ŠIAULIAI STATE CHAMBER CHOIR POLIFONIJA (Lithuania)
Artistic Director and Chief Conductor Linas Balandis
In 1974, choir conductors Danutė and SigitasVaičiulioniai formed the Early Music Ensemble, which performed its first concert on December 31 in the assembly hall of Šiauliai Pedagogical Institute, featuring Renaissance and Baroque music. This was not only the birth of a new music group, but also the tradition of inviting the citizens of Šiauliai to send off the old year with music on New Year's Eve. Later on, the ensemble's activities expanded, the number of concerts increased, and after five years the group has been given the name of the choir Polifonija and the status of the People's collective.
The culture of choir performance, repertoire and abundance of concerts led Polifonija towards new creative achievements. In 1986, the choir outgrew its teenage amateur shirt and became a professional team – Lithuanian State Philharmonic Chamber Mixed Choir of Šiauliai.
In 1998, the choir separated from the Lithuanian National Philharmonics and became a mature Šiauliai State Chamber Choir Polifonija. Since then, the choir's status has not changed, only the repertoire, the repertoire of Renaissance and Baroque works, which have become the Polifonija’s tradition, is being replaced by the works of composers of various epochs and countries, with great attention to the spread of Lithuanian choral music in Lithuania and the world.
The Choir Polifonija regularly performs in various countries of the world conducted by excellent national and foreign conductors, such as Saulius Sondeckis, Juozas Domarkas, Gintaras Rinkevičius, Vytautas Miškinis, Vaclovas Augustinas, Modestas Pitrėnas, Robertas Šervenikas, Ravil Martynov (Russia), Vladimir Begletsov (Russia), Karmina Šilec (Slovenia), Georg Mais (Germany), Mats Nilsson Sindenius (Sweden), Magnus Wassenius (Sweden), Ingo Ernst Reihl (Germany), Anthony Trecek-King (USA), Richard Bjella (USA), Ferdinando Sulla ( Italy) and others. The biography of concert tours includes Italy, Brazil, Argentina, Germany, Austria, Russia, Sweden, Ukraine, Poland, Czech Republic, Bulgaria, France, Latvia, Estonia.
The choir has performed with the Lithuanian Chamber Orchestra, Klaipėda Chamber Orchestra, St. Christopher’s Orchestra, Klaipėda State Musical Theatre Orchestra, Lithuanian National and Lithuanian State Symphony Orchestra, Orchestra Hamburger Camerata, Lviv (Ukraine) Philharmonic Orchestra, St. Petersburg (Russia) Symphony Orchestra and other string and wind orchestras from different countries.
Every year the choir participates in various music festivals in Lithuania and abroad, thus spreading the charm of Lithuanian choral music.
LINAS BALANDIS (conductor, Lithuania)
Mr Linas Balandis (born 1988) studied at Kaunas School of Sacred Music (1996–2003), in 2003–2007 he studied at Kaunas Juozas Gruodis Conservatory (choir conducting class of teacher R. Štreimikytė), in 2007–2013 he studied at the Lithuanian Academy of Music and Theatre (bachelor, master degree studies in the choir conducting class of Professor V. Miškinis). In 2013–2014, he deepened his knowledge of pedagogy in non-degree studies (LMTA). In 2014–2018, he studied for a doctorate in art at the Lithuanian Academy of Music and Theatre (scientific advisors: Professor P. Gylys and Associate Professor Dr. D. Kalavinskaitė). In 2018, after defending an art project (Choir in the Liturgy of the Catholic Church), he obtained a doctorate in art.
Currently, Mr Linas Balandis is the artistic director and conductor of the General Jonas Žemaitis Lithuanian Military Academy Men's Choir "Kariūnas", the artistic director and senior conductor of the Šiauliai State Chamber Choir "Polifonija". He is also a teacher, conductor assistant of the Boys and Youth Choir "Ąžuoliukas", a lecturer (assistant) of the Department of Choir Conducting of the Lithuanian Academy of Music and Theatre.
GABIJA NATALEVIČIENĖ (piano, Lithuania)
Mrs. Gabija Natalevičienė graduated from the M. K. Čiurlionis School of Arts with a degree in piano and a master's degree in piano from the Lithuanian Academy of Music and Theatre (Prof. Veronika Vitaitė). In 2005-2006 she studied at the Janáček Academy of Music and Theater (Brno, Czech Republic, Prof. Jiří Skovajsa) under the SOCRATES / ERASMUS program. In 2014, she defended her doctoral degree in art at the Lithuanian Academy of Music and Theatre.
