Latvian’s voice helps microtonal work win Grammy

Take note – story published 9 years and 3 months ago

Latvian-American bass baritone vocalist Pauls Berkolds, a member of the faculty at the California Institute of the Arts VoiceArts Program, is a winner of the 2015 Grammy Awards.

The Best Classical Compendium album at the 57th Annual Grammy Awards went to the LA-based percussion ensemble Partch’s unusual performance of a microtonal cycle of works for percussion ensemble and lap steel guitar by composer Harry Partch, titled Plectra & Percussion Dances. Berkolds was among the ‘CalArtian’ faculty performing on the first complete rendition of Harry Partch’s three-part cycle of the same name.

The group uses microtonal instruments designed by the composer himself in the 1930’s, including a massive bass Marimba Eroica and an adapted Hawaiian lap steel guitar added to a 44-string zither called the Harmonic Canon. Partch ensemble member Alex Wand, a recent program graduate, has posted photos of the unique instruments.

The album was released in August 2014 by Bridge Records and was produced by John Schneider.

During his 30 year career, Berkolds has performed opera, musical theater, oratorio, solo recital and new music in the US, Canada, Mexico, Germany, France, England, Taiwan, the Baltic States and Australia.

Berkolds has appeared with operas companies in Houston, Dayton, Salt Lake City, Honolulu, Detroit, Orlando, Washington DC and New York and spent three years on the Third National Tour Phantom of the Opera.

He is an original and ongoing participant of, a multi-media interactive website which promotes the examination, performance and documentation of the Song Books of John Cage. His renditions of this unique work have been performed in the US, Czech Republic, Poland and Latvia. Of particular note was the Los Angeles collaboration with Mikhail Baryshnikov and the Merce Cunningham Dance Company during the troupe’s 2010 farewell tour.

Berkolds is a first-generation American born of Latvian parents and has performed and taught in Latvia. He was recently awarded a Fulbright Scholarship to develop a course on American Vocal Music for the Jāzeps Vītols Latvian Music Academy in Riga, Latvia, where he will be in residence during the Spring 2015.

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