The JVLMA has large groups playing mighty accords – the symphonic orchestra, big band, mixed choir, opera studio Figaro, kokle (Latvian string instrument) and other chamber ensembles. Organically they develop the students’ professional skills within the context of playing music together in a varied repertoire, as well as picking out the artistically creative potential, enhancing the cultural life of Latvia overall.
JVLMA Symphony Orchestra (artistic conductor Kaspars Ādamsons, orchestra practice director Jānis Puriņš) has become one of the most artistically compelling and traditional symphony groups in Latvia, even though it experiences regular changes in participants due to the nature of its setting. The group continues to develop the skills which have been cultivated over the decades under Professor Leonid Vigners, Imants Resnis and Andris Vecumnieks, occasionally collaborating with exceptional foreign and local guest conductors such as Lutz Köhler, Leif Segerstam, Rolf Gupta, Karel Marc Chichon, Normunds Šnē, Yalchin Adigezalov, Denis Severin, Ainārs Rubiķis, Lorenzo Della Fonte, Erica J. Neidlinger, Eero Lehtimäki, Josef Wallnig and others.
The orchestra prepares an average of 7 concert programmes a year. Over the last decade the student orchestra has performed numerous State Celebration concerts (at JVLMA, the Great Guild, Ķīpsala Concert Hall), and at regional centres in Latvia – in Liepāja, Rēzekne, Daugavpils, Jelgava, Cēsis, Madona, Gulbene, Kuldīga as well as performing in Lithuania and Estonia. It has been the accompanying orchestra at Stage III of the Jāzeps Vītols International Choral Conductors Competition and frequently cooperates with VSIA Latvijas Koncerti, performing at joint children and youth projects; it took part at the XXIV Nationwide Latvian Song and Dance Celebration in 2008, the World Choir Olympics in 2014 and other significant events in the Latvian concert cycle. The orchestra’s mission is to be not only a group for students of the Instrumental Music and Symphonic Orchestra Conducting study programme, but also a unit that performs concerts and whose artistic activities and quality reaches beyond the realms of the study process.
In August 2016, the JVLMA symphonic orchestra took part in the youth orchestra summer festival Young Euro Classic in Berlin, for the third time. In spring 2017, on the basis of the JVLMA symphonic orchestra, the Baltic Academy Orchestra (BAO) was founded, uniting talented young musicians from the music universities in all three Baltic States. Led by conductor Andris Vecumnieks, from 22nd to 26th April the BAO performed as part of the Latvian centenary celebrations, in Rīga, Vilnius and Tartu. In January 2018, as part of the centenary programme, the BAO went on a concert tour of the Baltic States, Poland and Germany, led by conductors Kristiana Jervi, Gunta Kuzma and Modesta Barkauska. In November 2018, however, the JVLMA symphonic orchestra performed for the project Side by Side in the concert of the Amsterdam Royal Concertgebouw orchestra at the Latvian National Opera and Ballet, conducted by Philippe Herreweghe.
The JVLMA mixed choir is one of the most traditionally rich groups in Latvia, founded in 1945, just a few years after the choir VAK Latvija. The choir often performs in Latvia and abroad, delighting listeners with choir music from a variety of ages, styles and genres. From 1992 to 2005 the choir was involved in projects with 27 European choir academies, performing a variety of vocal instrumental pieces in Germany, Poland, Sweden, Greece and the USA, conducted by S.Camberling and M.Gielen. Together with choirs VAK Latvija, Ave Sol and the Radio Choir, the JVLMA mixed choir is a regular participant at the Jāzeps Vītols International Choral Conductor Competitions. World renowned music specialists such as E.Van Nevel, E. Tabas, P.Burin, J.Van Veldhoven and others regularly work together with the JVLMA mixed choir.
Over the last decades, the artistic leadership of the choir has been adopted by Juris Kļaviņš, Romāns Vanags, Ints Teterovskis, Mārtiņš Klišāns, Māris Sirmais. Since 2017, the artistic leader of the JVLMA mixed choir is Jānis Ozols.
