Māris Sirmais has been the artistic director and principal conductor of the Latvija State Choir since 1997 and is head of the Department of Choral Conducting at JVLMA. As of 1998, he is one of the principal conductors of the Song Festival and head of the artistic council of this festival as well as the Latvian School Children’s Song Festival.
Māris Sirmais has been a conductor of the women’s choir Dzintars. In 1990, he became the founder of the internationally acclaimed Youth Choir Kamēr…, heading it until 2012. His regular collaborations with the Liepāja Symphony Orchestra, Latvian National Symphony Orchestra and Sinfonietta Rīga have included such masterpieces as Poulenc’s Gloria, Dvořàk’s Requiem, Bruckner’s Te Deum and Mass in E minor, Tavener’s Svyaty, Taneyev’s John of Damascus, Kodály’s Te Deum, Gurecki’s Beatus vir, Pärt’s Credo, Honegger’s Christmas Cantata, Stravinsky’s Symphony of Psalms, Gounod’s Messe Solennelle, Kancheli’s Styx and many others. The range of a cappella programmes staged by Sirmais is extensive. An important part of his repertoire is constituted by music by Latvian composers: Rihards Dubra, Andris Dzenītis, Ēriks Ešenvalds, Kārlis Lācis, Georgs Pelēcis, Pēteris Vasks among others.
Māris Sirmais has taken part in prestigious European festivals where he has also conducted masterclasses. More than 25 CDs have been produced with his participation.
Māris Sirmais is a three-time recipient of the Latvian Grand Music Award (1997, 2003, 2004). Several times the LGMA was awarded to singing groups led by Sirmais: the LatvijaState Choir (1998, 2000, 2002, 2010, 2011) and the Youth Choir Kamēr… (1999, 2005). LGMA was also awarded to two performances conducted by him:
the opera Augļu koks ir Jāzeps by Ēriks Ešenvalds at the Latvian National Opera (2007) and oratorio by Arthur Honegger Jeanne d’Arc au bûcher (2009). Sirmais is an emeritus member of the Latvian Academy of Science and an officer of the Order of Three Stars. In 2008, the conductor received the Prize of the Cabinet of Ministers and was awarded the title ‘Rigan of the Year’.
Māris Sirmais is a graduate of JVLMA with bachelor’s and master’s degrees (1996) in choral conducting. He has continued his education at the Graz University of Music and Performing Arts in Austria, studying orchestral conducting under Professor Martin Sieghart.