This Saturday sees the launch of the newest event in the Eurovision family ‘Eurovision Choir of the Year’. I had hoped to be there, as someone who grew up singing in choirs and vocal harmony groups I couldn’t be more excited about this new addition to Eurovision Special Events and my plan was to head off to Riga for the weekend, but alas events keep me at home, so like many, I will be tuned to the livestream on ORF2 on Saturday night (more of that later!) instead.
How It Works
Nine countries will take part and for only the second time in history at an EBU event, the United Kingdom will not take part as a unified nation but the Principality of Wales will take part under it’s own name (the first was when Wales took part in Jeux Sans Frontières from 1991-1994). The contest will be judged by a profession jury made up of multiple award winning mezzo-soprano Elīna Garanča (Latvia), world-renowned choral composer John Rutter (United Kingdom) and legendary choir conductor and choirmaster Nicolas Fink (Switzerland). There is no televote, but don’t let that put you off watching, from the choirs that are performing I know you are in for a wonderful evening of music.
Each country is represented by a choir, performing a piece of unaccompanied music lasting no longer than six minutes (twice as long as the Eurovision Song Contest’s three minute rule). Choirs are free to perform a singular piece of music or an arrangement that includes more than one composition, a ‘mash-up’ so to speak! As with the Song Contest, there is no set genre, choirs are free to choose the style and genre that best represents them, but with one caveat the performance should contain national or regional influence from the country they represent. Soloists are allowed but they must note predominate the overall performance and choirs may not use any instruments unless they are played by the choir singers.
Meet The Choirs
Hard-Chor Linz will fly the flag for Austria. A young contemporary mixed choir based (unsurprisingly!) in the beautiful city of Linz. The choir was established in 2007 by a group of dedicated and motivated musicians looking to bring something fresh and new to Austria’s already well-established music history and culture. The conductor and choirmaster is 37-year-old Alexander Koller, who was also one of the founding members, he has a plethora of music and performing arts degrees in his back pocket and works with a number of choirs throughout Austria. Find out more here: www.hard-chor.at
Les Pastoureaux literally translated as ‘The Shepherd Boys’, is an all-male choir from Waterloo (no Abba references please!) The choir was established in 1974 and are known for their repertoire of beautiful and haunting sacred music as well as works by the classical masters (Bach, Haydn, Mozart, Mendelssohn, to name a few). The choir consists of 60 boys whose voices range from soprano to Alto and are supported by 20 teenage and adult males providing baritone, tenor and base vocals. He choir is currently under the direction of Philippe Favette, a life-long music lover who joined the Conservatoire Royal de Liège at the age of 10. Having spent his time working with many choirs and Philippe became the choir’s musical and artistic director in 2006. Find out more here: www.lespastoureaux.be
Academic Choir of Aarhus were formed in 1985 and consist of around 30 mixed vocalists all connected to the University of Aarhus or the Royal Academy of Music, Aarhus. The all a capella choir’s passion is to showcase new Danish and Nordic choral music and whilst there is a love of the classics, it is in the new contemporary world that this group has firmly found their voice. The choir has released several albums which have all been widely praised both in Denmark and internationally. ACA have recently performed a series of oratorios in partnership with the Aarhus Symphony Orchestra. ACA’s conductor and choirmaster is Ole Faurschou, he is a graduate of the internationally acclaimed University for Music and Performing Arts in Vienna, Austria. Ole won the ‘Best Conductor’ prize at the China International Chorus Festival in 2006. Find out more here: www.akademisk-kor-aarhus.dk (Danish language only)
ETV Girls Choir will take to the stage to represent the Baltic nation. The choir had humble beginning in he Children’s Television Music Studio in Tallinn which was founded in 1990, today the choir comprises 25-30 female singers between the ages of 15 and 25 years old most of whom have a musical education and earlier choral experience. The choir has toured extensively throughout Europe and the USA and it should be noted they are not a new name to the EBU having won 1st prize in the youth category of the EBU’s International Choir Competition Let The People Sing in 2005, they also participated in the 2002 Eurovision Song Contest in Tallinn. The choir is conducted by Estonian classical music star Aarne Saluveer, who has a wealth of experience in choral conduction for prestigious events around the world, if anyone can get the best out of a choir, it’s Aarne! Find out more here: www.etvgirlschoir.ee
