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Baltic Choral Music Collection

  • Latvia
  • Latvian Song Festival Mass Choir 2013
    Latvian Song Festival Mass Choir 2013

Wel­come to the Uni­ver­sity of Wash­ing­ton Baltic Choral Music Col­lec­tion. This col­lec­tion of scores, man­u­scripts and texts is the first of its kind in the United States and is pro­vided in hopes of cre­at­ing greater access for Amer­i­can choral musi­cians to the wealth of these musi­cal tra­di­tions. The col­lec­tion is housed in the Uni­ver­sity of Wash­ing­ton Music Library. Browse the Baltic Choral Music data­base here.

Since the col­lapse of the Soviet Union, the Baltic region has become one of the most excit­ing new resources for choral musi­cians. The cul­tural her­itage of singing in the region is mil­lenia old and serves an impor­tant func­tion as the entire his­tory of the region in encoded in song. Fur­ther­more, dur­ing the tragic times of the Soviet occu­pa­tion, their cul­ture, her­itage, and even bat­tle for inde­pen­dence were expressed through choral singing. Group singing is, per capita, per­haps more pop­u­lar in this region than any­where in the world. Sta­di­ums are filled with choirs 30,000 strong singing together to audi­ences num­ber­ing in the hun­dreds of thousands.

Despite its grow­ing pop­u­lar­ity in the United States and its cul­tural impor­tance, the vast major­ity of this reper­toire remains unknown and inac­ces­si­ble to Amer­i­can choral schol­ars. The region has been fraught with eco­nomic hard­ship in the post-Soviet era, and attempts to rebuild libraries and col­lec­tions have been dif­fi­cult. The Soviet regime attempted to destroy cul­tural her­itage, pub­li­ca­tion was severely restricted and much reper­toire and early pub­li­ca­tions was destroyed. In recent years, there has been lit­tle resources to fund new pub­li­ca­tions, and libraries have lit­tle money to rebuild collections.

The Uni­ver­sity of Wash­ing­ton is proud to have the only Baltic Stud­ies pro­gram in the United States which teaches all three Baltic lan­guages. This rela­tion­ship between our insti­tu­tion and the Baltic coun­tries, along with our out­stand­ing choral pro­gram, makes the Uni­ver­sity of Wash­ing­ton a nat­ural palce to house such a library.

A gen­er­ous grant by the Uni­ver­sity of Wash­ing­ton Roy­alty Research Foun­da­tion allowed Gun­tis Smid­chens, a pro­fes­sor in Baltic Stud­ies, and myself to travel to the Baltic to col­lect this reper­toire and to build rela­tion­ships with the main state and aca­d­e­mic libraries in the region. Most have agreed to begin to share copies over time of recov­ered his­toric doc­u­ments. The Music Library also obtained funds from the Ken­neth S. Allen Library Endow­ment to pur­chase mate­r­ial for the col­lec­tion. In time this will become a sig­nif­i­cant col­lec­tion, both in terms of his­tor­i­cal impor­tance of doc­u­ment­ing an impor­tant choral tra­di­tion, but also to pro­vide a place for you to dis­cover, study, edit and per­form this trea­sured body of music.

Dr. Geof­frey Boers