She is a laureate of national and international competitions in Lithuania, England, Denmark and Greece, winning first places in four of them. At the Konzerteum International Piano Competition in Athens (2004, Greece), she was awarded not only first place, but also special prizes for the best performance of a classical sonata and a contemporary work.
Doctoral studies in art encouraged the pianist to explore the sacredness of piano music. Acquaintance with the repertoire of a specific genre led to the search for new colours in pianism, and unusual forms for the concerts. Unique projects were born, such as the concert "Easter Night with Olivier Messiaen" (St. Catherine's Church) on the eve of Easter in 2016, in which the pianist performed 10 selected plays from O. Messiaen's cycle "Vingt Regards sur l'enfant-Jésus". Moving on from Olivier Messiaen’s music as a starting point, the artist has been increasingly focusing on the work of other authors working in a similar genre. In the thematic recitals Music and Meditation (2015, Christopher's Summer Festival), Easter with French Music (2017, Spring Festival at the Piano.lt Concert Hall), she performed works by C. Franck, A. Pärt, Ch. Tournemir, L. Viern and contemporary Lithuanian authors A. Remesa and M. Natalevičius on the themes of sacredness and meditation alongside the works of O. Messiaen.
FERRAN PISÀ (theorbo&baroque guitar, Spain)
Ferran Pisà plays early plucked instruments from the renaissance and the baroque era. Of all those instruments, the theorbo is the one that he works the most with and the one that he has more fun playing. Ferran Pisà plays a medium sized theorbo of warm sound made by Jaume Bosser (2007). He also plays a baroque guitar by the same builder (2004) and a vihuela by Julio Castaños (2013).
Ferran Pisà studied guitar and baroque guitar at the Conservatorium van Amsterdam (2006) and early plucked instruments at the ESMUC (2011). During those years he received the guidance of Lex Eisenhardt, Xavier Díaz-Latorre, Mara Galassi and Monica Pustilnik.
The artist enjoys working on his own projects, designing a different programme for each concert. Besides that, he also joins other people's projects. Knowing the social, cultural and historical context of the music Ferran Pisà plays helps him to work with more rigour and enthusiasm. In his recitals he usually combines the music with short comments about the music, the composer or the way that music was delivered; Ferran Pisà believes this helps the audience to focus their hearing and enjoy even more the music. Amongst his projects he would point up the duo Eulàlia Fantova & Ferran Pisà. They are working together since 2011 on Italian and English music. Ferran Pisà also has special fun working on the Italian solo theorbo repertoire because of its virtuosistic and improvisative musical language. On 2016 he started working with the actress Montse German composing the music and playing it on El verger de l'amat, based on the poetry of Ramon Llull. This project was so well received by the audience and critics that currently they are working on a new presentation after the Metamorphoses by Ovid.
VILNIUS MUNICIPAL CHOIR JAUNA MUZIKA (Lithuania)
Artistic Director and Conductor Vaclovas Augustinas
Vilnius municipal choir Jauna Muzika is one of the most prominent and most versatile vocal groups in Lithuania. Founded in 1989 at the initiative of the conductor and composer Remigijus Merkelys and its first director Algimantas Gurevičius, from 1992 its artistic director was the conductor and composer Vaclovas Augustinas. He is recognised in Lithuania for both popular and academic music, and was honoured with the National Culture and Art Prize in 2010. In 1994, Jauna Muzika became the choir of Vilnius city municipality, and in the same year Salomėja Jonynaitė took over as conductor. Since 2020, Ingrida Alonderė has been the choir’s leader.
The members of the choir are students and graduates of the Lithuanian Academy of Music and Theatre. The number of singers ranges from 24 to 50, depending on the pieces performed. Jauna Muzika sees its mission as giving professional performances drawn from a rich choral music repertoire, as well as championing works by Lithuanian composers.
The choir’s repertoire covers music of all periods, including a cappella works, vocalinstrumental works, and opuses by contemporary foreign and Lithuanian composers. Jauna Muzika gives over 30 concerts abroad and in Lithuania every year. Thanks to its professionalism, the choir has won international recognition.
Jauna Muzika participates regularly in major festivals, and collaborates with famous ensembles and conductors: the Berlin, Tel Aviv and Jerusalem symphony orchestras, the Israel Camerata, the Moscow Virtuosi and the St Petersburg Camerata, as well as Lithuanian chamber and symphony orchestras.
