Mixed choir “MASKA” of Babīte Municipality, was founded in 2000 by its conductor and artistic director Jānis Ozols is one of the best mixed choirs in Latvia. The choir is unique by its ability to perform not only in the frame of classical music, but also introduce creative innovations.
“MASKA” is proud of its success and high achievements over time. Since early days the choir has shown itself as an ambitious and creative collective, while actively performing in Latvia and abroad as well as taking part in international choir competitions (Slovenia, Czech Republic Estonia, Finland, Germany, The Netherlands, Spain, Australia and others).
Choir’s repertoire covers a vast range of music – from sacral to folk, classical to contemporary music, always searching for new interpretations of choral music and enriching their performance often surprising the audience with ingenious performance solutions. The choir cooperates with beloved and world-known Latvian musicians – such as marimba and percussions virtuoso and composer Rihards Zaļupe, Renāte Stivriņa, Jānis Šipkēvics (Shipsea), Jānis Ķirsis, the world famous pianist and composer Vestards Šimkus and Lithuanian composer Vytautas Miškinis, Estonian composer Pärt Uusberg have dedicated their compositions to choir “MASKA”.
An essential part of the choir’s repertoire is compositions written by Laura Jēkabsone – choir-master of “MASKA”, world-wide known as a composer and leader of the vocal group “Latvian Voices”. Her pieces composed for “MASKA” are performed worldwide in concerts and competitions.
Choir’s annual tradition is organizing a concert at Christmas time “ChristMASKAs”, performing world premieres of opuses commissioned to the choir with the best Latvian musicians.
The choir has released two CDs. First record, “7 Stories of the Gospel of Thomas” with music composed by Rihards Zaļupe and performed together with the instrumental group “XylemTrio” was released in 2010. Second record was a part of choir’s 15th Anniversary year which was celebrated by several concerts and a release of a CD “WINTER” including music composed by Laura Jēkabsone especially for choir “Maska”. In this project choir “Maska” performed together with the Latvian National Symphony Orchestra string group, as well as the young and talented musicians – pianist Aurēlija Šimkus, guitar virtuoso Gints Smukais and kokle ensemble “Balti”.
In summer of 2019 the choir will release their newest CD, including music commissioned to the choir.
In August 2019 the choir will be representing Latvia in the international competition “Eurovision Choir 2019” in Gothenburg, Sweden.
Jānis Ozols (1980) is one of the well-recognized and promising conductors in Latvia, Artistic Director of the “International Baltic Sea Choir Competition”, and is also known as one of the former vocal group “Cosmos” singers.
Currently he takes active role in the field of academic music in Latvia and abroad, being the conductor and artistic director of the Jāzeps Vitols Latvian Academy of Latvia Mixed Choir and mixed choirs “Maska” and “Pa Saulei”. He is also often working as jury member at international choir and singer competitions.
Jānis Ozols is the head conductor of Riga and Jurmala Region choirs and since 2018 he is member of the board of the Latvian Song Festival Foundation and Member of the Latvian National Centre for Culture Council in sector of choirs.
He was the Artistic Director of the Opening concert and the Sing-Along Night of the XXVI Latvian Song Celebration which took place in July 2018.
Jānis Ozols obtained his musical education in Emīls Dārziņš Music School and Riga Cathedral Choir School’s class of choir conducting. He acquired a bachelor’s degree in Jāzeps Vītols Latvian Academy of Music 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”, Janis 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.
Jānis Ozols has reached notable achievements and won many prizes in Latvia and abroad with mixed choirs “Maska” and “Pa Saulei”. He has also proven his talent by taking the honourable 3rd place in the International Conductor Contest of Jāzeps Vītols in 2009 as well as by attaining many “Best Conductor” prizes at international choir competitions.
He 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 three, and proud owner of two cats and a dog. He also manages to squeeze in his hobby in the tight schedule – Jānis likes to cook and you can find some of his culinary achievements published in his blog “Restaurant at Home and not only…”.
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. She has been an anchor person (“Hobby Saturday”, TV360) for several years, she is giving lectures in schools and conferences. When Laura is alone, you will always find a book by her side.
Eduards Vācietis (1989) is the vocal teacher and singer of “Maska” since 2013. He 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 led 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), Joseph Protschka (Germany) and others.
In 2013 Eduards gave F. Schubert vocal music concerts in Rundāle Castle and Riga Latvian Society House. Eduards also has cooperated with concert organization “Latvijas Koncerti”, singing solos of “Elijah” by F. Mendelssohn Bartholdy, “Carmina Burana” by K. Orff and others. He has participated in dubbing the BBC series “War and peace” and soundtrack of Rihards Zalupe music for movie “The Pagan King”. 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.
