Veteran choir director, Song Festival chief conductor Olev Oja dies at 87

Olev Oja.
Olev Oja. Source: Estonian Choral Association

Estonian Academy of Music and Theater (EMTA) professor emeritus, Estonian National Male Choir (RAM) chief conductor and veteran Song Festival chief conductor Olev Oja died on Monday; he was 87 years old.

Olev Oja was born on December 16, 1935 in Viljandi, where he began his music studies. His education continued at Tallinn Music School, where he studied under Laine Karindi.

Oja graduated from Tallinn Conservatory, where he had studied choral conducting under Gustav Ernesaks and later orchestral conducting under Roman Matsov.

Choir directors of Estonia's XIX Song Festival: Kuno Areng, Harald Uibo, Venno Laul, Gustav Ernesaks and Olev Oja. July 1980. Source: Jaan Rõõmus/ERR

As chief conductor of RAM, Oja began commissioning new choral works with a modern sound from Estonian composers for the choir. Among others, he proved a major advocate and performer and conductor of composer Veljo Tormis' work.

From 1974-2005, Oja served as choral conducting and choral score reading lecturer at EMTA, where among his students were Aavo Ots, Vello Pähn, Arvo Volmer, Aivo Välja, Tarmo Vaask and Endrik Üksvärav. From 2008-2020, Oja taught music history at the Kuusalu School of Fine Arts.

For his contributions to preserving and promoting Estonian choir music, Olev Oja was bestowed the Order of the White Star, 4th Class as well as several other cultural prizes.

He was named an honorary member (auliige) of EMTA in 2009.


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Editor: Aili Vahtla

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