Jauna Muzika not only performs but also organises important projects. It has coordinated choral music interpretation and conducting courses since 1995, and since 2008 it has coordinated Vox Juventutis, a competition of choral music by young composers. In the last decade, the choir has presented the opera-zarzuela DaliGala (2008) by H. Kunčius and G. Kuprevičius, a special project with the Stavanger Brass Band as part of the Vilnius – European Capital of Culture programme (2009), Out of Respect for MKČ (2011), J.S. Bach’s Mass in B minor with the German State Rheinland-Pfalz Symphony Orchestra (2012), B. Kutavičius’ oratorio The Seasons at the Unesco headquarters in Paris (2014), the project Traveller’s Notes, together with the Merope ensemble, dedicated to the 25th anniversary of the choir (2015), M. Kagel’s Kantrimusik and Mitternachstueck (directed by Oskaras Koršunovas) at the Concertgebouw Hall in Bruges (2015), Handel’s opera Semele (2017), and the project Nights, with the Merope ensemble (2019). On 13 March 2021, the choir opened the Imago Dei Contemporary Music Festival in Krems (Austria).
The choir has been conducted by Pinchas Steinberg, Wolfgang Gönnenwein, Noam Sheriff, Frieder Bernius, David Shallon, Nicholas McGegan, Anders Eby, Vladimir Ashkenazy, Vladimir Spivakov, Werner Pfaff, Simon Halsey, Hermann Max, Rinaldo Alessandrini, Manfred Honeck, William Boughton, Murry Sidlin, Avner Biron, Johannes Prinz, Bo Holten, Bob Chillcot, as well as Saulius Sondeckis, Gintaras Rinkevičius, Robertas Šervenikas, Donatas Katkus, Modestas Pitrėnas and Vytautas Lukočius.
Jauna Muzika’s concert tours have taken in European cities, China, Japan and Israel. It has appeared in world-famous halls such as the Munich Philharmonic, the Suzan Dellal Center in Tel Aviv, the Fredric R. Mann Auditorium in Tel Aviv, the Haifa Auditorium, the Bimot in Jerusalem, the Grand Hall of the Dresden Palace of Culture, the Ludwigsburg Theatre, the Matthias Church in Budapest, Alte Oper in Frankfurt, the S. Rachmaninov Hall in Moscow, Berlin Philharmonic Chamber Hall, Berlin Festspiele Theatre, and Shanghai Opera House.
Jauna Muzika is a member of the International Federation for Choral Music. It has won first prizes and six Grand Prix in 15 international choir competitions, and the Grand Prix Europeo (1993), Golden Disc (2002) and Vilnius Sound (2003) awards. Music performed by the choir is featured on 19 CDs.
ĄŽUOLIUKAS BOYS’ AND YOUTH CHOIR (Lithuania)
Artistic Director Vytautas Miškinis
Ąžuoliukas (Little Oak Tree in Lithuanian) is a boys‘ and youth choir, established in 1959 by Maestro Hermanas Perelšteinas, now undoubtedly one of the best known names in the world of Lithuanian music. It is a unique combination of several choirs (from the youngest boys to men) and a music school.
Throughout the choir’s lifetime there have been numerous instances of musical activity. The ensemble is well known abroad. Thousands of performances, hundreds of concert halls, tens of countries. Thousands of pieces, performances with a multitude of orchestras conducted by famous Lithuanian and foreign conductors. Ąžuoliukas has been a part of almost all possible genres of musical events. Composers dedicate their works to the choir.
Today Ąžuoliukas has grown into a powerful tree, which has amassed several thousand boys throughout the years.
LITHUANIAN NATIONAL SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA
Artistic Director and Chief Conductor Modestas Pitrėnas
Lithuanian National Symphony Orchestra (LNSO) has been active for more than seven decades. Leadership of Vilnius City Symphony Orchestra, founded in 1940, was entrusted to a famous composer and conductor Balys Dvarionas. In 1964, a new stage started with a young conductor Juozas Domarkas, who took his place at the orchestra’s podium. After the restoration of Lithuania’s independence, in 1990 the Orchestra was given the name and status of the National Symphony Orchestra.
The Orchestra prepares and performs symphonic music programs not only in the National Philharmonic, but also in various Lithuanian cities. For many years it has carried on with Palanga Summer Concert Series, Michał Ogiński International Music Festival in Plungė, as well as represented the Lithuanian culture abroad: concerts were given in prestigious halls in St. Petersburg, Moscow, Minsk, Madrid, Berlin, Bern, Antwerp and Stockholm, in the major cities of Great Britain, France, in particular great number of concerts took the Orchestra to neighbouring Poland. The Orchestra also appeared in Schleswig-Holstein Festival in Germany, “Prague Spring” in the Czech Republic, “Musica Romantica” in Switzerland and other famous European music festivals and concert halls, such as the Musikverein in Vienna, London’s Barbican Centre, Cologne Philharmonic, Amsterdam’s Concertgebouw, Moscow Conservatory Great Hall and Suntory Hall in Tokyo. In 2013, for the first time the Orchestra toured in South America (Argentina, Brazil, Peru, Ecuador), performed in the ceremonial opening and closing of the Lithuanian Presidency of the European Council in Klara Festival (Brussels) and Bialystok Philharmonic in Poland.
