The 2017 International Competition will see 7 choirs compete for the 'Oak Tree of Derry' trophy and a cash prize of £2,000.
Chantage, directed by James Davey, was formed in 1999 and quickly established itself in London as a stylish and energetic young chamber choir. It is now one of the UK’s leading amateur choirs, drawing its singers from all over the country and from all walks of life.
Winners of the Grand Prix at the Malta International Choir Festival in 2015 and BBC Radio 3 Choir of the Year competition in 2006, Chantage released a top-selling Christmas CD with EMI in 2008, recorded live with Elbow at Abbey Road Studios in 2009, and it is frequently featured on Classic FM and BBC radio and TV (including a stint as the ONE Show’s ‘Complaints Choir’).
The choir made its debut at the BBC Proms in 2014, premiering Meld by Benedict Mason, rated by The Guardian newspaper as being in the top 10 Classical performances of the year.
Collegium Vocale, Norway
Ketil Jule Bjørnstad Belsaas
Collegium Vocale is one of the leading mixed voice amateur choirs in Norway and was founded in 1971. Ketil Jule Bjørnstad Belsaas has been the choir’s conductor since 2010. Although the choir has its rehearsals in Hamar, its 30 members are drawn from all over the region. The choir’s repertoire ranges from church music to contemporary, folk and popular music.
In recent years the choir has achieved excellent results in national and international competitions, including gold medals at Musica Mundi, Malta (2009), Riva del Garda, Italy (2013) and the International Choir Competition in Marktoberdorf in Germany (2007). In the 2012 Norwegian National Competition of Choir Music the choir received two gold diplomas and it was awarded a further two gold diplomas in the 2015 National Competition. Collegium Vocale performs with professional Norwegian and international soloists. The choir is also engaged as a festival choir and as a seminar choir for students of choir music.
Eller Girls' Choir, Estonia
Eller Girls’ Choir was founded in 2010 when a music studio was set up in Heino Eller Tartu Music College. Its singers are all aged 14 to 19 and study at high schools in Tartu or at Heino Eller College. The choir’s current members have been singing together since November 2016 and their assistant conductor is Kärolin Orav.
Taking part in international competitions has been an important part of the choir’s activities, alongside concerts at school and in Tartu. In 2013, the choir won 1st prize in the youth category of Malta’s International Choir Competition. In 2015, it won 1st prize in the youth choir category and 2nd prize in the sacred music category at the International Canta al Mar Competition in Spain. The choir was also awarded a special prize for best performance of the competition for its interpretation of ‘Peace upon you, Jerusalem’ by Arvo Pärt.
Freamunde Vocal Ensemble, Portugal
Freamunde Vocal Ensemble was established in October 2004. Directed by Maestro Sílvio Cortez since then, it recorded its first CD in 2007. Its repertoire is diverse and carefully selected by the maestro, and the choir particularly enjoys singing folk music. In addition to numerous performances in Portugal, Freamunde Vocal Ensemble has participated in festivals in Spain, Italy, Norway and Greece.
At the Cantonigròs International Music Festival, Barcelona (July 2008) the choir was awarded 6th place and went on to win the Vivace International Choir Festival in Hungary (August 2008). It also took part in the III International Choir Festival in Randers, Denmark (August 2009) and the 16th International Choral Festival in Provence, France (July 2011).
It has performed a number of large-scale works, including Carmina Burana by Carl Orff, Fauré’s Requiem and, most recently, Beethoven’s Missa Solemnis at the opening concert of the 2013 Days of Music at Belém Cultural Centre.
Freamunde Vocal Ensemble has also appeared on the TV programmes Câmara Clara and Portugal no Coração.
Laetare Vocal Ensemble, Ireland
Laetare Vocal Ensemble is a mixed choir based in Dublin. The choir was formed in September 2014, and since then has enjoyed a vibrant and varied range of performance and recording opportunities. Laetare has won awards at a number of festivals, including National Choir of the Year at the Navan Choral Festival, Premier Choir at the Mayo International Choral Festival, and the Sacred Music, Mixed Choir and W. B. Yeats prizes at the Sligo International Choral Festival. The choir has a particular interest in contemporary music and was delighted to win the CMC Trophy for the Performance of Irish Contemporary Music at the 2016 Cork International Choral Festival.
Conductor Dr Róisín Blunnie is a graduate of Trinity College Dublin and the Kodály Institute in Hungary. She was Head of the Music Department at Mater Dei Institute in Dublin until the Institute’s recent incorporation into Dublin City University, and she is now based in the School of Theology, Philosophy, and Music in DCU’s Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences. Laetare recently released a CD of choral works by Róisín’s DCU colleagues, composers Seán Doherty, Rhona Clarke and John Buckley.
Mundus Cantat, Poland
The SSW Festival Choir Mundus Cantat was founded in August 2009 and in September 2012 Sopot University Sopocka Szkoła Wyzsza took the choir under its wings. The choir has taken part in choral festivals in Mexico, Serbia, Colombia, the Czech Republic, Italy and Spain.
In January 2013 Mundus Cantat won the Golden Ribbon at the VIII Competition of Carols and Christmas Songs in Chełmno, Poland, and it won its first Grand Prix the following summer at the Dvořák International Choir Festival in Prague, Czech Republic.
Since August 2015 the choir has been directed by Beata Wróblewska, a lecturer in Gdańsk Music Academy. Under her guidance the choir won two silver diplomas and third prize at the 2015 lnternational Choral Competition ‘Canco Mediterrania’ in Lloret de Mar, Spain, and a silver diploma at the 2016 International Choral Festival ‘Liviu Borlan’ in Baia Mare, Romania.
Each year Mundus Cantat hosts the International Choir Festival Mundus Cantat in Sopot and Gdansk.
Sjølund Chamber Choir, Denmark
Martin Legéne Jensen
Sjølund Chamber Choir is based in Copenhagen, Denmark. In spring 2016 the choir celebrated its 50th anniversary. It therefore has a long history and is renowned throughout Denmark. Since January 2017 the choir has been conducted by Martin Legéne. He was a pupil of two former conductors, Morten Schuldt-Jensen and Jan Scheerer. For almost 30 years the choir has thus followed the same musical approach, which has created a long tradition of understanding the common space created when choir and conductor work together.
The choir’s ethos is that the singers give of themselves individually whilst simultaneously giving themselves over to the common project. The singers work hard during rehearsals, tours and concerts to accomplish this, and the close cooperation between singers and conductor is visible and audible to the audience.
Over the years, the choir has competed successfully in choir competitions in Wales, Austria, Hungary and Malta. Most of its concerts take place in churches, and its repertoire ranges from early Renaissance and Baroque to music by contemporary composers.