The Australian Latvian Male Choir in Melbourne

While many Western English speaking nations define themselves in relation to their attitudes and there "way of life", Latvian folk song, folk tales and the Latvian language itself is considered fundamental to the Latvian identity. The language itself was born of the peasant farmers and solidified by Latvian academics who studied under Russian rule during the 19th and early 20th centuries.  See my article on  The Latvian Ethnic Identity for an in depth account of how Latvian Ethnic Nationalism came into being.

During the Soviet occupation, the Latvian language became endangered by mass deportations and immigration from the Soviet Union. Today the Latvian language continues to be an endangered language as the Latvians, Latvian Russians and stateless Russians in Latvia attempt to clean up the enthno-social mess left behind by the Soviets.

It is no surprise then, that the Latvian Diaspora considered it vital to maintain Latvian language culture in their new homes. One of the ways in which this was done was through Latvian Choirs. My father, Janis CIRKSIS was a member of such a choir, the Melbourne Australian Latvian Male Choir. One article published in the Sun (now the Herald Sun) mentions them:

Two of the best choir groups in an international choral concert at Wilson Hall ...  the Latvian Male Choir conducted by Karlis Nunavs, was heard in a selection of stirring or reflective songs which revealed splendidly resonant voices and good choral training in a company of singers already an acquisition here.
Below are some photos of the event, photographed at Wilson Hall at Melbourne University.

THe Latvian Male Choir of Melbourne, Australia sing at WIlson Hall at Melbourne University.

The Latvian Male Choir sings in Wilson Hall at Melbourne University.

The Latvian Male Choir, Janis CIRKSIS is in the back row, forth from the right.

The Latvian Male Choir, Janis CIRKSIS is in the back row, forth from the right.

The Latvian Male Choir, Janis CIRKSIS is in the back row, forth from the right.

I have several more photos like these of the Latvian Male Choir at other events. If you are interested in seeing more of these post a comment in the section below or you can message me on twitter @Cirksis

I can also email higher resolution scans of these photos if anyone is interested.


  1. My father and uncle also are here - Bruno Birzenieks ( 2nd from right in back row) - who later became conductor of the male choir continuing as "Kursa" and uncle Edvins Birzenieks (3rd from left, first row. I would LOVE to have these copoies as I have many - also from "Aida" backing but not these... thank you for your lovely post.
    Monika Birzeniece

  2. My father and uncle, Bruno and Edvins Birzenieks respectively, also were in the choir. My father is 2nd from right in back row and uncle Edvins, 3rd from left, front row. Bruno later conducted "Kursa" the Melbourne male choir in the 80's until his sudden death in 2005- was supposed to perform in big concert in Melb. that week.Thank you for your lovely post

  3. My husband, Jazeps Laizans, is third from the right in the back row. I saw this choir many times, and fell so in love with the record I practically wore it out. On one occasion the conductor started the choir, then without warning them he flamboyantly departed the stage, they didn't miss a beat. Linda Phillips, the Age music critic, rated them the best male choir in Melbourne in (my memory) 1956. BUT I have just read that the Sydney male choir was the first, started in 1956, the longest running choir
    outside the homeland. I have many of these photos. thank you

  4. I think I might have a copy of the age review you are referring to saying something along those lines. I haven’t done a lot of work on this website in a while but I might see if I can find the article and add it somehow... It is always great to hear from the families of other people featured in the photos and to hear their stories too!


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