The LNSO has accumulated an extensive, colourful and significant repertoire, embracing works of oratorio genre and symphonic opuses of the past epochs as well as modern contemporary music with the works by the Lithuanian composers occupying an important place. Since 1991, the Orchestra has been a regular participant of the Contemporary Music Festival “Gaida”, annually presenting premières by the Lithuanian composers. It could be claimed, that almost all of the symphonic works by the Lithuanian composers were premièred by the LNSO, many of them are dedicated to maestro Juozas Domarkas. Thanks to the maestro, a large part of the Lithuanian music today sounds not only in the concerts but also from many recordings released in Lithuania and abroad („Melodiya“, „Marco Polo“, „Col legno“, „Ella Records“, „Naxos“).
Playing around 50 annual concerts, the LNSO nurtures unique traditions significantly contributing to fostering of the high music culture, encouraging the artistic ambitions of young Lithuanian composers and performers, indulging the audience with both large-scale opuses, certifying the Orchestra’s maturity, and the symphonic miniatures, prompting imagination of the listeners.
ADRIJA ČEPAITĖ (conductor, Lithuania)
Adrija Čepaitė earned master’s degree in choral conducting from the Lithuanian Academy of Music and Theatre. While still a student she conducted various choirs; served as a choirmaster and taught conducting at Kaunas School of Sacred Music.
She pursued master’s degree in Choral and Orchestral conducting, Church music and Gregorian chant at the University of Music and Performing Arts in Graz (Austria), where she was actively involved in various music projects, concert tours, festivals and studio recordings as both a conductor and soloist. She was also leading Gregorian chant master classes in Austria, Belgium, Latvia, Poland, Lithuania and France.
Adrija taught (2013–2015) conducting at Vytautas Magnus University Music Academy (Lithuania).
Since 2013 Adrija has been collaborating with Lithuanian orchestras – made her Lithuanian debut with Vilnius municipality St. Christopher Chamber Orchestra and started eventful creative association with the Lithuanian Chamber Orchestra. In 2014, Adrija led the latter in the world premiere of A. Martinaitis’ Concerto for violin and orchestra “The Three M’art Comedy Seasons”. 2017 saw a release of CD (TELOS MUSIC, 2017) featuring opuses by illustrious Lithuanian composers B. Kutavičius, O. Balakauskas and A. Martinaitis. The CD was awarded 5 stars by Pizzicato, and Čepaitė’s work has been lauded as first rate. The CD’s presentation tour “Lithuanian Code” was dedicated to the centenary of the Restoration of the State of Lithuania. 2018 saw a release of CD Baltic Concerti (ODRADEK, 2018) together with Maestro M. Pitrėnas, violinist D. Bidva and the Lithuanian Chamber Orchestra. The latter CD has been well acclaimed by critics and was selected into Grammy 2020 nomination voting list.
Since 2018 Adrija has started collaboration with the Lithuanian National Symphony Orchestra, Kaunas City Symphony Orchestra, Young Eurasian Soloists Chamber Orchestra. In Pažaislis music festival, the biggest in Lithuania, she now produces a series of annual projects „Kaunas. Ressurection“.
In 2020 – 2021 season, Adrija is opening a new page in her conducting career with promising artistic projects. Kremerata Baltica has invited her to be a conductor-in-residence at Kremerata’s annual festival at the start of the new season. The jubilee year of L. van Beethoven Adrija is celebrating together with Nordwestdeutsche Philharmonie as a conductor for a new CD and tour. Vilnius festival 2020 also has invited Adrija and Lithuanian chamber orchestra to present to audience couple world premieres. This year Adrija is beginning collaboration with Lithuanian State Symphony Orchestra and Manheim Chamber Orchestra.
Adrija is also a co-founder and leader of “Graces & Voices” international female vocal ensemble formed in 2011. The ensemble’s distinctive repertoire involves Gregorian chant and contemporary polyphonic opuses (dedicated to the ensemble) by such internationally recognised composers as K. Lang, W. Wagner and V. Miškinis.
