Scandinavian Choral Music

Did you know that the Scandinavian countries have a higher average participation rate for choral groups than any other nations on the planet? In Sweden alone, 10 per cent of the population sings in a choir. In Norway, more than 125,000 people sing in choirs (in a nation with fewer than 4 million citizens). So in a region where vocal ensembles have such a high stature, it is absolutely no surprise that such a high value is placed on doing it well. Whether it's a children's choir from Finland, or an adult choir in Denmark performing symphonic works, you'll love what you hear from them.

Copenhagen Boys' Choir (Denmark)

Copenhagen Boys' Choir was founded in 1924 by Mogens Wldike to perform choral music written for boys' and men's voices from the Middle Ages to the 20th century. In 1929 the Copenhagen City Council established a Choir School for the boys, the present Sankt Ann3⁄4 Gymnasium (St. Anne's Gymnasium). Until 1959 Copenhagen Boys' Choir was permanently connected with Christiansborg Slotskirke (The Chapel of Chistiansborg Castle), but since then the choir has throughout the main season been giving regular concerts every Friday evening in Copenhagen Cathedral, and the boys have also been singing at High Mass and Vespers in the Cathedral. With a comprehensive repertoire ranging from commissioned works by the leading composers of our time to the earliest polyphony the choir has over the years gained a reputation for being one of the finest of its type and it has given concerts in all parts of the world. The choir has also taken part in radio and television productions both in Denmark and in other countries. Recordings

Danish Radio Choir (Denmark)

The Danish National Radio Choir was founded in 1932 with the purpose of performing the wide-ranging repertoire of oratorios, and symphonic works for choir and orchestra. The choir numbers 74 professional singers, 31 of whom are permanently employed forming the chamberchoir. The remaining 43 singers, who form the symphonic choir, are under 5-year contracts. Every season the choir appears regularly within the Thursday Concert Series of the Danish National Radio Symphony Orchestra.

The DNRC has toured extensively in recent years both in Denmark and abroad, including the USA, Australia, Canada, Finland, Great Britain, the Netherlands, France, Stockholm New Music Festival, Ultima Festival in Oslo, the Alte Oper in Frankfurt. In 1992 the DNRC appeared with the Danish National Radio Symphony Orchestra at the Schleswig-Holstein Festival and at the BBC Proms in Royal Albert Hall, London. In June 1996 the choir performed a concert version of Carl Nielsen's opera Maskarade in the Vienna Konzerthaus and in Brussel's Palais des Beaux-Arts together with the DNRSO. In co-operation with the Nederlands Kamerkoor and The Sixteen the DNRC form the Great Choirs of Europe, where, since 1994, an annual concert series with all three choirs has been performed in each of the three capitals Den Haag, London, and Copenhagen. Recordings

Eric Ericson (Sweden)

Eric Ericson (born 26 October 1918 in Borås), is a Swedish choral conductor and influential choral teacher. He graduated from the Royal College of Music (Kungl. Musikhögskolan) in Stockholm in 1943 and went on to complete his studies abroad, at the Schola Cantorum in Basel, Switzerland, and in Germany, Great Britain, and the United States. Renowned for his innovative teaching methods and the wide-ranging nature of his repertoire, Ericson was the principal conductor of the Orphei Drängar choir at Uppsala University from 1951 until 1991, and choirmaster until 1982 of the Swedish Radio Choir which was established on his initiative in 1951. Also in 1951, he began his teaching career at Musikhögskolan, where he became a legendary and inspirational figure, and he was appointed to the chair of choral conducting there in 1968.

