East Meets West in Oslo International Church Music Festival

Song of Songs is a new and extremely exciting project created by the Latvian Radio Choir, Ensemble Sarband and a total of five composers from Europe and the Middle East: Lasse Thoresen (Norway), Toivo Tulev (Estonia), Martins Vilums, Santa Ratniece (Latvia) and Bushra El-Turk (Lebanon/UK). The piece is based on texts from the Song of Solomon in the Old Testament featuring symbols and metaphors shared by various cultures including the Jewish, Christian and Sufi. Song of Songs will not only represent the contributions of the five individual composers, but will fuse these into one unified musical expression. The composer Bushra El-Turk says the following about his work on Song of Songs:

The project has been a most beautiful and fascinating journey, finding strategies together for integrating Western choral singing and near Eastern musical idioms to form a new sound picture. We have been asking ourselves the most important questions for such a feat, both artistically and practically, while still preserving the essence of the Latvian Radio Choir and Ensemble Sarband.

Songs of Songs is a unique initiative and a standard-bearer for communication and tolerance between cultural identities and religious beliefs. The work will be premiered by one of the foremost choirs of our time, the Latvian Radio Choir, and the critically acclaimed Ensemble Sarband, conducted by Kaspars Putnins.

The Latvian Radio Choir is considered to be one of the leading professional choirs in Europe and is particularly well known for its refined interpretations of classical masterpieces as well as new music. Its repertoire ranges from Renaissance choral works to the world premieres of new works. Every year the choir commissions no less than ten new works from Latvian composers. The Latvian Radio Choir collaborates with prominent conductors such as Riccardo Muti, Heinz Holliger, Lars Ulrik Mortensen, Stephen Layton, Tõnu Kaljuste, James Wood and Esa-Pekka Salonen. The Latvian Radio Choir has two conductors – Sigvards Klava who is artistic director and chief conductor, and Kaspars Putnins.


Ensemble Sarband is an early music ensemble from Germany. However, the ensemble has members from seven nations focusing on the musical connections between European and Arab culture, and between Jewish, Christian and Muslim music. The work of the ensemble is conceived as a continuous dialogue where all the musicians contribute their own traditions, personal stories and creativity to the programme. Sarband thus becomes a musical meeting place for communication and tolerance between different cultural identities. Ensemble Sarband has held more than 500 concerts and released 14 CDs to an enthusiastic reception from press and public alike.

Kaspars Putnins has been conductor of the Latvian Radio Choir since 1992. He appears regularly as a guest conductor with leading European choirs such as the BBC Singers, RIAS Kammerchor, Nederlands Kamerkoor, Netherlands Radio Choir, Flemish Radio Choir, Radiokören and others. Putnin’s work encompasses a wide range of choir repertoire, from Renaissance polyphony through Romantic works and modern pieces. His primary goal has always been to impart outstanding choral music to a wide audience.



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