”. His debut as a baritone in large form genre to Latvian audience could be considered the role of Pontius Pilate in the stating of John Passion by Andris Veismanis in 2016.
Since August 2013 Eduards is an artist and soloist in The State Choir Latvija, as well as teacher in vocal department of Riga Cathedral Choir School.
During his leisure time Eduards tries to be active – be it hiking, enjoying the nature or sports such as floor-ball and basketball. The long and dark winter evenings are spent with friends-enthusiasts “screwing” and reanimating old motorcycles, so during the summer the results can be enjoyed and summer breeze caught driving the bikes.
- 2016, June 6-13 – choir “Maska” repersented Latvia in the 13th international choir festival “Sborove slavnosti” in Czech Republic, giving several concerts in venues in Ostrava, Šumperk, Hradec Kralove an twice in the capital Prague – Rudolfinum concert hall and New Town Hall. In festivals gala concert, which took place in Hradec Kralove’s Cathedral of the Holy Spirit, choir took part in performing “Otčenaš” by Leoš Janaček for mixed choir, tenor soloist, organ and harp. During the festival, choir also visited Embassy of Republic of Latvia in Prague.
- 2nd place in 13th International Choral Competition “Gallus Maribor 2015“, that took place in Maribor, Slovenia. Choir also received a special prize from the jury for the best performance of Jacob Gallus (Iacobus Gallus) composition Mirabile Mysterium.
- Choir’s 2nd CD “Ziema”(“Winter”) is recorded. It includes three major compositions written by Laura Jēkabsone dedicated to Christmas theme – „Advent Story”, „Xmas All Around the World” and “Ziema”.
- Champions of 8th World Choir Games in 2014 in Champions’ category Folklore . Champions’ category — mixed choirs — 2nd place (highest result achieved by Latvian choir in any World Choir Games — 96.88 points).
- 2nd place in 46th Tolosa Choral contest polyphony andfolklore categories (highest result in mixed choir competition).
- Participation in Sacred Music concert that took place in the Old St. Gertrude Church on July 15 as a part of 8th World Choir Games.
- Grand Prix in the IV Harald Andersen Chamber Choir Competition in Helsinki, Finland. Choir received a money prize of 15 000 euros, as well as a special prize for the best performance of the compulsory composition “Readymade Alice” (Pertu Hapanens). This contest is held once in 3 years by famous Jan Sibelius Academy. 12 finalists, among which were professional collectives, were selected by an international jury. Choir «MASKA» is the first and meanwhile only choir from Latvia to receive a prize in this contest.
- Grand Prix in the international choir contest „Europe and Its Songs” in Barcelona, Spain (also the prize “Best Conductor”).
- Victory in VII town and countryside choir contest in Mazsalaca, Latvia.
- First CD is recorded, including Rihards Zaļupe composition „7 Gospels”, that was nominated to “Latvian Music Records Award 2010” in two categories — „Debut” and „Best academic music album”.
- 2nd place in 49th International choral contest “Seghizzi 2010” in Gorizia, Italy (also a prize „Best Young Conductor”)
- Grand Prix in international youth choir contest in Valmiera, Latvia.
- 5th place in the III Harald Andersen Chamber Choir Competition in Helsinki, Finland.
- 1st place in folklore category in international choral contest „Venezia in Musica” in Venice, Italy.
- 10th place in XXIV Latvian Song festival’s choir contest (best choir in category “Towns and countryside” as well as from Riga Region).
- 2nd place in folklore category in international choral contest in Rimini, Italy.
- 1st place in folklore category in international choral contestnkursā „Tonen 2000” in the Neatherlands.
- December 25 and 26 – choir “Maska” is taking participation in traditional Riga Christmas concerts “Silver skates” in Ķīpsala hall together with the Orchestra “Riga”, vocal group “Framest” and soloists Dita Lūriņa, Daumants Kalniņš and Žoržs Siksna.
- November 17 – National holiday concert in Viļaka.
- October 23 – performance of 7 Stories of the Gospel of Thomas together with Xylem Trio in a charity concert in Talsi Ev. Lut. church.
- July 11 – Concert in Riga St. John’s church together with choir “Labyrinth” from the U.S., which is lead by Latvian composer Anita Kupriss.
- June 6-13 – choir “Maska” repersented Latvia in the 13th international choir festival “Sborove slavnosti” in Czech Republic, giving several concerts in venues in Ostrava, Šumperk, Hradec Kralove an twice in the capital Prague – Rudolfinum concert hall and New Town Hall. In festivals gala concert, which took place in Hradec Kralove’s Cathedral of the Holy Spirit, choir took part in performing “Otčenaš” by Leoš Janaček for mixed choir, tenor soloist, organ and harp. During the festival, choir also visited Embassy of Republic of Latvia in Prague.
