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The singers of the Norwegian ensemble Nordic Voices very much enjoy experimenting with their voices, testing their limits and going beyond them. In their programmes, which mostly combine old and contemporary music, they explore the wide spectrum of the forms of musical expression and often cause surprise with their use of unusual vocal techniques.
Voices was founded in 1996 and has since then established itself internationally as a leading ensemble of its type. The six members – three women and three men – are either graduates of the Norwegian Academy of Music or the Opera Academy Oslo. Together, they have an enormous wealth of experience from the fields of opera, composition, church music and choral conducting.
They take great pleasure in performing the vocal music of their home country and work together closely with Norwegian composers such as Lasse Thoresen. Of equal value to them is the music of the renaissance, which they master with equal skill. In 2009 the CD „Lamentations“ was published by Chandos with works from Palestrina, Gesualdo and White, about which the FonoForum wrote in appreciation that Nordic Voices „did not need to fear comparison with the best English groups. The ensemble has recorded a total of 5 CDs. Nordic Voices works not only together with Norwegian composers but also with other performers, for example at the moment with the Norwegian jazz trumpeter Nils-Petter Molvaer.
The six singers have toured from South Africa to Taiwan and in 2005 they represented Norway at the World Choral Symposium in Kyoto. In recent years they have performed concerts mainly in the USA, Canada und Europe.
At Musica Sacra International Nordic Voices can be heard singing religious works from Scandinavia.
The Schola Gregoriana Pragensis was founded in 1987 by David Eben and belongs today to one of the best known interpreters of mediaeval sacred music. Its founder and Artistic Director, David Eben concentrates on the one hand on the semiological interpretation of the Gregorian chants based on the oldest neumatic sources from the 9th – 11th centuries, on the other hand on the performance of Gregorian chants from their own Bohemian choral tradition including the early polyphony of the 15th and 16th centuries. Thanks to an intensive study of mediaeval sources, their programmes also contain a whole series of unique, newly discovered compositions from the 13th – 15th centuries. The ensemble‘s repertoire covers more than twenty concert programmes which are related to different liturgical periods, themes and regions.
The Schola Gregoriana Pragensis gives regular concerts in the Czech Republic and abroad. In June 2008, the ensemble undertook for the first time a concert tour together with the Japanese Buddhist monks Gyosan-ryū Tendai Shōmyō in the Czech Republic, Germany and Luxemburg. On the occasion of Musica Sacra International it has been possible to re-initiate this unique dialogue between Christian choirs and Buddhist singing. So it is that both ensembles will meet together again in Marktoberdorf in order to present the concert audiences with the exciting interaction of these ancient singing traditions.
Conductor: David Eben
David Eben was born in 1965 in Prague. Already during his studies, he concentrated on mediaeval music and above all on Gregorian chants. Since 1993 he has taught at the Institute for Musicology at the Karl University in Prague. In 2007 he received the postdoctoral qualification for the theory and practice of Gregorian chants at the Academy for the Musical Arts in Prague. He regularly holds courses for Gregorian music in Switzerland, France and Belgium. Alongside his work in musicology, David Eben concentrates on the interpretation of Gregorian chants. In 1987 he founded the ensemble Schola Gregoriana Pragensis, which has made numerous CD recordings and given concerts in almost all European countries, Israel and Japan.
In the Bavarian State Youth Jazz Orchestra about 300 young, active Bavarian jazz musicians meet together. They are between 10 and 25 years old. After an audition, the talented youngsters, who have mainly been discovered and encouraged through the state „Youth jazz“ competition, can join the orchestra’s cadre. The members come together 4 times a year to working sessions in the Bavarian Music Academies. The concert orchestra makes about 20 public appearances a year, concert tours and interesting crossover projects with other orchestras or ensembles. Several concert tours at home and abroad (USA 1997, Romania 2000, Russia 2001, Czech Republic 2004, 2005, 2006, South East Asia 2014) have provided convincing proof of the orchestra’s successful educational work.
The orchestra is first and foremost and educational institution. In the work with the orchestra, in addition to the individual training of musical ability in the relevant instrument a main aim is to increase knowledge and the ability to play together with other musicians in a Big Band. In addition, the young musicians should gain an insight into the professional music business.
