Feature Part 2: Learn more about the participants of Choir of the Year!
In part 1 of our Eurovision Choir of the Year feature, we discussed the basics of the newcomer to the Eurovision family of events, including what the contest is, and where it will be held this year. Today, we want to go more in depth about the choirs that will be participating in the contest! (We will continue to update this post with the Participants intro videos from the official Eurovision Choir of the Year YouTube channel as they become available)
Austrian Choir Hard-Chor was formed back in 2007 by a group of singers from the third largest city of Austria, Linz. Celebrating their 10th anniversary this year, the group will be able to show off their incredible talent across different genres of music.
The group is versatile and adaptable, making the group perfectly suited to the event they’re about to perform at in Riga, Latvia. Each member has a place in the choir, with possibilities to perform 40-part harmonies, a-cappella or with instruments to back them up. Authenticity is the most important to the choir and founding member Alexander Koller. Alexander himself began his journey in music from the age of 4. In June of 2004, he graduated from the University of Music and Performing Arts in Vienna, and a year after, he completed his master’s degree. He then went on to study choral conducting and music teaching, which led to his role as part of Hard-Chor.
Participant: Les Pastoureaux Boys’ Choir
The Belgian choir The Pastoureaux Boys’ Choir was first formed in 1974 and is composed of talented boys between the ages of 7 and 14. The boys sing both the Soprano and Alto parts, while older males join the choir to fulfil the Tenor and Bass parts. The choir has performed all over the world, in over 1000 concerts, which has given them invaluable experience which is all helpful with their upcoming role.
Solidarity is at the core of the project, where the members meet twice a week within the vocal sub groups to practice their parts of the performance songs. As a whole, the choir meets once or twice a month to practice together. Some of their most prestigious performances include at international festivals at Pozan in Poland, Lago di Como in Italy and the World Peace Festival in Vienna, Austria. They have also taken part in a number of television shows and films. Conductor Philippe Favette began his music career at a young age, and has won several prizes for his performances in Belgium and abroad. He has conducted a number of choirs around the world, and has given masterclasses in Austria and even in the United States.
Participant: Academic Choir Aarhus
The Academic Choir Aarhus comprises of a range of voice styles from around 30 talented singers aged 20-35. The choir was originally founded in 1985, and is led by conductor Ole Faurschou. All members of the choir have a connection with the University of Aarhus or The Royal Academy of Music, Aarhus. The choir performs mainly new Danish or Nordic choral music, but also capable of performing a wide variety of genres from different eras such as the Renaissance to the Romantic period.
The group mainly performs in Denmark, although they have had experiences in the United States, China, Spain and across Scandinavia. The group have collaborated with the Aarhus Symphony Orchestra, and have released several albums. In terms of competition experience, the group has won first place at the 6th Musica Sacra a Roma, International Choir Festival and Competition in July 2015. Leader of the group Ole Faurschou has graduated from the University of Music and Performing Arts in Vienna, Austria, where he studied orchestral conduction. In 2006, he won the ‘Best Conductor’ at the 8th China International Chorus Festival in Beijing, and has since offered guest lectures in Denmark and abroad.
Participant: The Estonian Television Girls’ Choir
The Estonian Television Girls’ Choir was established in 1990 by Aarne Saluveer, who is the choir’s artistic director. Over the years, the choir has grown to be an internationally recognised group of musicians, whose musical style ranges from folk, to pop and jazz. Today, the choir comprised of about 25 to 30 singers between the ages of 15 and 25, many of which have had a musical education to some degree. The choir has had experience of giving concert tours as the cultural ambassador of Estonia across the world, and has performed on international television and radio stations.
Aarne Saluveer is an award winning choral conductor and music teacher, who graduated from Tallinn State Conservatory in Choral Conducting and music pedagogy.
Participant: Jazzchor Freiburg
Bertrand Gröger established the Jazzchor Freiburg back in 1990, and has since gained momentum as a renowned choir. The choir has toured and performed at concerts across the world, and also won 1st place at the German Choir Contest back in 1998. They also won first place in the Choir Olympiad in South Korea in 2002. They have also had significant experience on television and radio, and their recordings have brought the choir acclaim in Germany and beyond.
The Jazzchor Freiburg combines a high musical standard with an entertaining performance. The choir takes classic songs and recreates them with elements of Scat, Rap and Shout elements. The choir is also accompanied by its own band.
