Annual Review — 2000

Our thanks to all our participants and supporters for a successful 2000! Following is a recap from our annual member communication, published January, 2001.

Computer Project

Our project on the Introduction of Computer Science in Latvia's Schools continues, headed by Lauma Upelniece Katis, Edite Irbe and Elize Linauts Korn. Last year's contributions to this project amounted to $6,700. We wish to thank you for your help. This year, we were able to provide computers and/or software for seven elementary schools and three high schools.

We were very gratified when in several instances our gifts prompted local town governments also to contribute funds to improve their schools' computer laboratories. This is a bright moment at a time when the financial situation in Latvia's schools is very bad and teachers are leaving for better-paying jobs. Our achievements also demonstrate to the students that through cooperation the seemingly impossible can be achieved.

We also have provided information and advice on donation of computers to several other non-profit organizations (Daugavas Vanagi; Rotarians), who are planning to donate computers directly.

Continuing the tradition of Draudzīgais Aicinājums, we again invite you to make contributions to Latvia's schools. We can provide one Pentium 100MHz computer now in Latvia for $250; a laboratory consisting of seven networked Pentium computers with Windows 98 costs $2,300. For your donation, you may wish to choose a school in Latvia that has special meaning to you. We can also help you to establish the needs of your chosen school. Please inform Lauma Upelniece Katis if you would like to contribute.

Donations in USA are tax-deductible.

Rīga Dome Boys' Choir Tour

After three years of intensive work, organized by Astra Zemzare, the tour took place during October 2000, in observation of the 800th anniversary of the founding of Rīga in 2001. Latvia's President, Vaira Vīķe Freiberga was the patroness of this tour. The English-language tour's brochure opens with the introduction from the President, followed by greetings from the Prime Minister Andris Bērziņš and the Rīga Dome Agency 800 Director-General Ingūna Rībena. It contains information about Latvia (prepared by the Latvian Institute), the 800th anniversary of Rīga, Rīga Dome Boys' Choir, Rīga-Dallas TX as sister cities, and the International Boys' choirs' festival in Rīga in 2001. The brochure was distributed free to all attendees of the concerts.

Two benefactresses, Dr. Vivita Krievs Leonard of Rochester, MN and Dzidra Reimane from Charlotte, NC, with their especially generous financial support, made it possible to arrange concerts in their respective cities. The process of organizing these concerts resulted in many places in close cooperation between the Latvian community and the local population; the Latvian society in Denver CO organized a special event to raise money for the concert.

Over 10,000 listeners, mostly people outside the Latvian community, enjoyed concerts in Boston MA, Washington DC, Minneapolis MN, Cleveland OH, Ann Arbor MI, Salt Lake City UT, Dallas TX, Largo FL, as well as in Rochester MN and Charlotte NC. A joint concert with the world-renowned Mormon Tabernacle Choir in Salt Lake City UT was recorded and broadcast by the radio program Music and the Spoken Word; these broadcasts could be heard by millions. In Washington DC, the Boys' Choir had the opportunity to sing in the John F. Kennedy Center Millennium Stage series; also, a special Christmas concert was recorded by the public radio station NPR, which was broadcast during the Christmas season.

After their visit to the White House, in an unplanned meeting with the Washington Post reporter Helen Thomas, the boys sang the Latvian anthem for her; this resulted in an informative article about the Boys' Choir in this prestigious newspaper.

With its new repertoire, outstanding boy-sopranos and overall flawless presentation, the choir, conducted by Mārtiņš Klišāns, received excellent reviews throughout the tour. Judging by the enthusiastic responses from the public, as well as from the sincere invitations from their American hosts to return soon, we can say that our "little ambassadors" have successfully advanced the knowledge and increased the appreciation of Latvia and its culture in the USA. For that we express to them our heartfelt gratitude.