In February 2013, the choir recorded a renaissance music programme together with exceptional Slovenian conductor Stojan Kuret, and in October performed the Latvian Symphonic Music Programme. In early 2014, the choir performed at the concert hall GORS in Latgale, with a programme of new pieces by Latvian composers. In late 2015, the JVLMA mixed choir returned from a successful concert tour to the festival International Conservatory week in St Petersburg, where they performed together with the Rīga Saxophone quartet. In January 2017, the world-famous Stephen Layton worked together with the choir to perform an English renaissance programme at the Anglican Church. Derrik Fox, a conductor from the USA visited the choir and worked with them on traditional American choir music. In May 2017, the JVLMA mixed choir performed concerts in the German town of Rostock, performing the most beautiful Baltic choir music for the local audience. In 2019, the group took part in one of the most prestigious competitions in the world – Gallus Maribor – where they took 1st place, the competition’s Grand Prix and an award for the best interpretation of mandatory piece – D.Močnika, “Zarja”.
The opera studio “Figaro” (founder, leader and conductor – Professor Viesturs Gailis) was formed in 1996, within the vocal art and opera conducting programme, to give the opportunity to students with a particular interest in this genre to improve themselves and develop professionally. Since then it has hosted 37 operas, of which 18 were premieres in Latvia or in the world, as well as over 60 opera pieces for diploma exams in opera singing.
The most successful opera performances should be mentioned – E.Humperdink opera Hansel and Gretel (1996, producer Arnolds Liniņš, performed over 100 times), C.Debussy’s “The Prodigal Son” (1997, Great Hall of the Latvian National Opera), Rossini’s “The Barber of Seville” (1999, producer Enrico Avots, nominated for the Great Music Award in the “Production of the Year” category), I.Stravinski’s The Lark (2009, New Hall of the Latvian National Opera, premiere in Latvia, producer Uģis Brikmanis), A.Piazzolla’s “Maria de Buenos Aires” (2011, producer U. Brikmanis), O.Respighi’s “Mary of Egypt” (2013, premiere in Latvia, producer Uģis Brikmanis, nominated for the Great Music Award in the category “Production of the Year”), and others.
Not only do students and master’s students take part in the opera studio’s work, but also graduates of the academy, new artists. The opera studio has collaborated with many opera producers – Arnolds Liniņš, Guntis Gailītis, Enriko Avots, Valdis Luriņš, Juris Strenģis, Jānis Siliņš. However, the most productive collaboration (12 productions) was with producer Uģis Brikmanis. The stage movement and dance choreography was created by Tamāra Ēke, Regīna Kaupuža and Gunta Bāliņa with decorations and costumes by Aigars Ozoliņš, Juris Salmanis, Evija Dāboliņa, Nadežda Demidova and Ināra Gauja. The musical leader of all opera studio Figaro productions is Viesturs Gailis.
The opera studio has developed close cooperation with Rīga’s Choreography Secondary School, whose students have taken part in five productions and many shows.
The production decorations of opera studio Figaro have been created with the aim of using these on a variety of stages or even managing without these, which is why the productions – to date over 300 – have been shown throughout Latvia, in culture centres, schools, orphanages, open air stages, the RLB great hall and on the Great and New Hall stages of the LNO. Most of the productions however have been shown in the home of the opera studio – in the Great Hall of the JVLMA.
The Big Band of JVLMA and the Rīga Dome Choir School (RDCS) was formed in January 2018 and its leader is saxophonist and composer Dāvis Jurka, who himself graduated from the JVLMA and has studied elsewhere in Europe. The Big Band is a joint collaboration project with students of the RDCS Jazz Department.
To date, the band has performed together with guest solo artists such as Pete Madsen, Derrick Fox, Jaak Soar, Francesco Giuiana, Daumants Kalniņš, Kristīne Prauliņa, and others. The JVLMA and RDCS Big Band repertoire includes a varied palate of sound recordings, from classic jazz (D.Ellington, C.Basie, Don Ellis, Thad Jones etc.) to a variety of contemporary Latvian and foreign composers’ pieces. It has become traditional for the young musicians to participate at the concert dedicated to International Jazz Day each year at the end of April. There are future plans to take part in big band debut competitions and to expand the number of concerts. As Dāvis Jurka explains:
The big band is a great opportunity to participate in a mix of saturated colours and rich harmonies that jazz musicians gain by coming together in a big band”.