Estonian National Male Choir turns 70
The Estonian National Male Choir (RAM) will celebrate its 70th anniversary with a concert tour of the country of their favorite songs from Friday to Sunday. A gala concert will take place on Sunday at the Estonia Concert Hall.
RAM was founded in 1944 by the legendary composer and leader of the Estonian choral movement, Gustav Ernesaks. The first official performance was given in January 1945. Ernesaks was the the chief conductor of the choir until 1975 and later acted as its artistic director.
The choir has also been conducted by several highly esteemed choral conductors, including Olev Oja, Kuno Areng, Ants Üleoja, Ants Soots and Kaspars Putninš.
In its 70-year history, RAM has given more than 6,500 concerts all over Estonia, in many cities of the former Soviet Union, as well as Western European countries, Israel, Canada and the US.
The repertoire includes music from a cappella choral music to large-scale works by composers like Bach, Brahms, Mozart and many others. Apart from Estonian composers, Dmitri Shostakovich, Gavin Bryars and others have also written music for RAM.
RAM was the first Estonian choir to perform at the Carnegie Hall in New York in 1989 and the first Estonian collective to be awarded a Grammy Award in 2004 in the category of Best Choral Performance for their recording of Sibelius' cantatas (Virgin Classics, 2003). A year later, their recording of Edvard Grieg's Peer Gynt was voted the Orchestral Album of the Year by BBC Music Magazine.
The current chief conductor, Mikk Üleoja, said that RAM needs to be acknowledged as a national treasure. "RAM is turning 70, but one should not harbor misconceptions that our members are as old. We give a lot of concerts to break that myth. We gave seven concerts all over Estonia in October alone. All concerts ended with standing ovations. This gives the conductor and the choir such emotional charge that it's hard to sleep at night," he said.
In addition to concerts in Estonia, RAM's plans for the anniversary season include performances in Israel, Canada, France and Germany.