August 9, 2022


Janis Kalnins

Janis Kalnins

Janis Kalnins, conductor, composer, organist-choirmaster, b Pärnu, Estonia, of Latvian parents, 3 Nov 1904, naturalized Canadian 1954, d Fredericton 30 Nov 2000; honorary D MUS (Mount Allison) 1981. His father, Alfreds Kalnins, an organist, conductor, and composer, was one of Latvia’s most prominent musicians of his time. After early studies 1920-4 in composition with J. Vitols and conducting at the Latvian State Conservatory in Riga, Janis Kalnins studied with Erich Kleiber in Salzburg and with Hermann Abendroth and Leo Blech in Berlin. He conducted 1923-33 at the Latvian National Theatre and 1933-44 at the Latvian National Opera and was a guest conductor in Sweden (Royal Opera House, Stockholm), Germany, and Poland.

He moved to Canada in 1948 to become organist-choirmaster at St Paul’s United Church in Fredericton, and retained the position for over 40 years, becoming organist emeritus in 1991. In 1951 he was appointed conductor of the Fredericton Civic Orchestra and instructor in music education at the provincial teachers’ college, holding the latter position until 1971. He was the sole conductor of the New Brunswick Symphony Orchestra (1962-8) and also conducted orchestras in Latvian festivals throughout North America. In 1978 he conducted the Windsor Symphony Orchestra in his own Third Symphony and New Brunswick Rhapsody.

Kalnins wrote with facility in all the principal forms, and his style blends romantic and modern elements. He received commissions from the CMEA (Symphonic Poem), from the New Brunswick Bicentennial Commission (New Brunswick Song Cycle), and St. Paul’s United Church, Fredericton (Psalm 150, 1990) as well as several from the Latvian Song Festival Committee. His last major work was Requiem(1988-1991).

The North American Latvian community honoured Kalnins on his 80th birthday with three concerts (Toronto, Chicago, and New York) which featured his works; a special 1985 Fredericton concert saluting his life and works was broadcast on the CBC. His Concerto for Piano and Chamber Orchestra was premiered by Arthur Ozolins 6 Jul 1986 at the eighth Latvian Song Festival, held in Toronto. He received a New Brunswick award for excellence in the arts in 1984. He was buried in his homeland, where a memorial concert was held July 2001 as part of the Latvian Song and Dance Festival. Kalnins’ choral music can be heard on recordings by the Riga Chamber Choir, Ave Sol (Anthology of Latvian Choir Music, Part 2, Following the Stars, and Part 3, Reach for the Sun; and Janis Kalnins, DCM Sweden AG 9506, 1995 and, under the same name, BAF 9611, 1996.)

Janis Kalnins is buried in the Forest Hill Cemetery in Fredericton.

Janis Kalnins Gravestone

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