In July 2019, 51 pupil musicians and 6 staff travelled to Riga in Latvia for a hugely successful one week music tour. Oakham School’s Director of Music had recently spent two months in Latvia experiencing Latvian choral music on his sabbatical, and it was therefore highly appropriate for the Chapel Choir, Symphony Orchestra and Brass Ensemble to offer some of our own accomplished music-making in concert performances in Latvia.
The tour party was based centrally in Riga’s Old Town for the entirety of their stay, which proved to be an excellent base for sight-seeing trips, shopping and concert performances. Guided tours of Riga, a visit to the remarkable Ethnographic Open Air Museum, a tour of the spectacular Rundale Palace, and time on the spectacular beach at Jurmala were all enjoyed hugely as most of the group sampled a taste of Latvia for the very first time.
Musically, the tour was a great success, with the musicians performing four concerts in great church venues in Sigulda, Riga, Valmeira and Dubulti, and their performances of music by Brahms, Handel, Purcell, Rossini, Saint-Saëns and Schubert (as well as a selection of a cappella Latvian choral music) were rapturously received by our audiences, who demanded double encores at every concert. Our first concert in Sigulda was even broadcast as a Facebook Live event!
Amongst many tour highlights, the opportunity to sing in an historic wooden church in the Open Air Museum was quite unique, especially as we gave the Latvian première of Oakham School’s latest choral commission, For the beauty of the earth by Will Todd. The Chamber Choir had the opportunity to sing at a Sunday service in Old St Gertrude’s Church in Riga, joining their celebrations for the 150th anniversary of the church’s foundation and ending the service with a jubilant performance of Handel’s Hallelujah Chorus. Possibly the most moving moment of the tour came in Valmeira, where musicians from their local music school joined us at our concert, performing a few items of their own before the Oakham School items. However, we joined forces at the very end to sing Eriks Ešenvalds’ Dveseles dziesma as an incredibly powerful finale to the concert. A recording of this piece, and many other tour highlights, can be heard on the Music Department’s Soundcloud page here:
To view the photogallery, click here.