The Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir to tour the US and Canada

The Grammy Award-winning Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir, conducted by Tõnu Kaljuste, will perform four concerts in the US and Canada in February, featuring the works by Arvo Pärt and Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina.

The concerts will take place from 1 to 8 February at St. Ignatius Loyola Church in New York (1 February), St. Paul’s Basilica in Toronto (3 February), St. John’s Episcopal Church in Georgetown, Washington, DC (6 February), and the Episcopal Cathedral in Philadelphia (8 February).

According to Tõnu Kaljuste, the concert programme is like “a stained-glass window of the experience of choral music” through the centuries. “It contains fragments of polyphony from the heyday of the Renaissance and contemporary music from the 20th century. The listener feels as if he is attending a church service and a concert at the same time, because Pärt’s musical world touches on various offshoots of Christian culture, while Palestrina’s ‘Offertories’ are clearly part of a religious service,” he said in a statement.

The Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir performing Arvo Pärt’s “Salve Regina”.

Kaljuste added that the polyphony of the European Renaissance was a source of inspiration for Arvo Pärt, guiding his Tintinnabulian musical language towards a similar sensibility.

Cultural links with the USA

The Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir’s cultural ties with the US date back to the 1990s, when cross-Atlantic tours took place every two or three years in various venues on both the east and west coasts. 

From 2013 to 2018, the chamber choir gave concerts in the USA almost every year, including performances on the most famous stages: Carnegie Hall in New York City, the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC, and the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles. In its concerts, the choir has always presented Estonian composers, and as a result, the collective has developed its own knowledgeable audience and dedicated followers who are keenly interested in Estonian music, as evidenced by packed concert halls.

The Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir in front of the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles. Photo by Tõnu Tormis.

According to Esper Linnamägi, the executive director of the Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir, the choir has a well-established market in the US. “Estonian music and musicians have always been awaited by audiences there, and after the hiatus caused by COVID, we are pleased to be able to restore the continuity of the tours,” he said.

Sponsored by the Estonian American National Council

The February 2024 concert tour is the choir’s 17th US tour and is organised by New World Classics and its director Kerby Lovallo, with whom the choir has worked successfully since 1995. The tour is supported by the Estonian American National Council – an organisation founded in New York in 1952 as the voice of the Estonian American community, to unite Estonians living in the USA and to support the restoration of Estonian independence.

The Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir was founded in 1981 by Tõnu Kaljuste and over the years has performed works by both international and Estonian composers, including Arvo Pärt, Veljo Tormis, Erkki-Sven Tüür, Tõnu Kõrvits and Cyrillus Kreek. Among the choir’s most internationally acclaimed recordings are the Grammy-winning albums “Arvo Pärt. Da Pacem” (Harmonia Mundi, 2007) and “Arvo Pärt. Adam’s Lament” (ECM, 2013); the choir has received a total of 16 Grammy nominations over the years.

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