Born: 10 June 1931
Biography He is born in Šķaune, Latvia. His primary school years were spent in Latgale (East part of Latvia), but secondary school was completed in Sloka. From his father – organist Boļeslavs Jermaks – he received an interest in music that brought him to the Jāzeps Mediņš College of Music (1954–1957) and further on to the Latvian State Conservatory. While studying in the class of Jānis Ivanovs, he finished his first symphonic score, gained noticed for his chamber works, and received a diploma with honours (1962). After graduation, he gained practical experience in the field of music theory while working as a teacher in the Rēzekne (1962–1963) and Cēsis (1963–1964) Colleges of Music, and as a sound engineer in the studios of Latvian Television (1964–1971).
As of 1971, R. Jermaks’ work was involved with the Conservatory (Latvian Academy of Music). In 1976, he was elected as a senior lecturer in the composition department, and in 1988 as an associate professor. When, after the reestablishment of Latvia’s independence, newly revived church congregations had a great need for educated organists, R. Jermaks also became a teacher at the Daugavpils College of Music (1992–1997), where, putting to use his education in organ playing gained with Nikolajs Vanadziņš, along with experience gained practically through life, he renews the organ class. In the area of organ art, R. Jermaks’ experience is especially rich, participating in the creation of the 25 record series Latvijas vēsturiskās ērģeles (Historical Organs of Latvia), proficiency in organ construction and repair, assisting with the activities of the Organ Centre of Latvia (as of 1989) and many church concerts. He organised a yearly festival in the Tukums region Apšuciems (as of 1983), where his own summer house has been outfitted with a concert hall with self built organ, which has been especially fruitful in composing for organ. Organists of the United States have noted the significance of this dedication – the composer was elected as an honorary member of the American Latvian Organist Guild (1995).
R. Jermaks has composed approximately 900 works. The genre amplitude of the creative output is broad, the range of images is also broad – from grand vocal instrumental work frescoes to songs for a social setting, from intellectually sophisticated sound watercolours to humorous genre scenes. Still, there are many main lines that are woven through the entire body of creative work by the composer. The most important is the desire to dive down into the multiform depths of an ocean of sacred sensation. This is expressed by the true, deep spirituality of the masses, the fascination of the eternity of the universe, the miraculous world of the poetry of Rabindranath Tagore, the poetry of Latvian folk songs, the ruminative voice of the kokle – these are all contained in the works of R. Jermaks. The second line – the sense of the events of Latvian history, which are dramatically summarized and concentrated in his oratorio works. The third is instrumental performance and the intensive spirit of performance. It is a bed where vivid colours express vitality and the joy of playing.
R. Jermaks has been awarded the title of Latvian SSR Distinguished Artist (1989). The composer’s work has also been awarded with the Jānis Ivanovs award (1988), his creative assistance in the organisation of the visit of Pope John Paul II to Latvia was acknowledged with an honorary diploma from the Aglona Basilica (1993). For his contribution to Latvian culture, he has been recognized with many composition competition awards, honorary writings, and he received the Republic of Latvia Culture Ministry Award of Gratitude for his lifetime of investment in Latvian music (2001).
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List of choral works
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