In 2004, the orchestra already took part successfully in Musica Sacra International. At that time, they performed the Requiem by Nils Lindberg. Especially for Musica Sacra International, the orchestra has prepared the Requiem for Choir und Big Band from the British composer Steve Gray, which has only been performed a few times.
Conductor: Harald Rüschenbaum
Harald Rüschenbaum is a much sought-after drummer and workshop leader on the international scene. He works as a soloist and also leads various ensembles. He has been the artistic director of the Bavarian State Youth Jazz Orchestra since 1993. Since 2004 he has been a Big Band teacher at the University for Music and Drama in Munich. Harald Rüschenbaum’s work has been rewarded, among other things with a Prize from the German Phonoakademie, the Cultural Promotion Prize of the City of Munich and the Federal German Cross of Merit.
The Lagos City Chorale was founded in 1988 by Sir Emeka Nwokedi and Senator Lere Adesina in the previous capital city of Nigeria. Since then, the choir has developed into becoming an important musical ambassador of its home country. In addition to concerts in Lagos, Abuja and other towns in Nigeria, there soon followed invitations to perform abroad. Concert tours have led the Lagos City Chorale to the USA, China, Austria, Dubai, Latvia and Germany. Since 2012 the choir has enjoyed several successes at international choral competitions, the latest being at the World Choir Games in 2014 in Riga/Latvia and the 2nd European Choir Games in August 2015 in Magdeburg. The original aim of the choir was to close a musical gap and provide an example for encouraging choral music in Africa.
For this, the choir has gradually prepared a repertoire of demanding works such as cantatas, oratorios, masses as well as choral works from Nigeria and other cultures in the world. In almost all its concerts, the choir performs choral music from its homeland. A further aim of the choral work is to enable talented musicians to further develop their personalities, especially in the vocal area. The choir’s model soon became an example for other singing groups in Nigeria and beyond.
Conductor: Sir Emeka Nwokedi
The founder and Artistic Director of the ensemble is Emeka Nwokedi, who studied music at the University of Nigeria in Nsukka and since obtaining his degree in the early 80s has been a tireless motor within the music scene in Nigeria. In addition to the Lagos City Chorale, which he founded in 1988 together with Senator Lere Adesina, he also leads the choir of the Musical Society of Nigeria (MUSON) and the MUSON School Diploma Choir. As a church musician, he is the organist and musical director at the All Saints Church in Surulere, Lagos and diocese organist and choral conductor of the Anglican Diocese Lagos Mainland. In addition, he was active as Music Director of the Orpheus Company Limited, a leading music company in Nigeria. In 1992 at the invitation of the Musical Society of Nigeria (MUSON) he joined up as member of the artistic committee and the MUSON Festival committee. He is an adviser for Shell Nigeria and coordinator of the Shell Choral Competitions. He also leads a choir workshop which is attended by more than 2000 pupils every year from secondary schools and he teaches African music, singing and conducting at the MUSON Music School.
Nikola David, München (Song)
Nikola David was born in 1973 in Bela Crkva in what was then Yugoslavia. H studied singing and musical education at the Music Academy in Novi Sad. In 1998 he came with a grant from the Anni-Eisler-Lehmann Foundation to Germany and completed his artistic postgraduate studies at the Peter Cornelius Conservatory in Mainz.
There followed performances at important international festivals such as the antique festival in Trier, at the Chamber Opera in Schloss Rheinsberg as well as guest appearances in Bulgaria, Israel, Norway, Switzerland, Greece, Macedonia and Montenegro.
His stage performances led him to the Eisenach Opera, to the Anhalt Theatre in Dessau and to the municipal theatre in Augsburg. As a solo tenor he has interpreted numerous important roles of the classical repertoire. As an Oratorio singer he has given concerts at home and abroad with works from Bach, Mozart (Requiem), Haydn (The Creation), Mendelssohn (Elias), Schubert (Mass in G major) and Honegger (King David). From 2008-2013 Nikola David was a cantor student at the Abraham Geiger College and the University of Potsdam. He was invested as Cantor on April 4th 2013 in the Erfurt synagogue. After several years as the head of the cultural programme of the Israeli Cultural Community in Augsburg-Swabia he is now Cantor of the Beth Shalom Liberal Jewish community in Munich and the Liberal Minjan in Stuttgart.