With their help of the tour's financial supporters, the $100,000 tour budget was realized with a small surplus. Special and sincere thanks to all of our supporters:

Rīga City Council and its Agency 800, Latvian Foundation, Inc., The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints Foundation, Vivita Krievs Leonard, Dzidra Reimanis, TP/Travel/American Tours/ Rīga, Latvian Relief Fund of America, Inc., PriceWaterhouseCoopers / Latvia, Culture Capital Foundation, Latvian Credit Union of Minnesota, Embassy of Latvia in the USA, Philadelphia PA Latvian Credit Union, as well as all the individual donors.

Having heard the Choir's concert in Minneapolis, the director of Americafest, Carol Stewart, extended an official invitation to them to participate in the July 2002 Americafest festival as the main international honorary choir. TILTS Board of Directors has decided to secure up to $10,000 for this concert, provided the choir can solicit $30,000 in Latvia to cover expenses. This decision has been forwarded to the Culture Ministry of Latvia and to the Culture Capital Foundation. This would provide still another opportunity to bring Latvia's name to the attention of the international world of music.

Other Cultural Events

Velta Zēberga Ulms arranged a tour for the "mazais teātris of Sanfrancisco" in six East Coast and mid-USA cities, performing the play "Aktieri" by Lelde Stumbre. The tour was financially feasible because of the small size of the troupe (3 actors and the director). Even though this is the most active Latvian theatre group in the USA, they usually perform only on the West Coast; it was great pleasure to see them on the East Coast again, after five years.

In the fall, the Drama Theatre of Valmiera, Latvia, visited 12 cities in USA, performing the dramatization of the Vizma Belševica story "Tās Dullās Paulīnes Dēļ…" with seven actors and the director. Public opinion differed widely on these two plays; they gave positive remarks on actors' performances, and the play "Aktieri" received favorable reviews, but "Paulīne" did not fare as well. Financially, both tours were successful.

This year, two tours are being planned: a July tour for children’s summer camps of the Puppet Theatre of Latvia, presenting “Eža kažociņš” by Vilis Plūdonis; in the fall, for the first time, Jaunais Teātris will be here with the play "Brīvais Kritiens" by the Estonian playwright Jaan Tatje.

Dace Aperāne, coordinator of the TILTS’ music and concerts program, helped organize a concert on February 20th in the Latvian church in Yonkers, New York, for the young Latvian pianist Pēteris Švalbe from Baltimore MD. Music critic Laura Padega Zāmurs wrote: "The forte passages sounded convincingly strong; in contrast, the quiet, melancholy parts were soft and peaceful."

The pianist Liene Circene from Latvia gave a performance at the Latvian Independence Day concert in New York, which was part of a tour, organized by Aperāne, consisting of performances in Salt Lake City UT, Boston MA (in celebration of Latvian Independence day) and in the famous Glenn Gould concert hall in Toronto, Canada. The newspaper DIENA wrote: "In Canada, the enthusiastic public would not let her leave the stage; in New York, she received a standing ovation."

In October, Latvian pianist Silvija Deidule and baritone Krišjānis Norvelis performed concerts in Cleveland OH, Minneapolis MN, Chicago IL, USA, and in the Glenn Gould hall in Toronto, Canada. Critic I. Štrāle-Didrichsone: "Even at his young age, Krišjānis Norvelis possesses exceptional voice and ability of inspired musical interpretation in most any role."

On October 28th, the masterful musician, xylophonist Larisa Puzule from Latvia, accompanied by Dace Aperāne, performed to an appreciative audience in New York, exhibiting outstanding virtuosity and charm.

In the fall of 2001, a tour of the East Coast is planned for 19-year old violinist Baiba Skride of Latvia, who is well known in Europe and has just received all possible honors and prizes at the international R. Lipcer competition in Italy. TILTS’ board member Pauls Berkolds is investigating tour possibilities for the talented 17-year old pianist Vestards Šimkus this fall on the West Coast.

The Boston Latvian Heritage Foundation has invited Andris Caune, professor and director of the History Institute at the University of Latvia, to speak about Rīga and its 800-year history, in March 2001. TILTS plans to arrange for him to speak also in several other cities.

