Aurelijus Žemgulis

Festival Countdown




The festival will feature collegiate and semi-pro choirs and is cosponsored by the School of Music and Dance, Choral Arts area of San Jose State University.

Saturday, April 8, 2017,

Oakland Interstake Center

4780 Lincoln Ave. Oakland

1:00 pm.

Special highlights including a world premiere of a commissioned song  will commemorate the victims and survivors of Operation Priboi and other Soviet deportations from the Baltic states .

 FEATURING Piedmont East Bay Choir - Ensemble Robert Geary choraXperi Brigitte Doss-Johnson Musae Laney Armstrong Stanford Chamber Chorale Stephen Sano SJSU Choraliers Jeffrey Benson
VIDEO PRESENTATIONS Greetings from Composers and Conductors from the Baltic Region Presentation from Vytautas Miskinis Documentary footage of the Soviet deportations in the Baltics More to come ...
FEATURED COMPOSERS Arvo Pärt Vytautas Miskinis Ugis Praulins Janis Lucens Andres Lemba Eriks Esenvalds Vaclovas Augustinas Peteris Plakidis Gustav Ernesaks Urmas Sisask Tella Turku Veljo Tormis Pekka Kostiainen Pärt Uusberg Jaako Mäntyjärvi
The Grand Finale Sung by all the choirs

The Baltic Choral Music Foundation supports activities and encourages awareness of choral music from the Baltic Region.

Graceful People

by Vytautas Miskinis

Brigitte met Vytautas Miskinis in October 2015. In an indescribably charming manner, he showed her around his rehearsal facilities of Ažuoliukas and offered insight during a discussion of her dissertation idea pertaining to compositional freedoms through political periods. In February Brigitte had a spark and asked Miskinis if he would compose a song for the festival commemorating the deportation victims. Brigitte gave him the option of selecting or writing the text himself, but he turned the task over to Brigitte. Searching libraries and the internet for a poem in English about the deportations in the three Baltic countries proved unfruitful, so with a firm concept  of what the poem should address and years of reading memoirs, watching documentaries, and interviewing displaced citizens, Brigitte drafted a heartfelt poem. Two Estonian-Americans reviewed the words, offered suggestions, and gave a "go" on the final version. Thanks, Ruth Amos and Helve Kalmann. A few days later, Miskinis sent a two-minute track of the beginning. From February 2 - 26, Miskinis and Brigitte worked on text selection, duration, and edits. In three weeks of creative fervor, the song "Graceful People" was born. We can't wait to hear how it will sound at the festival with all the choirs performing it.

Graceful people

of Lithuania,




in all your suffering,

endured with silent strength,

you've had each other.

You still have each other.


In the reign of terror,

soldiers coming at night

taking grandmothers and infants,

trucks coming to schools

taking every child …


minds changed.

Trust changed.

Neighbor turned on neighbor.

Cousin turned on cousin.


The soul of the nation

cried through its people.

People are not numbers,

empty ink on a page.


The ground stores what happened,

cans and jars

buried with desperate notes,

dying to be heard.

You are understood,


in the monuments still standing,

in the mines you’ve dug,

in the railroads you’ve laid,

in the rivers you’ve trenched,

in the pipelines you’ve placed.


The sound of spilling blood

lands loud

on the giant drums

of heaven,

where time is not measured,

and where memories never fade.


The survivors

must become

the voice

of the sacrificed,

like the forests

that become


of the dead.


We must remember.

We must heal.

We must build a stronger humanity

where no one can lose their humanity,

where kindness is rule,

where the world can never again

give ground

to strip the worth of a soul.





“VOICE OF GOD (or angels)”


Mortal time

is but a small moment.


The innocent

will not go without



The wicked

will not go without



The meek are chosen for their strength

to stand as proof

to justify

the punishment of the aggressor.


Place faith

in eternity.





Nizhny Ingash, Novoaltaisk

Yemelyanov, Biriusinsk

Bogotol, Taiozhny, Tchunsk, Ilansk

Beriozovka, Pavlovsk


Ujar, Aban, Dzerzhinskoye

Nazarov, Partizanskoye

Maima, Suchobuzinskoye

Zaoziorny, Cholmogorskoye









Promote the awareness and enjoyment of choral music from the Baltic countries.

Maintain a website with information on Baltic choral music and composers.

Hold a biennial festival.

Encourage new music by composers from the Baltic Region through collaborations, performances, commissions, and in-person as well as virtual interaction.


Promote events that showcase Baltic choral music.

Foster exchanges with choirs from the Baltic countries.

Brigitte Doss-Johnson


Laney McClain Armstrong, DMA

Vice President, Treasurer

Robert Geary

 Vice President, Secretary

Brigitte Doss-Johnson began her journey of discovery in Baltic choral music fifteen years ago when she searched for international choral competitions for her high school choir. Since then she has researched the history of the Baltics and the evolution of native songs, focusing on how progress and outside influences shaped the development of the current Baltic choral sound. She also has an interest in the type of compositions that were published in the last hundred years as a function of political rule, namely during independent times, Nazi occupation, Soviet occupation, Glasnost, and modern post-Cold War times. She hopes to spend the next several years publishing her findings in English.

