Christmas Joy in Latvia
It is important to touch the soul, but each composer chooses his own means of doing so, says composer and teacher Vilnis Salaks (b. 1939), senior lecturer at the Latvian Academy of Music After graduating from the Academy, Salaks devoted all his creative energy to Latvian folk music. He has researched folk melodies, written arrangements and used folk music in his own compositions, providing works for larger and smaller vocal and instrumental ensembles, mainly choral and orchestral music and many works for kokle, a traditional Latvian string instrument. His love of Latvian folk songs guides him even now and this is evident in his cantata On Christmas Eve (2006) for soloists, mixed choir and chamber orchestra.
Vilnis Salaks: When Andrejs Jansons invited me to write a Christmas cantata, I already had a CD Es skaistu rozīt' zinu [Lo, a Rose is Blooming] with arrangements of international Christmas songs, therefore I decided to use various Latvian Christmas melodies for the cantata. Because Latvians not only sing at Christmas but also wander from house to house as mummers and listen to the bees humming in the hives, I also included folk dance tunes. At the end of the cantata I used an American Christmas song Away in a Manger as well as a phrase of Franz Gruber's Silent Night since Christmas Eve is followed by Christmas night.