In 1997 Ericson shared the Polar Music Prize with Bruce Springsteen. The citation was for "pioneering achievements as a conductor, teacher, artistic originator and inspirer in Swedish and international choral music". He has also guest conducted many leading vocal groups, such as the Netherlands Chamber Choir, Groupe Vocal de France, BBC Singers, RIAS Kammerchor, Vienna State Opera Choir and many more. On the occasion of his 80th birthday in 1998, the Swedish bank Swedbank endowed an "Eric Ericson Chair in Choral Directing" to Uppsala University. Recordings

Adolf Fredriks Girls Choir (Sweden)

For the past 30 years Adolf Fredrik's Girls Choir has been active as one of the most Internationally recognized children's and youth choirs throughout the world - a musical achievement that is difficult to equal. The girl's choir is a representational choir from Adolf Fredrik's Music Classes in Stockholm, Sweden's oldest specialized school, founded in 1939; a distinguished institution of music well known throughout the world. Each year approximately 10 new choral members are inducted into the girls choir, and each and every year their leader and conductor, Bo Johansson, succeeds in bringing forth musical professionalism and wondrous tones which distinguish Adolf Fredrik's Girls Choir. Adolf Fredrik's Girls Choir has won many first awards in different choir competitions, including the BBC's "Let the peoples sing". The choir has participated in several TV and radio programs, major concert and opera performances, several recordings, major official ceremonies etc. The choir is often invited to participate in International Choir Festivals and has received many top awards for some of the most prestigious choir competitions. In 2001 the choir was selected as a "Choir of the European Federation and Cultural Ambassador" (for the years 2001 - 2004), and in October 2001 the choir got the exclusive Swedish award "Choir of the Year". Recordings

Grex Vocalis (Norway)

Grex Vocalis — ( The Singing Flock ) — was formed in 1971. The repertoire spans from renaissance to contemporary Norwegian music. The choir has been awarded the “Norwegian Grammy" for three of its 13 albums and won 1st prizes in national and international contests: Arezzo, Gorizia, Tolosa and Marktoberdorf. In 1999 Grex Vocalis was awarded "Il Gran Premio Città di Arezzo" as the best choir in that years contest. Over the years Grex Vocalis has commissioned and premiered works by several Norwegian composers but also performed important baroque works like Handel: Messiah, Bach: Christmas Oratorio, Rameau: In convertendo, Quam dilecta, Charpentier: Te Deum, Lully: Te Deum, Delalande: Te Deum etc with orchestra and soloists. The first Norwegian recording of Handels Messiah was released in 1997 with Grex Vocalis and Oslo Baroque Orchestra. Recordings

Jubilate Choir (Finland)

The Jubilate Choir consists of 40 singers and was founded by its present conductor, Astrid Riska. Since its formation, Jubilate has played an active part in Finnish musical life. Its repertoire includes a range of styles, from Gregorian chant to 20th century works, but with a strong partiality to Finnish music.

The choir has collaborated with a number of Finnish orchestras, including the Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra, the Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra and the Avanti! Chamber Orchestra. Among the choir's collaborators outside Finland have been the Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra and the Polish Radio Symphony Orchestra. In connection with those and other engagements the choir has had the privilege of working under Gary Bertini, Bruno Rigutto, Eliahu Inbal, Jean-Pierre Wallez, John Alldis, Gennadi Rozdestvenskij, Jukka-Pekka Saraste and Esa-Pekka Salonen.

Astrid Riska originally trained as a primary school teacher. She then continued her studies at the Sibelius Academy, qualified as a cantor, organist and music teacher, and received a diploma in organ playing in 1963. She continued to study organ playing in Paris and took a special interest in children's choirs and voice training. She has worked as a music teacher in Finnish schools, has taught the organ at the Sibelius Academy and acted as organist for the Church of St. Thomas. For 25 years she sang in the Finnish Radio Chamber Choir and was for a time also its conductor. In 1989, Astrid Riska was awarded the Fazer Music Prize for distinguished service in the realm of musical education. In 1995, she received the main prize of the Swedish Cultural Foundation and in 1997 she was named Choral Conductor of the year. Recordings

Musica Choir (Finland)

The Musica choir was founded under the aegis of the Jyväskylä University Department of Musicology in 1977 and has been conducted throughout its history by Pekka Kostiainen. Over the years it has aimed at combining different styles and thereby expanding its range of expression. This also allows the singers to enhance their knowledge and experience of choral music. The friendly mood within the choir and its regular rehearsals have been rewarded in a number of international choral competitions. In the 31 years since it began Musica has travelled as far afield as South Africa and nearer home to Germany, Ireland, Estonia and numerous other European countries. At home in Finland this band of former and present students from the University of Jyväskylä has likewise won the recognition it deserves. In addition to its frequent concerts it has released many discs, and its album Mull’ on heila ihana was voted Choral Record of the Year in 2000.. Recordings