In 2018 Eduards performed the baritone solo for Raimonds Pauls “Leo dziesma” from the play “Leo. Pēdējā bohēma” (“Leo’s Song”, “Leo. Last Bohemia”) with the State Choir “Latvija” and Liepaja Symphony Orchestra in the concert hall “Great Amber” in Liepaja with maestro Raimonds Pauls at the piano. In the beginning of 2019 he performed the baritone part of cantata “Dievs, Tava zeme deg!” (“God, Your Earth Is Burning!”) at its 75th Anniversary year in the place it was premiered – the St. Gertrude Old Church in Riga.
Since August 2013 Eduards is an artist and soloist in The State Choir Latvija and works as choirmaster in Seja Municipality mixed choir “Sēja” since 2018.
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.
- Grand Prix of the 15th International Choir competition “Tallinn 2017” in Tallinn, Estonia.
- First place in the folklore category and second place in the polyphony category in 49th Tolosa Choral Competition in Basque country, Spain.
- Third place in the 12th internation Daugavpils sacred music choir competition “Silver bells” in Daugavpils, Latvia.
- 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.
- April 19 – Good Friday concert in Riga St. John’s church together with Orchestra “Rīga” and choir “Pa saulei”, performing Gabriel Faure’s “Requiem“, as well as music of Eric Whitacre, Eriks Eškenvalds and Ola Gjeilo
- January 30 – concert in Riga St. Savior’s church with Australian national youth choir “Gondwana Chorale“
- December 15 – choir’s annual Christmas concert “ChristMASKAs with Kaspars Zemītis” in Riga St. John’s church.
Premier of pieces dedicated to choir “Maska” – Vytautas Miškinis “Hodie Christus Natus Est” and Part Uusberg “O Magnum Mysterium”
- November 17 – Independence day concert in Stalbe, Pārgauja municipality
- November 11 – performance in solemn Latvian flag lifting ceremony in Riga Castle’s Holy spirit tower, broadcasted live in national television LTV
- July 29 – concert in Tallinn Dome Cathedral during 20th internation choir music festival “Europa Cantat”, invited as special guests
- July 9 – performance in 26th Latvian song and 16th dance festival “Sing-along night” (artistic director – Jānis Ozols)
- July 8 – 26th Latvian song and 16th dance festival Closing concert “In star way” in Mežaparks open-air stage
- July 8 – performance in Riga Castle in Acceptance by State president for organisers of 26th Latvian song and 16th dance festival
- July 1 – performance in 26th Latvian song and 16th dance festival “Opening concert” together with orchestra, folk band and most popular Latvian musicians (musical director and – Jānis Ozols)
- May 4 – performance in Latvian state independence restoration day concert “Freedom stops” by the Freedom monument, shown live in national television (LTV)
- March 30 – performance of V. A. Mozart “Requiem” in Riga St. John’s church together with Orchestra “Rīga” and choir “Pa saulei”
- March 1 – participation in charity concert “I will come, so you can survive” in Great Guil together with Latvian National Symphonic Orchestra
- January 13 – concert in Melbourne Latvian House in Melbourne, Australia
- January 12 – concert in Victoria State library in Melbourne, Australia
- January 6 – concert in Adelaide Latvian St. Peter’s church in Adelaide, Australia
- End of December – participation in Australian Latvian society’s “Youth days 2017” in Sydney, Australia:
- December 28 – performance in “Youth days 2017” opening concert
- December 29 – choir’s solo concert in Sydney Latvian House Hall
- December 31 – Master class of Jānis Ozols for Sydney Latvian society chorists
- December 23 – choir’s annual Christmas concert “ChirstMASKAs with Vestards Šimkus” in Riga Cathedral
- November 17 – Latvian indipendence day concert in Piņķi, Babīte municipality
- Early November – concerts in Spain’s Basque country towns Ordizia, Getxo and Taffala, preparing for 49th Tolosa choir competition
- July 21 – participation in “Sing Along” project’s concert in Riga Cathedral
- July 1 – concert in Dikļi – a model for 26th Latvian song festival’s final concert
- June 16 – concert in Liepāja together with Xylem Trio
- June 2 – Church night performance in Piņki St. John’s church
- April 29 – live performance in national television (LTV) in the national contest to select participant for “Eurovision choir 2017”
- April 21 – performance in Tallinn during choir competition “Tallinn 2017”
- February 23 – live performance in national television (LTV) in “Kilogram of culture” award ceremony together with Raimonds Tiguls, “Raxtu raxti” and bagpipers Edgars Kārkls and Māris Jākobsons
- 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.