Janis Kalnins

Janis Kalnins

Janis Kalnins

Janis Kalnins, a renowned conductor, composer, and organist-choirmaster, was born on November 3, 1904, in Pärnu, Estonia, to Latvian parents. He became a naturalized Canadian in 1954 and passed away in Fredericton on November 30, 2000. In 1981, he received an honorary D MUS from Mount Allison University. His father, Alfreds Kalnins, was a distinguished organist, conductor, and composer in Latvia.

From 1920-1924, Janis Kalnins pursued early education in composition under J. Vitols and conducting at the Latvian State Conservatory in Riga. He further honed his skills under Erich Kleiber in Salzburg and Hermann Abendroth and Leo Blech in Berlin. Kalnins was the conductor at the Latvian National Theatre from 1923 to 1933 and at the Latvian National Opera from 1933 to 1944. He also guest-conducted at the Royal Opera House in Stockholm, Sweden, as well as in Germany and Poland.

In 1948, he relocated to Canada and served as the organist-choirmaster at St Paul’s United Church in Fredericton for more than 40 years. In 1991, he was named Organist Emeritus. Kalnins took on the role of conductor of the Fredericton Civic Orchestra and instructor in music education at the provincial teachers’ college in 1951, continuing in the latter role until 1971. He was the sole conductor of the New Brunswick Symphony Orchestra from 1962 to 1968 and also conducted orchestras at Latvian festivals across North America. In 1978, he conducted his own Third Symphony and New Brunswick Rhapsody with the Windsor Symphony Orchestra.

A prolific composer, Kalnins fluidly composed in all major musical forms, blending romantic and modern elements. His works include commissions from the CMEA, the New Brunswick Bicentennial Commission, and St. Paul’s United Church,  along with numerous commissions from the Latvian Song Festival Committee. His final major composition was the Requiem, written between 1988 and 1991.

On his 80th birthday, the North American Latvian community honoured Kalnins with concerts in Toronto, Chicago, and New York, featuring his works. In 1985, a special Fredericton concert dedicated to his life and works was broadcast on CBC. His Concerto for Piano and Chamber Orchestra premiered on July 6, 1986, at the eighth Latvian Song Festival in Toronto, performed by Arthur Ozolins. Kalnins was recognized for excellence in the arts with a New Brunswick award in 1984. After his passing a memorial concert was held in July 2001 as part of the Latvian Song and Dance Festival. Many of his choral compositions have been recorded by the Riga Chamber Choir, Ave Sol.

Janis Kalnins’ final resting place is the Forest Hill Cemetery in Fredericton.

Janis Kalnins Gravestone

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