Musica Kuoro

Orphei Drangar (Sweden)

Orphei Drangar, known internationally as OD, is a modern male-voice choir, based in the Swedish University City of Uppsala. The choir, which dates back to 1853, has always been a torch bearer of the great Swedish choral tradition, in addition to playing an important international role in the development of the male-voice choir in modern music. The most important tradition of Orphei Dr?ngar is self-renewal. The male-voice choir is an instrument which can express itself in a multitude of different ways. OD has distinguished itself, both in Sweden and abroad, by developing and fine-tuning this instrument. Many people talk of the unique blend of young, lighter voices with older, more mature ones - a blend which produces a sound all of its own. Intonation, phrasing and purity are other words that are often used to describe OD's sound. A cappella songs are still the most important part of the choir's repertoire. But OD has gone one step further, breaking new ground when it comes to how a male-voice choir should look and sound. The forms of expression are numerous. The choir can just as easily sing with a symphony orchestra as accompany a dramatic composition or ballet. Recordings

Philomela Female Choir (Finland)

The Helsinki-based women's choir Philomela was started in 1984 at the instigation of the Helsinki Chapter of the Finnish Amateur Musicians' Association (SULASOL) and the Culture Board of the City of Helsinki. Philomela has 45 members, half of whom are students and the other half already in working life. Philomela aspires to perform choral music as extensively and ambitiously as possible. The choir aims at mastering both traditional and modern music, sacred masses and light music, singing styles originating from the Finnish national epic, the Kalevala, as well as the works of contemporary composers, many of whom have dedicated works to Philomela. The choir is known for its experimental choreographies and its chameleon-like ability to transform its style and appearance according to each occasion and venue. In spring 1998, the choir appeared in the Helsinki City Theatre production of The Sound of Music. PhilomelaÕs goals were set high at the outset. Due to goal-oriented work, the choir has risen to the top of Finnish choral music, and it has also received acclaim abroad. Philomela has produced numerous radio recordings, and in 1991 it received the Amateur Music Award of the Finnish Broadcasting Corporation (YLE). In the same year, Philomela was nominated Choir of the Year by the Finnish Women's Choir Association.

Philomela's conductor, Marjukka Riihimaki, graduated from th Sibelius Academy of Music in 1974. Presently she is teacher at the Sibelius College in Helsinki and also conducts the Klemetti Institute's Women's Choir and Grex Musicus Mixed Choir and in 1993 she was the winner of the prestigious Klemetti Prize. She is characterized as one of the most prominent choir conductors in Finland today, a pioneer of female choir singing and inspiring instructor at domestic and international choir seminars. Recordings

Rajaton (Finland)

Vocal ensemble Rajaton, founded in autumn 1997, is a professional a cappella group with six singers (SSATBarB). Its objective from the first was to attain an international level in ensemble singing and to enrich the Finnish a cappella scene with their approach to choral music. Indeed, that they have done. The group´s members are experienced choral singers, and their diverse musical backgrounds contribute to the musical expression of the ensemble. Most of the singers have studied singing either at the Sibelius-Academy or at the Pop/Jazz Conservatory in Helsinki, Finland. In accordance with its basic concept, Rajaton primarily performs music written especially for the group. As its name shows (rajaton = boundless), its musical scale ranges from sacred music to pop and from folk music to contemporary concert music. At the moment, their repertoire consists mostly of settings of texts by Finnish and foreign poets written for the ensemble by young Finnish choral composers. Rajaton also performs new arrangements of Finnish and foreign folk songs.

Rajaton gives concerts in their home city of Helsinki a few times a year and in other parts of Finland on demand. They mostly perform in private occasions. Rajaton sings frequently in different companies´ and organisations´ official events as well as in weddings and other private parties.