- June 4 – Concert in Piņķi St. John’s church, performing the programme, prepared for “Sborove slavnosti” festival.
- April 1 – choir “Maska” concludes its 15-year anniversary season with an unique concert “Because far is the road until dream path silently gazes to the foggy lake streams, but…“
- December 20 – concert “ZieMASKAsvētki” in Riga Dome Cathedral. Premiere – Laura Jēkabsone “Ziema” for mixed choir and string group
- December 17 – presentation of Choir “MASKA” and Laura Jēkabsone’s record “Ziema”
- September 18 – Choir “MASKA” 15 year anniversary concert in Aula Magna of University of Latvia
- June and July – weekly performance in Anna un Krišs Salmanis exhibition”Dziesma” (“Song”), performing a composition by Kristaps Pētersons “Dievzemīte II“
- June – participation in events of VIII Nordic and Baltic Choral Festival .
- Spring and summer performance at the events of Latvian Presidency of the Council of the European Union in National Library of Latvia, culture palace “Ziemeļblāzma” and other venues.
- December 20 – concert „ZieMASKAsvētki” (“ChristMASKAs) in the Riga New St. Gertrude church. Premiere– Jānis Šipkēvics „Doma iet un atkal atnāk atpakaļ” (lyrics by Rainis) – a cappella composition for mixed choir and soloists, Laura Jēkabsone „Xmas All around the World” – composition for mixed choir, guitar and soloists.
- December 7 – III kokle music festival „Gaismas ceļā” (“In the way of light”), concert in Riga Great Guild, performing „Advent Story”. by Laura Jēkabsone.
- October and November – during the 46th Tolosa Choral contest tour in the Basque country, performing in seven cities – Tafalla, Zumaia, San Sebastian, Tolosa, Pamplona, Getxo and Bera, performing different choral compositions including Basque, English and Latvian songs. Traditional Latvian folk song “Pūt vējiņi” that was performed in the conclusion of each concert weas received with standing ovations.
- December 21 – Concert „Ziema”(“Winter”) n the Riga New St. Gertrude church. Premiere — „Advent Story” by Laura Jēkabsone. A composition of 7 parts for mixed choir, kokle ensemble and soloists (participants: kokle ensemble “Balti”, soloists: Ieva Kerēvica and Jānis Strazdiņš).
- December 22 – concert „Pamodies Ziemassvētkos II” (“Awake at Christmas II”) in Riga Cathedral (participants: vocal group „Latvian Voices”, instrumental group „Xylem Trio”).
- December 21 – concert „Pamodies Ziemassvētkos” (“Awake at Christmas”) n Riga Cathedral. Premiere: „Neguli, lācēn!”(“Teddy, don’t sleep!”) by Rihards Zaļupe – a composition for mixed choir, orchestra and soloists.
- December — concerts in Riga Old St. Gertrude Church. Premiere: „7 Stories of the Gospel of Thomas” by Rihards Zaļupe (participants: soloist Ieva Kerēvica, instrumental group „Xylem Trio”).
- 2016, September 6 – performance at the 80th anniversary of Latvian Academy of sport and education in Daile theatre, performing together with “3 tenori” and Juris Kulakovs.
- 2016, May 28 – performance at the closing event of “ZZ čempionāts” in Jūrmala, performing together with Arstalursmirus.
- 2016, April 19 – performance at Narvesen corporate event in “Ziemeļblāzma” culture palace.
- 2016, April 16 – performance at the reunion of Babīte high-school.
- 2016, March 23 – opening event ofForum Cinemas new cinema hall “Scape” .
- 2016, March 22 – “Diena” annual price in culture awards ceremony in Spīķeri concert hall.
- 2015, November 18 – performance in the House of the Blackheads during the awards ceremony of Triju Zvaigžņu ordenis (Three Stars).
- 2014, November 17 – Independence Day concert in Smiltene House of Culture.
- A/S Lattelecom 2014 Summer games – performance in the opening event.
- „Nordea Riga Marathon 2014” – performance in the Kilometer of Culture together with well-known Latvian artists.
- „Zelta ābele 2013” ceremony in April 2014 in Riga Great Guild.
- 2014, March 9 – LTV1 contest „Latvija dzied” – fight for the possibility to perform in the opening of Vienna Music festival.
- „Ziedot.lv” 10 year anniversary event in the National Theater of Latvia.
- 2013 – AS „Latvenergo” corporative clients’ event in Small Guild Hall.
- „Labestības diena” closing events in 2012 and 2013, live on LNT.
- „Latvijas Zelta talanti 2012”, live on LNT.
- „Latvijas Mūzikas ierakstu gada balva 2010” awards ceremony in the National Theater of Latvia and live on TV3.
- 2011, November – Independence Day concert in Ropaži House of Culture.