Riga Latvian Society Chamber Choir ‘AUSTRUMS’
Riga Latvian Society chamber choir ‘Austrums’ was founded in 1987, and since the early days is directed by Mr. Arijs Skepasts. In 2005, Mr. Peteris Vaickovskis became the second conductor of ‘Austrums’. The choir is comprised of 35 singers aged 16-45.
Coming from Latvia, a country famous for its choral singing traditions, ’Austrums’ is one of the leading amateur choirs in the country and has often received the highest approval and recognition in various prestigious competitions and festivals locally and abroad. In the latest round if Latvia’s most prestigious choral competition, the Choir Wars, which takes place once in five years, Austrums finished second after the world-famous youth choir ‘Kamer...’.
In its concert programs, ‘Austrums’ includes a broad range of repertoire, particularly baroque music, classics of Latvian choral music, 20th century music and arrangements of Latvian folksongs. The singers are actively involved in the repertoire selection process.
Over time, the choir’s artistic performances of the emotionally expressive folksong arrangements and original pieces of Mr. Skepasts have become the trademark of ‘Austrums’. The choir often surprises the public with unusual means of expression, including use of untraditional instruments and imitating the sounds of nature.
Several of the choir’s musical projects have developed into long-lasting traditions, like its ambitious Easter programs and autumn concert cycles featuring baroque music performances in cooperation with outstanding baroque musicians.
Arijs Skepasts (1961) founded chamber choir Austrums in 1987 and has been the artistic director of the choir since then. He is also the conductor of Riga Latvian Society mixed choir since 1989. Mr. Skepasts studied conducting at the Jazeps Vitols Latvian State Conservatory with professor D.Gailis, J. Augustinovics and professor L.Vigners and received his bachelor’s degree in 1985. He taught conducting at the Riga Dome Choir School from 2003 to 2008. Mr. Skepasts has been a singer of the Latvian Radio Choir since 1989. One of his musical interests is directing and singing in the barbershop quartet Harmony 4 Riga. Since 2004 Mr. Skepasts has been the chief conductor of choir groups in various regions of Latvia and the assistant chief conductor of Riga district. In 2005 he was elected board member of the Choir Council at the Latvian Ministry of Culture. Mr. Skepasts’ emotionally colorful Latvian folk song arrangements have become widely popular among choirs in Latvia and abroad.
· Main prize in the Choir Festival and Competition “Zem Māras zīmes" ("Under the symbol of Mara") in Dobele (Latvia)
· Participation in the international choral festival in Umeå (Sweden) "A Choral midsummer light's dream"
· Gold medal at the World Choir Games in category C8 Mixed Chamber Choirs / The Champions Competition
· Gold medal and the title of vice-champion of the World Choir Games in category C17 Musica Sacra a kapella / The Champions Competition
· 1st place in the 10th International Choir Festival and Competition "Sudraba zvani" (The Silver Bells) in Daugavpils (Latvia)
· Participates in the 4th International Choir Festival Baden, Germany
· 2nd place in the “Choir Wars” of the XXV Latvian Nationwide Song and Dance Celebration
· The highest grade and 5th divided place with youth choirs Juventus and Sonore in Riga Choir show 2012 (Latvia)
· CD "Latvian Winterfest: Cantatas of the Christmas Season" recording with New York Latvian concert Choir and youth choir Balsis
· Participates in the 11th Easter Festival of Moscow (Russia)
· 5th divided place with youth choir Swedbank in Riga Choir show 2011 (Latvia)
· 3rd place in Emils Darzins International Choir and Composition Competition in Riga (Latvia)
· Participates in the 3rd International Choir Festival Baden, Germany
· “Austrums” records its 2nd CD
· 2nd place in the “Choir Wars” of the XXIV Latvian Nationwide Song and Dance Celebration
· Public prize in 44th International Choir Competition in Spittal an der Drau (Austria)
· 1st place in the 1st International Choir Festival and Competition ‘MUSIC INSPIRATON LANDSCAPE 2007’ in Riga (Latvia)
· 2nd place in the 16th International Stasys Shimkus Choir Competition in Klaipeda (Lithuania)
· 2nd place and Special Prize for the best performance of contemporary music in the 11th International Choir Festival and Competition “Neuchâtel International Choral Festival 2006” in Neuchatel (Switzerland)
· Highest level diploma in the 4th International Choir Competition “Москва – Город Мира” (Moscow – the City of Peace) in Moscow (Russia)
· 1st place in Emils Darzins International Choir and Composition Competition in Riga (Latvia)
· Grand Prix in the 5th International Choir Festival and Competition “Sudraba zvani”(The Silver Bells) in Daugavpils (Latvia)
· Grand Prix and Golden Prize in folk music and sacred music programmes in the 3rd International Chamber Choir Competition “Tonen 2000” in Monster (The Netherlands)
· 2nd place in the “Choir Wars” of the XXIII Latvian Nationwide Song and Dance Celebration
· “Austrums” records the first CD
· Grand Prix in the 1st International Choir Festival and Competition “Vivace 2000” in Veszprem (Hungary)