Rajaton participated in the international vocal ensemble competition at the Tampere Choir Festival (Finland) in the summer of 1999 and won the first prize, the Grand Prix. This was an impressive achievement considering that all the jury members were foreign (chaired by John Potter) and that Rajaton sang only their own material – in Finnish. Recordings

Tapiola Choir (Finland) This Finnish childrens choir is considered one of the best in the world with an emphasis on both individuality and the singer's ability to blend with the other voices. The basic element is the young singer's own voice, moulded by the vernacular. The ideal sound is that of a stringed instrument: it is warm, light and translucent, the phrasing is musical and the singing gives the impression of being easy and effortless. But the ideal sound of the Choir is not just one closely-defined concept; it is a combination of different choral timbres and is always adapted to the music being performed.

Ever since the 1960s the Choir has been associating with many of Finland's leading composers. The result has been new repertoire of a high standard, free of all the mannerism of "songs for children". This collaboration has not been confined merely to premiering new works but has involved active participation in the process of composition.

Since winning the Silver Rose Bowl, the main prize in the prestigious BBC Let the Peoples Sing Competition in 1971, the Choir has been on almost 60 international concert tours, three of them round the world, taking in Europe, Israel, the United States, Canada, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, the Philippines, Australia, Tasmania and New Zealand. The Choir sings in more than 30 languages, since according to its principle, it always performs foreign songs in the original language. Recordings

Voces Nordicae (Norway)

The vocal ensemble Voces Nordicae comes from the scenery of Swedish choral tradition. In 1999 the ensemble was founded by the Danish conductor Lone Larsen and it consists of 16 professional singers. Open minded towards new timbres, Voces Nordicae combines a pleasant light blend with surprising and ventured sounds. Programs encompass a wide span of musical and human expression. The repertoire includes works from essentially all periods of music history, with special attention to Nordic, contemporary, improvisatory and ethnic music. This musical diversity combined with a visual performance, brings curiosity to the audience. Voces Nordicae emphasizes the importance of making music that reaches out and touches directly from the heart.. Recordings

Vox Aurea Choir (Finland)

Vox Aurea ("the golden voice" in Latin) is a children's choir of the special music classes of the City of Jyv?skyl?, Finland, compirising 46 talented singers aged 11-17. The choir is conducted by Mr. Pekka Kostiainen, who is also a composer of contemporary music. Many of the singers have pursued music studies since they were very young, playing various instruments at the music schools. Entry to the special music classes is via a comprehensive music test, to be followed by initial choir practice in the children's choir Kolmekuutoset, under the direction of Liisa R?s?nen. After this, a further entrance test is required to join Vox Aurea. Vox Aurea was founded in 1968. The conductors before the present conductor, Pekka Kostiainen, were Torsten Lindfors and Kari Ala-P?ll?nen. Under Kostiainen's direction, Vox Aurea has excelled in performing demanding and versatile modern children's choir music composed by Kostiainen himself. Recordings

YL Male Choir

YL Male Choir (Sweden)

The oldest Finnish language choir, the YL Male Voice Choir, was founded in 1883 as an opinion leader of the Finnish high society. Its roots are in 19th century Finland, which was growing into a separate nation. The origins of Finnish male voice choral singing can be traced to Germany via Uppsala, Sweden. It was first practised in Turku in the late 1810s, and from there it spread east after the university was moved to Helsinki in 1828. Students practised singing under varying conditions and titles - for example, a singing society called Akademiska Sångsällskapet was founded in 1838.

Continuity has been upheld many brothers, fathers and sons from the same families in the choir. After their choral careers, many singers of YL have acted in noteworthy ideological and societal positions, having a diverse impact on the development of society. Among others, the choir has had the privilege of having as members President J.K. Paasikivi, Councillor of State Johannes Virolainen, 24 future ministers and about 40 MPs. YL has always paid attention to artistic quality. Many singers of the early years did, however, join the choir also for reasons other than artistic and remained active for only a short while. Today the average young student joins YL for a long time, is artistically ambitious and takes in a large repertoire quicker than his predecessors. Active participation in the choir requires from the singer rigorous work, a strong sense of humour and a socially inclined nature. Recordings

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