Newspaper Diena (Kultūras Diena): Inese Lūsiņa
In the frame of the cycle World Sun Songs we introduce the Lithuanian composer Vytautas Miškinis
Lithuanian Kokars – that is how Māris Sirmais characterises the composer of the neighbour country, the long-term conductor of the men and boy choir Ažuoliukas, the composer and the professor of the Lithuanian Academy of Music Vytautas Miškinis who was the first to respond to the invitation of the Latvian conductor to take part in the World Sun Songs project of the youth choir Kamēr.... The new composition created for the project “Sun, don’t leave!” (Neišeik, saulala!) will have its first performance on the 3rd of July during a special concert in the hall of the University of Latvia among 17 other compositions of 16 countries of the world.
Prayer and spying
Vytautas Miškinis has created a great original composition with motives of Lithuanian folklore songs, motifs of folklore texts and with the usage of principles of the Lithuanian specific music playing genre – the principles of the polyphonic facture of sutartines. It is a prayer of a mother who is getting old and is longing for the return of her only son who has been drafted in the army for 25 years. Alongside with the voices of the choir we will hear five Lithuanian pipes – the skuduči. "Similarly to the pan-pipe, every pipe can produce only one sound of a certain frequency. I do not use the pipes as an accompaniment but as an acoustic element," Vytautas Miškinis explains that sutartines are often played by a skuduči ensemble also in the folk tradition. Unlike the biggest part of his cosmopolitan creative work, in this composition he wanted to be a Lithuanian. M. Sirmais sees this composition as a ritual that should be developed in a visual action.
Though the compositions of V. Miškinis are often performed by choirs in Latvia, the choir Kamēr... will meet his music for the first time. "I know your choirs well: as a member of different international choir juries I have often listened to them," that is how V. Miškinis heard the performance of Kamēr... that was awarded a bunch of golden medals at World Choir Games in China during the summer 2006. The Lithuanian composer boasts that he had the opportunity to take a photograph of the moment when the choir covered itself with the painted veil by Vitolds Kucins – the portrait of Mother Theresa – during the performance of the composition of Ēriks Ešenvalds A Drop in an Ocean. "I sent it to Sirmais but I admonished: if you publish it you must write that I am the author. The photo is unique because it was forbidden to take pictures during the competition, but as a member of the jury I took a photo as a spy."
The leader of the choir culture of Lithuania is a strong, unusually energetic and many-sided large-scale personality, and his family name Miškinis designates a small songbird, a tree pipit, in his native tongue. V. Miškinis can deal with both – the everyday work of choirs, bright art moments, and the leading of remarkable cultural events. He is the artistic director of the best Lithuanian boys’ choir Ažuoliukas (little oak tree) for nearly thirty years. Under his guidance the ensemble has performed big, complicated compositions of academic church music (masses, oratorios, cantatas etc.) and has achieved international success, and exceptionally represents the culture of Lithuania. At the age of seven when he himself was singing in Ažuoliukas, he fell in love with music, and at the age of 25 he was already leading the ensemble. Back then, in 1979, the young, energetic conductor along with like-minded colleagues founded a school of music (!), and now the sonorous “little oak tree” has grown into a great singing grandmaster uniting 450 boys and young people of different age. The performing composition of singers represents 100 boys and 40 men, but the men choir has won the most important choir competitions of Europe.
"I made a system that is composed of choirs with singers representing eight different age groups. There are no such big boys choirs in Baltic States, this is the biggest choir of Lithuania," the conductor tells about Ažuolikuas. During his student days, he was already working with the choir that will celebrate its 50th anniversary next year…“We have traditions as well. The boys sing in Ažuoliukas from the age of five. It is not that difficult to control the boys. One must only have love together with strictness." V. Miškinis has also been conducting the professional Philharmonic choir and the vocal chamber ensemble Museum Musicum, but Ažuoliukas where he has lived from his very childhood is the main focus of the musician.
"If children start to like the choir they will always go there, if they don’t, no one will force them to sing. However, in general boys use to like singing because for them it comes easy." At the end of May, V. Miškinis and 40 other conductors will come to observe the gathering of the Latvian boys’ choirs in Cēsis.
In front of the united choir
In July, when he comes back to the first performance of the project “World Sun Songs”, he will also conduct from the conductor’s podium as a honoured guest conductor during the opening concert of the XXIV Latvian Nationwide Song and Dance Celebration… In his homeland where Miškinis is the president of the Lithuanian Choir Association the Song celebration could not be imaginable without him: he was the artistic director of the previous Song celebration and he will be the artistic director of the next Song Celebration as well. In the frame of this Song Celebration, Lithuania will celebrate its millennium. "V. Miškinis is not only the father not the movement of the boys’ choirs and a personality of the Song celebration. He is also the quality mark of the choral music in Lithuania, the symbol of the Lithuanian choral culture. He has also done a lot to popularize the works of our composers in Lithuania," tells M. Sirmais.
He has been judging many international competitions, lead master classes and been around the world as a composer or a guest conductor. Miškinis has just left for Slovenia and Italy, this summer he will go to the World Choir Symposium in Copenhagen. He has composed a jazz mass for choir, jazz trio and piano. Māris Sirmais will also go there with Kamēr... to perform the World Sun Songs in front of more than 2000 choir experts of the world.
For V. Miškinis being in constant motion is not an obstacle to concentrate on composing new choir opuses. He has almost one thousand of these: more than 300 church music opuses and about 700 choir songs, which confirm the beauty of music.
"I do not experiment with the sound. The essential for me is the meaning of the lyrics. The content. For that reason I accept any means of expression that refer to the meaning of a word," says the conductor. I clearly know that after hanging up, he will pack his suitcase swiftly and habitually for another concert trip.