Music News

Jubilee concerts of Estonian National Male Choir

From November 14 to 16, Estonian National Male Choir under the guidance of its chief conductor Mikk Üleoja will celebrate its 70th anniversary with three concerts in Viljandi, Tartu and Tallinn. The program of jubilee concerts consists of „Бог Господь“ („Bog Gospodj“) and „Molitva“ by Galina Grigorjeva, „O oriens” by Toivo Tulev and choral music by Franz Schubert, Ēriks Ešenvalds, James MacMillan and Giovanni Bonato. The concerts will be held on November 14 at 9 pm at Estonian Traditional Music Centre in Viljandi, November 15 at 7 pm at Assembly Hall of The University of Tartu and Novemer 16 at 5 pm, at Estonian Concert Hall in Tallinn.

Estonian National Male Choir
Photo: Jaan Krivel

The Estonian National Male Choir (RAM) was founded in 1944 by the legendary composer and leader of the Estonian choral movement Gustav Ernesaks. First, the choir was named Estonian SSR State Philharmonic Male Choir, known as RAM (Riiklik Akadeemiline Meeskoor), since 1953, State Academic Male Choir, and since 1989, Estonian National Male Choir, which is currently the largest full-time professional male choir in the world. The birth of the Estonian National Male Choir was basically the result of Ernesaks’ work. He stayed connected with the choir until his death (1993) – in 1944–1975 he was the chief conductor and later acted as its artistic director. Since the beginning of season 2011/2012, Mikk Üleoja is the chief conductor and artistic director.

The choir’s repertoire ranges from the renaissance period to the music of the 21st century. Estonian composers aside, the choir has performed works from Shostakovich to Taktakishvili, and from Bryars to Bonato in recent programs. Over its 60 years of existence, RAM has given more than 6000 concerts all over Estonia, in many cities of former Soviet Union, as well as Western European countries, Israel, Canada and the United States. Among its notable tours, the choir has performed at The Baltic Sea Festival (Stockholm 2005), the Festival of Estonian Culture in Scotland (2005), the Sibelius Music Festival (Dortmund 2007), Bergen Music Festival (2008) and Swansea Festival (Wales 2008).

The choir regularly records for broadcasting companies, and has collaborated with Deutsche Grammophon, Sony, Finlandia, Alba Records, Virgin Classics and GB Records. Over the past 5 years, the choir has released 6 albums, the most recent ones being “Mu isamaa on minu arm” (music by Ernesaks), “Silva Caledonia” (Bryars, Tulev), “Tulelaul” (Sink, Lepik, Marguste) and "In paradisum" (Galina Grigorjeva). Currently they are recording music for two albums, a Henrik Ødegaard’s author's CD and a CD with works by Giovanni Bonato and Giovanni Gabrieli.

In 2004, RAM won the Grammy Award in the category of Choral Music for the CD of Sibelius’ Cantatas (Virgin Classics), an album which featured the Estonian National Male Choir, the Girls’ Choir Ellerhein and the Estonian National Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Paavo Järvi. The album of Edvard Grieg’s “Peer Gynt”, recorded by the same musicians was named the best album of orchestral music in 2005 by BBC Music Magazine.

Look also: Estonian National male Choir.