Professor, Department of Choir Conducting
Conductor Māris Sirmais obtained a Bachelor’s degree in conducting from Jāzeps Vītols Latvian Academy of Music where he studied with Ludmila Pismennaja, and his Master’s degree under the guidance of Imants Kokars. He later pursued studies in orchestra conducting at College of Music and Performing Arts in Graz in Austria with Professor Martin Zighart.
Māris Sirmais founded the youth choir Kamēr... in 1990, led it until 2012 and together with the choir has received over a hundred international awards, most significant of them being the European Grand Prix for Choral Singing in Gorizia, Italy, in 2004, as well as three championship prizes and gold medals at the World Choir Olympics in Xianmen, China, in 2006. Since 1998 Kamēr... has been the winner of the choir battles of the Latvian National Song Festival. Since 1997 Māris Sirmais has been the artistic director of the State Choir Latvija as well as the chief conductor and the artistic director of the International Sacred Music Festival. Under his guidance the choir has staged such outstanding pieces of vocal-instrumental music as Mass by Leonard Bernstein, Jeanne d'Arc au bûcher (Joan of Arc at the Stake) and La Danse des Morts (Dances of Death) by Arthur Honneger, Tango Mass by Luis Bacalov, The War Requiem by Benjamin Britten, Glagolitic Mass by Leos Janacek, Stix and Don’t Grieve by Giya Kancheli, Les Noces and Oedipus the King by Igor Stravinsky, Opus Fall and Resurrection by John Tavener, Millenium Symphony by Tan Dun, Harmonium by John Adams and many other.
Māris Sirmais has collaborated with such world known conductors as Vladimir Ashkenazi, Mariss Jansons, Vladimir Fedoseyev, Tõnu Kaljuste, Kriss Russman Matthias Jung, Naeme Järvi, Eric Klaas and Andris Nelsons. He has regular performances with Latvian National Opera Orchestra, Liepaja Symphony Orchestra, State chamber orchestra Sinfonietta Rīga, chamber orchestra Kremerata Baltica, Moscow chamber orchestra Musica Viva, Umeå Symphony Orchestra and string orchestra Helsinki Strings. He has collaborated with such acclaimed soloists as Maxim Rysanov, Kristīne Blaumane, Egils Siliņš, Aleksandrs Antoņenko, Julius Berger, Gidon Kremer, Nicolas Altstaedt, Douglas Webster, Inese Galante and others.
Within the framework of the project World Sun Songs Māris Sirmais has collaborated with 17 world-renown composers: John Taverner, Giya Kancheli, Sven David Sandström, Leonid Desyatnikov, John Luther Adams, Stephen Leek, Dobrinka Tabakova, Hendrik Hofmeyr, Polina Medyulyanova, Alberto Grau, Ko Matsushita, Thierry Pécou, Vytautas Mishkinis, Urmas Sisask, and Bjørn Andor Drageby premiering their compositions, as well as worked together with Arvo Pärt, Rodion Schedrin, Valentine Silvestrov, Krzysztof Penderecky, Gabriel Jackson and others.
Māris Sirmais has appeared with the State Choir Latvija and choir Kamēr… in many prestigious European festivals, where he also gave master-classes and workshops. The conductor has participated in the recordings of more than 25 CDs. He has been awarded the Latvian Great Music Award ten times and has received the annual cultural award of newspaper Diena on numerous occasions. Māris Sirmais is an honorary member of the Latvian Academy of Sciences and the bearer of The Three Star Order. In 2011 he received the Latvian Music Recording Award for Ēriks Ešenvald’s CD O Salutaris
In 2008 the conductor received the Award of the Cabinet of Ministers for cultural achievements and earned the title of Riga Citizen of the Year for promoting the name of Latvia throughout the world. He is the Head of the Department of Choir Conducting of Jāzeps Vītols Latvian Academy of Music, since 1998 has been the Chair of the Artistic Board of the National Song Festival and the Song Festival of School Students. In 2008 he was the artistic director of the Gala Concert of the XXIVth Latvian National Song Festival.