Bertrand Gröger studied classical music in Freiburg and Paris, and Jazz in Hamburg. He was awarded the ZMF Prize in 1997 for his work as a choir director, and has toured around the world as part of his own band Tune Up. As a composer and arranger, Bertrand is self-taught, which makes his achievements even more incredible. He arranges and composes a large proportion of the Jazzchor Freiburgs’s repertoire, and he has work been published for other reputable orchestras and choirs.
Participant: The Béla Bartók Male Choir
The Hungarian choir representing the nation at the first ever Eurovision Choir of the Year competition is The Béla Bartók Male Choir, which was founded back in 1945 in Pécs, Hungary. Prof. Dr Lakner Tamás has been the conductor of the group since 1980. Over the years, the choir has had incredible success, including at national and international competitions and festivals. They have performed in all corners of the world, including as far as North and South America.
The choir has won 42 prizes in some of the most prestigious competitions, including those in Vienna, Rome, Budapest and Cornwall, and recently they finished first at the 12th Beijing International Choir Competition. They have also released several recordings.
Prof. Dr Lakner Tamás has studied conducting at the Liszt Ferenc Academy of Music in Budapest, and is currently the Professor of Choral Conducting at the Pécs University of Sciences. He has won various awards over the years, including the Bartók Memorial Plaque and the Liszt Award, which are the highest recognitions for the field in Hungary.
The host nation of the first Eurovision Choir of the Year will be represented by Spīgo, the girls’ choir of Jelgava’s 4th secondary school in Latvia. The choir was established in 1977, and is currently directed by Līga Celma-Kursiete, who has been the artistic director since 2004. The choir has won awards, including the Latvian School Youth Song Festival Grand Prix (how’s that for a long name!) in 1995, 2005, 2010 and 2015. The choir has participated and won international choir competitions also, including competitions in Vienna, Venice, Cracow and Tampere among others.
Līga Celma-Kursiete gained her Bachelor degree in music pedagogy in 2000, and then in 2007 she finished a Master’s degree in composition at the Latvian Academy of Music. She has completed composition studies at the Hague and Copenhagen, and has worked with well-known members of the industry. Prominent choirs have performed her compositions as well!
Participant: Carmen Manet
Carmen Manet was founded in 2011, and comprises of talented females. The singers are from past and present generations of the Gimnazija Kranj Girls Choir. Carmen Manet has been led by Primož Kerštanj since its inception, and the choir has achieved great successes since its beginnings. Selected alumni of the Gimnazija Kranj choir grouped together for the 200th anniversary of their alma mater, and because it ended up being such a successful performance, the women decided to stick together and that’s how Carmen Manet was formed! The name of the choir means ‘the song remains’ in Latin.
Although the choir is relatively new in comparison to its Eurovision Choir of the Year competitors, the choir has achieved amazing results at international competitions in Italy, Switzerland and China among others. In 2013, they released their first CD titled The Song of the Northern Wind is a collection of compositions written by composers originating from Northern Europe.
Primož Kerštanj began his music education in Jesenice, Slovenia. He then graduated from the Conservatory of Music in the nation’s capital, Ljubljana, and then went on to study at Ljubljana’s Academy of Music. He participates in workshops and symposiums across the world, and has conducted several choirs in his career.
Participant: Côr Merched Sir Gâr
We don’t usually see Wales as an independent representative at Eurovision, however they’re taking part in the first Eurovision Choir of the Year competition with the choir Côr Merched Sir Gâr! The choir is made up of secondary school girls from the county of Carmarthenshire in the west of Wales. The choir was formed 5 years ago, and is conducted by Mr Islwyn Evans, who is a successful Welsh conductor. The choir performs a range of music and in many languages, including Welsh.
Since its inception, the choir has achieved great amounts of success, including an invitation to perform at the Royal Albert Hall in London as part of the Music For Youth Proms. This year, the choir won the title of Côr Cymru 2017 – Choir of Wales.
Islwyn Evans is the founder and conductor of two choirs, Ysgol Gerdd Ceredigion and Cywair, as well as being the conductor of the National Youth Choir of Wales. He has won various awards, and represented the British Choral Directors at conventions across the world. He studied at the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama, and began his teaching career back in West Wales.