Foto: Kaupo Kikkas

In February 2024, the Grammy-award winning Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir (EPCC) together with conductor Tõnu Kaljuste, will once again embark after a five-year hiatus, on a long-awaited concert tour to the United States and Canada, where they will give four concerts featuring the works of Arvo Pärt and Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina. For several years Arvo Pärt has been chosen as the most performed living composer in the world.

The EPCC concerts are scheduled for February 1–8, at St. Ignatius Loyola Church in New York (Feb 1st), St. Paul’s Basilica in Toronto (Feb 3rd), St. John’s Episcopal Church in Georgetown – Washington, DC (Feb 6th), and the Episcopal Cathedral in Philadelphia (Feb 8th).

According to Tõnu Kaljuste, the concert program is like a stained-glass of choral music experience through the centuries. “It contains fragments of polyphony from the height of the Renaissance era and contemporary music of the 20th century. The listener finds themselves as if attending both a church service and a concert simultaneously, as Pärt’s musical world touches various offshoots of Christian culture, while Palestrina’s ‘Offertories’ are clearly parts of a religious service.” Kaljuste adds that the European Renaissance polyphony has been a source of inspiration for Arvo Pärt and guided his tintinnabuli musical language towards a similar sensibility.

The Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir’s cultural ties with the US date back to 1990, when cross-Atlantic tours occurred consistently every two or three years in various venues on both the East and West Coasts.  From 2013–2018, the chamber choir gave concerts in the US almost every year, including performances on the most famous of stages: Carnegie Hall in New York City, The Kennedy Center in Washington, DC, and The Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles. At its concerts, EPCC has always introduced Estonian composers, and as a result, the chamber choir has developed its own knowledgeable audience and dedicated followers who are keenly interested in Estonian music, as evidenced by full concert halls. The February 2024 concert tour marks the choir’s 17th U.S. tour and is organized by the New World Classics artist management company and its Director, Kerby Lovallo, with whom the choir has successfully collaborated with since 1995.

According to Esper Linnamägi, the managing 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 the audience there, and after the pause caused by Covid, we are pleased to restore the continuity of tours. This concert tour is supported by the Estonian American National Council (EANC/ERKÜ),” says Linnamägi.

The Estonian American National Council (EANC), the EPCC’s concert tour partner and supporter, was established in New York in 1952 as the voice of the Estonian American community, to unite Estonians living in the United States and to support the restoration of Estonia’s independence. Since the restoration of Estonia’s independence in 1991, EANC has focused on supporting Estonian cultural activities and organizations in the United States and continues to stand for Estonian and Estonian American interests, working to raise awareness of Estonia among all Americans.

For more than 42 years, the activities of the Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir and conductor Tõnu Kaljuste have brought the works of many Estonian composers to the world, including those of Arvo Pärt, Veljo Tormis, Erkki-Sven Tüür, Tõnu Kõrvits, Cyrillus Kreek, and others.  EPCC’s most internationally acclaimed recordings include the Grammy award-winning records “Arvo Pärt. Da Pacem” (Harmonia Mundi, 2007) and “Arvo Pärt. Adam’s Lament” (ECM, 2013); EPCC has 16 Grammy nominations over the years.

The concert tour is organized in cooperation with the Embassy of Estonia in Washington, D.C., the Consulate General of Estonia in New York, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Estonia, and the Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Estonia.

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