Composers and Authors /

Jērums, Alberts (1919 - 1978)

Biography   Works  

Composer and conductor, whose ideas, activities and compositions largely determined the quality of musical life in the communities of Latvians living outside Latvia after the Second World War. He was the driving force and one of the Principal Conductors at eight Latvian Song Festivals in Great Britain (1949–1961). In 1950 he introduced the tradition of organizing a separate concert at Latvian song festivals for the performance of new works by Latvian composers, a practice that significantly increased the status of these festivals. In the early 1960s Jerums was one of the initiators of the European Latvian Song Festival, and conductor of the combined choir at four such festivals (1964, 1968, 1973, 1977). He also suggested the idea of a festival bringing together Latvian choirs from all over the world, which resulted in the song festival organized in 1979 by the World Federation of Free Latvians on the Island of Gotland in Sweden. He was Principal Conductor at three Latvian Song Festivals in Canada (1965, 1970, 1976), an active member of various Latvian and English organizations for the arts, wrote for the press, and was a respected member of various adjudicating panels and editorial boards.
Jerums was born in southern Estonia, on a small Latvian estate in Karula, near the Latvian border town of Valka. After completing his secondary education in Valka, he studied organ and composition at the LC (1937–1942), graduating from Jazeps Vitols' composition class with the first atonal piano sonata in Latvian music. During this period he also worked as choir conductor and music critic. After the Second World War, as a refugee in Detmold, North Rhine-Westphalia, he taught at the UNRRA Baltic DP Music College and also gave concert performances. From 1947 he lived in England. Here he founded the London Latvian Choir in 1948 and was its conductor until the end of his life. At the same time he was conductor of various other Latvian and English choirs, and also worked as organist.
His creative output includes five sonatas for solo instrument with piano, a string quartet and other chamber works, piano and organ music, several orchestral works and cantatas, about 40 solo songs (including three song-cycles), and some 40 songs and folk song arrangements for choir. A collection of his choral music has been published: Alberts Jerums. Kora dziesmas [Songs for Choir], vol.1 (London, 1984). As a composer he was one of the most radical innovators in Latvian music, especially in harmonic language and rhythmic structure. This applies only partly to his settings of folk melodies: here he consistently worked within the diatonic spectrum.