After the Second World War, Latvians who came to Great Britain formed a rich and versatile cultural life. Their musical life was especially rich. The first choir was founded in London by the Latvian Society in Great Britain, followed by many others and already in 1948 it was able to organize a large concert in memory of the 75th anniversary of the First General Latvian Song Festival. A year later, the First Latvian Song Festival (called Song Day) took place in England. About 400 singers from 15 choirs took part. The Zuika Men's Choir, founded in Kurzeme in 1944, had arrived in England in full and found a home in Corby. The choir's founder, Robert Zuika, later emigrated to Canada, but the choir successfully continued to perform under other conductors for several decades and reached a high level. This is evidenced by the choir's participation in the Llangollen Music Festival in 1953, achieving 4th place in the 18 choir competition. Although many singers and conductors moved to other countries in the early 1950s, choral singing was still one of the most important components of Latvian cultural life in Great Britain. A strong Latvian choir was formed in London and is still active. Mention should also be made of the Bradford choir “Ligo”, founded in 1948, which operated with a short break until the end of the 1990s. Leeds men's choir "Daugava" and Manchester men's choir "Dzintarzeme" were well respected and there were also strong choirs in Leicester, Bolton, Coventry and other Latvian centres. The Coventry Women's Double Quartet, which operated for 30 years, took part in numerous Latvian and English events.

Over the years, 11 Latvian Song Festivals were held in England: in London, Leicester or Bradford. After the festivals, “echo” concerts were held elsewhere in England. In 1977, the 4th European Latvian Song Festival took place in London, and in 1982, the 5th European Latvian Song Festival was organised in Leeds. In 1974, Rowfant House hosted an Open-Air Song Day; in 1978 “Straumēni” held the 2nd Open-Air Song Day, but in 1996 and 1997 it organised the so-called Small Song Days. The activities of the Latvian choirs were conducted by Roberts Zuika, Alberts Jērums, Nikolajs Kandrovičs, Andrejs Pommers, Daumants Vītols, Alfreds Tālbergs, Harijs Stalažs, Vilis Lācis and others. Along with an active choir movement, a high-quality concert life developed. Well-known Latvian singers, such as Edvīns Krūmiņš, Gaida Trēziņaand Ksenija Bidiņa, settled in England and Lidija Maršalka also lived here for some time. Together with their accompanist, Estonian Dagmārs Kokers, Alberts Jērums and composer Eduards Šēnfelds, they regularly and tirelessly performed in Latvian centres. The programmes usually included works from opera arias and by Latvian composers.

A Latvian string quartet, cellist Atis Teichmanis with accompanist Hugo Strauss, opera singers Ludmila Sepe, Paula Brīvkalne and Herta Lūse often came to England with concerts from Germany. In addition to solo concerts, these artists frequently performed at various festive, memorial and commemorative events, Of particular note is the three-concert series organized by the Society of Latvians in Great Britain in 1963, dedicated to the work of Jāzeps Vītols, which took place in the hall of Westminster Cathedral, with introductory words by Helmers Pavasars. Also noteworthy are the big concerts dedicated to the memory of Emīls Dārziņš and Alfreds Kalniņš, or the concerts of Helmers Pavasars 60th anniversary and later the 75th anniversary. In the programmes of regularly organized culture days, a large place is given to various concerts.

Over time, new names and performers entered Latvian music life in Britain. In the 1960s there were flutist Maija Lielause and her partner violinist Jack McDougal and accompanying pianist Marija Solimini, singer Biruta Heistere, conductor and composer Helmers Pavasars, pianist Daina Pavasara, singer Margareta Daškevica and pianist Marianna Zariņa. In the 1970s, another generation of musicians appeared, such as singer and conductor Lilija Zobens with her husband Leslie East. They formed the vocal ensemble "Atbalss" in London in 1977. Mention should also be made of singer Jāna Jēruma-Grīnberga. Conductor Ziedonis Āboliņš started his activity at this time. He founded the Straumēni Mixed-Voiced Choir in 1987, which is still active, but now conducted by his daughter Inta Āboliņa. In 1983, the folklore group "Dūdalnieki" was founded, which became very active and has enriched many Latvian events with its performances. Later, the “kokle” ensemble "Kokļu zapte" was formed in London. The post-folklore group "Austrumkalns" (Andra and Karolīne Zobens-Īstas, Anna Grīnberga and Laila Grīnberga) gained great popularity with the younger generation of Latvian musicians.

After Latvia regained its independence in 1991, guest musicians from Latvia regularly enriched Latvian music life in Britain. After a certain decline in the choir movement at the beginning of the 21st century, the first new choir "Novadi" was founded in Mansfield in 2009 under the direction of Helmuts Feldmanis, which operated for several years. The London Latvian Choir (conducted by Lilija Zobens), the Straumēni Mixed Choir (conducted by Inta Āboliņa), the Birmingham Latvian Choir (conducted by Nora Ragže) and the Derby Singing Association (conducted by Gatiz Klucis) are still active. Folk ensembles are still very active: “Dudalnieki” in Bradford (leader Raimonds Dāle), “Austrumkalns” in London (leader Karolīne Zobens - East), “Kokļu zapte” in London (leader Aivis Krēsliņš), “Žeperi” in Peterborough (leader A. Grabuste) “Novadi” in Mansfield (led by Helmuts Feldmanis).

A full list of the choirs and ensembles that have been active over the years may be seen at the end of the article in Latvian.


Zuika’s and “Daugava” male voice choirs, 1972. J. Straume. “By the Baltic Sea”.

Zuika’s and “Daugava” male voice choirs, 1972. T. Ilstere. “My Fatherland speaks”. Solo by Valdis Auers.

Zuika’s and “Daugava” male voice choirs, 1972. J. Kalniņš. “Boys, boys, who are these boys?”.

Male voice choir “Daugava” – 25 year anniversary (1950-1975)

40th anniversary of the London Latvian Choir. 9 July 1988.

40th anniversary of the London Latvian Choir. 9 July 1988.

40th anniversary of the London Latvian Choir. 9 July 1988.