As a musician, Brigitte directs her church choir, teaches piano and voice in her private studio, and sings all the time in choirs and solo ventures. As a writer, she has written novels, articles, and song lyrics.

Brigitte has an interest in staging choral works in theatrical ways that involve multimedia, lighting artistry, movement, and innovative costumes. She is forming a new group, so if you would like to offer support or if you would like to sing and experiment, contact her in the form below.

Laney McClain Armstrong is a singer and conductor who has made choral music and choral music education her life’s work. As a conductor and educator, Dr. Armstrong strives to cultivate a love of music in each singer through quality programing, building skills and musicianship, and devotion to the music and texts. She has toured internationally with the San Francisco Girls Chorus and the Harvard University Choir as a singer, and was one of the founding members of the Choral Fellows program at Harvard University in 2001. As a recipient of a Foreign Language Area Studies Fellowship in 2009, she studied the Estonian language and culture and assisted in cataloguing entries in the University of Washington’s Baltic Choral Collection.  Dr. Armstrong has worked with singers of many ages, including teaching middle- and high-school choir in Virginia, working with elementary-aged students in Bay Area schools with limited music programs, leading introductory music classes to 5- and 6-year-old girls, and directing the San Francisco Girls Chorus’ Alumnae Chorus. Most recently, Dr. Armstrong was the Associate Artistic Director and Director of Musicianship at the Cantabile Youth Singers of Silicon Valley, where she worked with children and young adults ages 8 to 18. She currently serves as the Artistic Director for Musae, a women's choral ensemble based in San Francisco.

Dr. Armstrong holds a Bachelors of Arts from Harvard University in Afro-American Studies, a Masters of Music in Choral Conducting from the University of Oregon, where she studied with Dr. Sharon Paul, and a Doctorate in Musical Arts in Choral Conducting from the University of Washington, where she studied with Dr. Geoffrey Boers. Her dissertation, entitled “From the mouth and from the heart: the Spiritual Folksongs of Cyrillus Kreek” explores the life of the Estonian composer and his arrangements of folk hymns, with a focus on those written for treble voices. Dr. Armstrong holds a Level I Certification in Kodaly teaching, and has prepared singers to sing with the San Francisco Opera, the San Francisco Symphony, and Opera Parallel.

Robert Geary, founding Artistic Director of Volti, the Piedmont East Bay Children’s Choir, and the Golden Gate International Choral Festival, also serves as Artistic Director of the San Francisco Choral Society. His multi-dimensional commitment to the choral arts over nearly forty years has led him and his choirs to national and international prominence.  Under his direction for 37 seasons, Volti has become recognized as one of the most important and accomplished new music ensembles in the United States.  For the past 33 years he has overseen the development of the Piedmont East Bay Children’s Choir, an innovative education and performance program whose record of success in competition is at the highest international standard.  With his guiding vision, the Golden Gate International Children’s and Youth Choral Festival has become part of the international choral environment, bringing thousands of young singers from dozens of countries to California for a thrilling series of performances and competitions.  For over 20 years he has led the San Francisco Choral Society to a robust position as a keeper of the traditional repertoire and an innovative force in the commissioning and performance of new works for chorus and orchestra.

Recipient of awards for Outstanding Conductorial Achievement in Giessen Germany and Artistic Interpretation from the Miedzyzdroje Festival in Poland, Geary has also received the KDFC Music Educator of the Year Award and the Lois Blair Rawlings Educational Inspiration Award.

Geary has conducted first performances of nearly 200 compositions.  He has conducted in dozens of countries, served as a clinician and guest conductor in the US, Finland, Denmark and Singapore, and his choirs have been recognized in the United States by invitations to perform for the national conferences of Chorus America, the American Choral Directors Association, the Organization of American Kodaly Educators, and the College Music Society.

His choirs can be heard on recordings with many labels including Other Minds, Harmonia Mundi, Koch International, Swiss International Radio, Ablaze and Innova. They have performed for radio, television, opera, symphony and music festivals nationally and internationally. Geary also has prepared his choirs for some of the world’s leading conductors, including Helmuth Rilling, Robert Shaw, Kurt Herbert Adler, Edo de Waart, Krzysztof Penderecki, Herbert Blomstedt, Dale Warland, Kent Nagano and Michael Tilson Thomas.

Ensemble from the Piedmont East Bay Children's Choir (PEBCC) is a group of 41 treble singers age 12-16.  Considered the flagship of PEBCC, Ensemble has toured to 25 countries and has earned First Prizes, Grand Prizes, and Gold Medals in competitions in Russia, Germany, Austria, Italy, Hong Kong, Canada, United States, and Slovakia. Since the founding of the Choir Olympics and World Choir Games in 2000, Ensemble remains the only children's choir from the United States to win a first prize. Ensemble has participated in the Laulupidu in Estonia three times and is featured in To Breathe as One, the sequel to The Singing Revolution.  Ensemble has made five tours to Estonia, two tours to Latvia and one tour to Lithuania.

Ancora is a treble choir of 15 singers grades 9-12.  Nearly all the singers in Ancora are graduates of Ensemble and all study voice privately.  Ancora commissions and performs new music each season and performs some of the most adventurous and challenging repertoire literature for treble voices.

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