Jazzchor Frieburg hail from the Black Florest region of Western Germany. A relatively small choir, what the lack in numbers they sure do make up for in talent and passion for music. This multiple award winning choir was formed in 1990 by Bertrand Gröger who remains the director of the choir to this day. The choir have toured Europe, enjoyed success in choir competitions around the world and release four successful albums, they are also sort after for radio and TV recordings which have brought the choir to national and international acclaim. Jazz enthusiast Bertrand himself has enjoyed much success as a choirmaster and conductor. He is also a lecturer at the Mannheim Pop Academy and a much-sort-after singing teacher for jazz, pop and rock vocalists. Find out more here: www.jazzchorfreiburg.de
Béla Bartók Male Choir carry the hopes of Hungary on their shoulders. Another multiple award winning choir with 42 awards in their trophy cupboard, including wins at the 2006 & 2008 Choir Olympics in Beijing & Graz respectively. Also touring extensively through Europe & the America’s performing to sell out audiences across the globe. This choir is the contest most long-established choir having formed in 1945 and current conductor and choirmaster Prof. Dr. Lanker Tamás began his role in 1980. As well as heading up this international acclaimed choir Prof. Dr. Tamás is currently Professor of Choral Conducting at the Pécs University of Sciences. Find out more here: www.bartokbelafikar.hu
Spīgo will be the choir representing host nation Latvia, so expect their performance to go ‘big in the hall’ to borrow a phrase from the Song Contest! Spīgo is actually a school choir, made up entirely of female voice and established in 1977 at Jelgava’s 4th secondary school. The choir celebrate their 40th anniversary this year knowing that they have an impressive history, like all our choirs, having won multiple awards over the years for their outstanding choral vocal ability. Spīgo have been under the direction of Līga Celma-Kursiete since 2004. Līga studied music composition at the Latvian Academy of Music with further studies in The Hague and Copenhagen before moving back to her native Latvia. Find out more here: www.4vsk.jelgava.lv (Latvian language only)
Carmen Manet, which means “the song remains”, is one of the newest of all the choirs performing in the contest. Established just 6 years ago, this all-female chamber choir has already built up an impressive repertoire and achieved great results in a number of international choir competitions. Added to that just two years after it’s inception the choir released their first CD ‘The Song of the Northern Wind’, which showcases the work of composers from Northern Europe. Primož Kerštanj has been directing and conducting the group since its beginnings. Although this choir maybe relatively new Primož himself has been conducting choirs since 2000 and has a rich background in composing and arranging music for choirs, Primož was a juror at the Linz International Choral Competition, so will his experience on the judging front be helpful to Carmen Manet’s success on Saturday? Find out more here: http://carmenmanet.splet.arnes.si (English language option available)
Côr Merched Sir Gâr is a female youth choir made up of girls from secondary schools across Carmarthenshire in western Wales. The Welsh people have a long tradition of music and song and, this being the only Celtic country represented, we can expect to see some of that ancient tradition as well as the beautiful Welsh language in their performance. The youngest of our 2017 choirs Côr Merched Sir Gâr was established five years ago but have already been invited to perform at The Royal Albert Hall in London and won the title of Côr Cymru 2017 (Choir of Wales 2017) just a few months ago. It was this win that saw Welsh TV network S4C select them to represent Wales here in Riga. The choir is lead by the ever-so charismatic Islwyn Evans, a popular and much loved figure in Wales, having conducted many choirs in the past, and been a representative of the Association of British Choral Directors, Islwyn brings a fresh new wind to the world of the Welsh choirs. Find out more here: www.s4c.cymru/en/music/cor-cymru/
How To Watch
Depending on where you are in Europe/the World, depends on how you can watch the show. The easiest way is through the official YouTube channel. There are already videos on the channel introducing each of the choirs, so you be up-to-speed by the time Saturday comes around.
I’ll be back on Friday with some more information about the judging, updates from rehearsals and essential viewing information for the 2017 Eurovision Choir of the Year.