Jamaica Plain resident Krisīte Skare recently led the Boston Latvian Chorus in Riga in the 26th Song and Dance Festival.
Skare, a talented, award-winning choral director of two choral groups, founded the choir in 2015. Krisīte Skare holds a Masters of Arts in Education from the Harvard Graduate School of Education, a Masters of Music from the New England Conservatory of Music, and a Bachelor’s degree in Music from the University of Massachusetts Amherst. She leads the Boston Latvian Chorus and the Neighborhood Rocks Choir.
The choir is comprised of 41 members, most of Latvian descent. Singers are extremely dedicated, traveling to participate from all over Massachusetts, as near as Roslindale and as far as Millis. One participant even travels from Bradford, New Hampshire every week to the Latvian Lutheran Church in Brookline for the weekly three-hour rehearsals.
“This is my labor of love for my dear Latvian choir,” said Skare. “I can’t express in words what a gift they’ve given me by coming to rehearse week after week with the goal of achieving our dream -- to sing in the Song Festival in Rīga this July. Boston has never been represented at the Latvian Song Festival, and we’re thrilled to be able to participate for the centenary.”
During and after the Second World War, many refugees fled the new Communist regime and settled in the United States, creating vibrant cultural communities that continue today. There is a Saturday School in Brookline for children to learn history, culture and language, as well as a Latvian Lutheran Church.
“We’ve always had a strong, close knit community,” said Valda Grinbergs of Dedham, head of Boston Latvian School and choir participant. “It’s so exciting for us to be able to participate in the Song and Dance Festival and celebrate Latvia’s 100-year anniversary. Everyone has put in so much work to learn the songs and hone our technique. Our community is very supportive of our efforts.”
Latvia, a tiny country to the West of Russia on the Baltic Sea, was formerly a part of the Soviet Union. During their long experience with European colonization by Russia, Germany, and even Sweden, they have maintained a fierce sense of cultural pride and independence. This pride is at its pinnacle every five years during the Song and Dance Festival, a week-long exhibition of traditional music, dancing and arts that has been running since 1873.
The Festival is one of the largest choral events in the world and is recognized as a UNESCO Heritage Event. This year, approximately 16,000 singers from Latvia and Latvian diaspora communities all over the world will hold their massive concert on July 8th. The Festival coincides with the 100th anniversary of Latvia declaring itself a sovereign nation for the first time, in 1918.