The ensemble tours in Europe, recorded four CDs. The debut CD ‘Mysterium Crucis’ (2012) was rated by PIZZICATO magazine to be the recording of the year in the early music category; it also was nominated by the Jury of the International Classical Music Awards (ICMA, 2013). The authoritative BBC Music Magazine gave 4 stars to their fourth CD Historia Sancti Olavi (2016). A new CD “Take your holy time” is due in 2020.
BREVIS CHOIR (Lithuania)
Artistic Director and Conductor Gintautas Venislovas
Established in 1990, the group has earned a reputation of an agile and innovative choir among critics and listeners alike. The Vilnius-based choir has won more than forty awards at top-level competitions in Lithuania, including the European Grand Prix for Choral Singing, the highest European trophy for amateur choirs.
The group of about 25 singers, most of them current and former students of music, has been behind some of the most inspiring choral performances in Lithuania over the past two decades. In addition to that, the choir has taken part in dozens of projects of virtually every style and genre, from opera and musical to rock and jazz. The Brevis Choir has given premiere performances of a number of pieces written by contemporary composers.
When it comes to Baroque and Renaissance music, the group usually shares stage with the Brevis Consort, an international ensemble led by cellist Darius Stabinskas, who usually invites instrumentalists from several different countries.
The choir’s conductor and artistic director, Gintautas Venislovas, has been with the choir since 1993. He has been named best conductor at three international choral competitions. A teacher of conducting and a composer, he writes for children’s and mixed choirs and arranges music of different styles and epochs. He was appointed Head of Choral Conducting at the Lithuanian Academy of Music and Theatre in 2018.
VOCAL ENSEMBLE THE KING’S SINGERS (Great Britain)
Patrick Dunachie (countertenor)
Edward Button (countertenor)
Julian Gregory (tenor)
Christopher Bruerton (baritone)
Nick Ashby (baritone)
Jonathan Howard (bass)
The King’s Singers have represented the gold standard in a cappella singing on the world’s greatest stages for over fifty years. They are renowned for their unrivalled technique, versatility and skill in performance, and for their consummate musicianship, drawing both on the group’s rich heritage and its pioneering spirit to create an extraordinary wealth of original works and unique collaborations.
What has always distinguished the group is their comfort in an unprecedented range of styles and genres, pushing the boundaries of their repertoire, while at the same time honouring their origins in the British choral tradition. They are known and loved around the world, and appear regularly in major cities, festivals and venues across Europe, North America, Asia and Australia, including Carnegie Hall, Elbphilharmonie Hamburg, Leipzig Gewandhaus, Mozarteum Salzburg, Tonhalle Zurich, Concertgebouw Amsterdam, Edinburgh International Festival, Helsinki Music Centre, Sydney Opera House, Tokyo Opera City and the National Centre for the Performing Arts, Beijing. They also work with orchestras, recently including the Radiophilharmonie and the Royal Scottish National Orchestra, with whom they performed a specially commissioned work by Sir James MacMillan.
The King’s Singers’ extensive discography has led to numerous awards including two Grammy Awards, an Emmy Award, and a place in Gramophone magazine’s inaugural Hall of Fame. As part of their 50th anniversary celebrations in 2018, the group undertook a series of major tours worldwide, supporting the release of a special anniversary album GOLD (also nominated for a Grammy Award), which featured important works in the group’s history and new commissions by Bob Chilcott, John Rutter and Nico Muhly.
This commitment to creating a new repertoire has always been central to the group, with over 200 commissioned works by many leading composers of the 20th and 21st Centuries, including John Tavener, Judith Bingham, Eric Whitacre, György Ligeti, Luciano Berio, Krzysztof Penderecki and Toru Takemitsu. These join a unique body of close-harmony and a cappella arrangements, including those by individual King’s Singers past and present. Many of their early collaborators’ own experience with brass bands helped to inform the distinct ‘King’s Singers’ sound and a large number of their commissioned works and arrangements are available in their own signature series with Hal Leonard, selling over two million copies worldwide. A key to the group’s success has been their ability to evolve and innovate over many years – and through 28 individual members – while always retaining this special sound and musical integrity.
They also lead educational workshops and residential courses across the world, working with groups and individuals on their techniques and approaches to ensemble singing. In 2018 they founded The King’s Singers Global Foundation to provide a platform for the creation of new music across multiple disciplines, coach a new generation of performers and provide musical opportunities to people of all backgrounds.
The King’s Singers were formed in 1968, when six recent choral scholars from King’s College, Cambridge gave a concert at London’s Queen Elizabeth Hall. By chance, the group was made up of two counter-tenors, a tenor, two baritones and a bass, and the group has maintained this formation ever since that debut.