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Hear Here: The "Latvian Hall" in Noe Valley

The places we choose to spend our time are important – they often define essential parts of our lives and ourselves. All week we’re bringing you profiles of places that matter to people around the Bay Area, as part of our community storytelling project Hear Here. This next piece from KALW’s Artjoms Konohovs takes us to a cultural center in Noe Valley neighborhood of San Francisco that brings together Bay Area Latvians.

ARTJOMS KONOHOVS: I knew that every Tuesday night there is choir rehearsal. Music is really important for Latvians, especially choir music. Latvians often sing, even though they might not have a very good voice or very good professional abilities. It doesn't matter. People just like to sing and they like being together. And this is a kind of activity that people often do together. So I knew that every Tuesday Northern California Latvian Choir has rehearsals in that house and I went there, around 7pm.

ZINTA ZARINA (conductor, translated from Latvian): Here we have this Latvian spirit, because we sing. And half of the songs we sing are Latvian folk songs. 

RUTA BRUNINS GRAND (singer, translated from Latvian): I feel like Latvian. And here I can meet many of my friends that I've known for at least 40 years. And I still don't know how to read notes. But eventually I'm getting there. As my aunt use to say, all Latvians either play in theatre or sing.

TAIRA ZOLDNERE (Head of the Northern California Latvian Association): Latvian House for Latvian community is like a family house. This is a place where family gathers together. This is a place where everybody is welcomed. One thing is that we have put our heart and work here, the other is that it's just a convenient place to come.

BRUNINS GRAND (translated from Latvian): I couldn't live at the place where there are no Latvians. I have very good American friends, but it's not enough for me. I still need Latvians. I don't feel like myself when I don't speak Latvian and don't spend time with other Latvians.

ZOLDNERE: There are plenty of Latvians around, but not everybody comes. So, if somebody hears this story about Latvian House and Latvian community, you know - everybody is welcome.

What’s a place in your neighborhood that means something to you – and why? Our Hear Here community storytelling project wants to know the answer. If you’ve got a story of a significant place, visit the Participate page at www.hearkere.kalw.org and tell it to us! You can also find the project on Facebook and follow it on Twitter at @hearhereradio.

Hear Here is part of a national initiative of AIR, the Association of Independents in Radio, Inc designed to bring new journalistic and technical ingenuity to extending public media service to more Americans. From Chinese restaurants in Boston, to shuttered factories in Dayton, to the oil fields of North Dakota, to Bay Area startups, the ten Localore production teams are working with their public station incubators to uncover ground-up stories of America in transition. Follow their development, and learn more at Localore.net.

Crosscurrents LatvianHear Here