Swedish Radio Choir in the Cities

by Alison Young, Minnesota Public Radio
February 22, 2010

St. Paul, Minn. — In the early '50s, a professor at Sweden's Uppsala University took a classical choir operating under the auspices of the nation's public radio, and turned it into one of the most flexible and powerful choral instruments known in the world.

That man was Eric Ericson and his choir, the Swedish Radio Choir.

Ericson couldn't have come at a more auspicious moment when Sweden's young and daring composers were looking for an outlet for their creations. Ericson's wide-ranging interests in repertoire, his innovative teaching techniques and the choir's flexibility provided the perfect spring-board.

It wasn't just Sweden taking notice. When Arthur Honegger heard his music sung exactly as he envisioned it, he declared this choir could sing anything. And singing everything is their "specialty" Palestrina, Brahms, Strauss as well as some of the great choral music other choirs wouldn't dare touch.

It wasn't long before the greats of the 20th century began writing for them including Gyorgy Ligeti and Krzysztof Penderecki.

Since Ericson's retirement after 30 years as Music Director (he is still on the choir's roster as Conductor Emeritus) the choir has been led by musicians opening fresh vistas for the choir.

Baroque specialist, Anders Ohrwall; Gustaf Sjokvist, who premiered works by Sven-David Sandstrom, Tomas Jennefelt and Hans Gefors; Tonu Kaljuste who presented new repertoire from Eastern Europe like Arvo Part and Alfred Schnittke; and Stefan Parkman who explored all all of Bach's major works. The choir is led today by the winner of the Eric Ericson Award, Peter Dijkstra.

On February 26, 2010, the 32-voiced a capella choir performed at the Ted Mann Concert Hall in Minneapolis with a challenging, insightful and deeply moving program that includes classic Swedish works by Hugo Alfven and Sven David Sandstrom, a set of madrigals by American composer Ned Rorem, Mahler's dreamy "I am Lost to the World" which echoes one of his most important symphonic 'Adagiettos', as well as the heavenly Mass for Double Choir by the Swiss Frank Martin -- a work rarely heard in its entirety.

Ragnar Bohlin, the Director of the San Francisco Symphony Chorus - a group that just clinched the grammy for best choral performance in Mahler's Symphony No. 8 - guest conducted the Swedish Radio Choir's Minneapolis concert.

Take a listen to a recent performance by the Swedish Radio Choir online including Anders Hillborg's "Mouyiyuom," a cosmic meditation of sounds.

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