Arts Support

TILTSExceptional Talent Fund, headed by Laila Robiņa with the help of Ilga Blankmeyer and Helga Petrašēvica, organized a benefit concert and reception for the Fund on September 5, 2000 at the Kosciuszko Foundation, New York. The presence of Latvia’s President Vaira Vīķe Freiberga as the guest of honor, imparted a highly festive and uplifting atmosphere to this occasion. The following artists participated in the concert: Gints Bērziņš, piano; Anna Kim, cello; Edward Malave, viola; Andrejs Martens, baritone; Michaela Martens, soprano; Evija Ozoliņa, violin; Patrisa Tomassini, violin; Gunta Plostniece, piano. The event provided $5,408 for future support of exceptional talents.

Since its inception, the following young talents have received support from TILTS:

  • Pianist Solveiga Selga, who became a finalist in the Maryse Cheilan competition in France;
  • Pianist Juris Žvikovs – to participate in preliminary auditions for the Van Cliburn competition in Budapest, Hungary;
  • Diana Baibusa, for studies with the renowned pianist Lazar Beman in Italy.
  • Ballet dancer Uldis Strogins, who is now a member of the Peter Schoefuss Ballet Company in Denmark;
  • Flutist Ilze Urbāne, whose studies with the famous flute teacher Trevor Wye were supported by TILTS, and who is now a faculty member at the Music Academy of Latvia.

In July 2000, TILTS donated $1,000 to the IV International Latvian Young Musicians’ master-training camp in Ogre, Latvia for study materials. Afterwards, these materials were distributed to the libraries of Latvian Academy of Music and other music schools. For the first time, seminars were held for music teachers, with 130 participants and 60 lecturers from Latvia, Europe, Canada and USA. (Donations for camp V in 2002 in Ogre may be directed through TILTS).

In 2000, TILTS passed a resolution to establish a Visual Arts Program, under the leadership of Guna Mundheim and with the help of Elīze Linauta Korn and Laila Robiņa. This program will support the work of artists of Latvian and Latvian-American heritage, as well as persons interested in Latvian culture. As the first undertaking, TILTS supported the project Bridge 2000, an international Art Symposium, held at the Zvārtava International Art and Education Center in Alūksne, Latvia. This annual symposium brings together artists from many countries to work for three weeks in ceramics, sculpture, fiber arts and other creative disciplines. The mission of the project is to build a bridge of understanding, communication and collaboration between artists of Latvia, Europe, the USA and other parts of the world. It will also serve to promote the art of Latvia and the Baltic States on a highly professional level and to spread information about the Zvārtava International Art Center, as well as Latvia and its cultural life. The symposia have been very well received by the participants; however, much of the budget must be raised ever year; also, the studio and housing facilities for the visiting artists need basic improvements.

“Studija Deviņi” (Ināra Kolmane director; Nora Ikstena, script writer) received $1,000 from TILTS to film a documentary “Pasaules nepasaule” about Latvian so-called “Elles ķēķa” (from the Hell’s Kitchen area in New York City) authors: Gunars Saliņš, Jānis Krēsliņš, Rita Gāle, Dzintars Sodums, Aina Kraujiete and Irēne and Voldemārs Avens, to add to the culturally significant group of personalities already filmed in Latvia. This material will also be used for the roject “Rakstnieks tuvplānā”, another documentary on Latvian authors, which will be available to the public at the State Movie Archives and Rainis’ Museum.

TILTS will also support the project “Video-portraits of Latvian authors”, which will be undertaken by Maruta Jurjāne, a prize-winning movie director as well as professor of video arts at the Rīga Mākslas Skola (Rīga Art School). It is projected to film 10 video-portraits of Latvian authors and artists in USA and Canada in four weeks. The finished product of this work will provide informative material for use in cultural events as well as in schools. She has previously received support from the Soros Foundation Latvia; Culture Capital Foundation, and American-Latvian Culture Fund for the already finished videos on authors Melānija Vanaga and Astrīde Ivaska.

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