Choral singing is a strong tradition of the Baltics. Many choral works and traditional songs of these regions have been obliterated by genocide and cultural enslavement. But these traditions are being continued, and one group doing just this has received international acclaim. The Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir (EPCC) has graced the Billboard Top 100, and has been nominated for four Grammy Awards.

In 1971, Tõnu Kaljuste took over conducting duties of the amateur chamber choir Ellerheim, which was originally a childrens choir founded by his father, Heino Kaljuste. In 1981, Tõnu reorganized the choir into the Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir, and began recording albums and touring the world with his group. In 1991, they travelled to Japan for the 1991 Takarazuka Chamber Choir Competition. They won three gold medals and the Grand Prix Award. They apparently haven't felt the need to compete since.

Tõnu Kaljuste remains conductor, but the choir is directed and often conducted by Paul Hillier, from England. They perform roughly 60 concerts annually, usually all across Europe. They have also toured Australia, Canada, Japan, and the USA. Their programs often contain gregorian chants and Baroque music, particularly the works of Bach. Their main focus, however is Estonian music.

Estonian works comprise the bulk of the music sung by the EPCC. They cover compositions spanning all of Estonian history, up to and including the works of present day composers. In particular, they sing the works of their composer Tõnu Kaljuste, and Estonian composer Veljo Tormis.

Veljo Tormis is the composer of the Grammy nominated album "Litany to Thunder", which contains the startling track Curse Upon Iron. This song is tribal and fierce in a way that modern angst rock can only dream of. Uttering of curses, Estonian mythology of the source of iron, and discordant wailing chill the spine in this song. Other compositions of Veljo Tormis recorded by the EPCC include "Forgotten Peoples", which contains choral songs from traditions that have been lost to time and inhumanity.


Sources:


http://www.epce.ee/- The official page of the EPCC

http://www.ecmrecords.com/ecm/artists/112.html- ECM records
http://www.soundstreams.ca/ReachFeb02.pdf

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