Bettina Strübel, Frankfurt (Organ)
Bettina Strübel studied church music at the University for Music in Cologne. After passing her A examination, there followed postgraduate studies in the organ under Peter Neumann in Cologne and under Prof. Wolfgang Zerer in Hamburg. In 1994 she finished her studies with the examination as a concert artist. She visited numerous master classes (conducting, organ) and gave organ concerts at home and abroad. Since 2011she has worked in Frankfurt on the Main. Here, she has initiated interreligious choral projects such as a trialogical choral project based on the Queen of Sheba or the series „Tehillim-Psalms: in dialogue“. Together with the Jewish Cantor Daniel Kempin she founded and leads the Frankfurt Interreligious Choir (IRCF). She is also on the staff of and conductor of the interreligious TRIMUM Project in Stuttgart.
The vocal group Banu (the Persian word for “elegant lady“) sings traditional Persian women’s songs which have been collected over the years and adapted for choral singing by the Iranian singer Maryam Akhondy who now lives in Cologne: songs of women workers, songs for weddings and lullabies, ritual and religious laments – unique in the world. With their contagious love of singing and sometimes exuberant temperament, around one dozen female singers invite you to take part in a voyage of discovery through the various regions of the multinational state of Iran.
With the Banu project, Maryam Akhondy crosses over the restrictive limits of traditional Iranian artistic music, where her actual roots are to be found, and discovered for herself and others the authentic and partly forgotten singing culture of Persian women beyond the established or religious regimentation of Iranian cultural institutions.
At Musica Sacra International, the ensemble will present a specialty among the musical styles of the South Iranian coastal areas, the semi-religious Zar music from some of the tribes who live there. Their forefathers were slaves from Africa who brought their own musical culture with them. This includes the vocal and instrumental accompaniment to particular rituals. Zar (pronounced: „Saar“) is reputed to have a particularly therapeutic affect which is said to free from pain and heal sickness – for example eye troubles and depression. As part of her programme, Maryam Akhondy together with the group Banu will perform such a ritual in shortened form.
The ensemble Sama Damaszener is made up of trained singers and musicians from Damascus. The artistic director of the group is the well–known reciter Abdul Rahman Al Kurdi.
The musicians perform an impressive combination of Arabic lyrics and oriental sounds and have a rich repertoire of songs from Syria and other Arabian countries. The spiritual texts originate from the period as the Islamic Empire extended to Spain, the Moorish period from the 8th to the 15th century. Even up to today, they have lost none of their topicality.
„Sama“, the name of the ensemble, can be translated as „listen“. With their enchanting voices, the reciters succeed in singing their way into the hearts of their listeners and touching their souls. They are accompanied by traditional oriental instruments such as the Arabian short-necked lute, the Oud, the flute or the Qanun (an oriental box zither).
The aim of the artists is to preserve old cultural works from the Orient and make them known in Europe. With their performances, they seek to send a message of peace to all peoples, whatever their nationality or religion , to bring them closer together through their music, to practice tolerance towards each other and to feel as one.
The ensemble Bhakti from Chennai in Southern India consists of three singers. Depending on their artistic programme, they are accompanied in different ways by a violin, a tabla, a Shruti Box and a mridangam, the most important accompanying rhythm instrument in the Carnatic music of Southern India.
The founder and artistic director of the group is the famous flautist and singer Shantala Subramanyam. She was already a guest at Musica Sacra International in 2012 with a different ensemble. The name of the ensemble, Bhakti – which means devotion, worship – reflects the artistic aim of the musicians. The repertoire of the group concentrates mainly on songs of praise and prayers to the Hindu gods. They are performed in different languages, such as Sanskrit, Hindi, Tamil, Kannada and Telugu. At Musica Sacra International the singers perform works from the 5000 year old tradition of the Bhajan, religious Hindu folk songs. In the Bhajans, the believers sing of their love of a god in simple words which are often repeated. Bhajans are part of the devotion which is described as Bhakti.
Shōmyō singing makes up an important part of the liturgy of the classical trend in Japanese Buddhism today. In the Tendai School, these have to be mastered in a specified basic form by every applicant waiting for consecration as a monk, that is, by everyone who aims to take up a religious career. In this way, it is not a case of a style which is normally performed by lay persons. The ritual message of the singing is mainly dedicated to cleansing the liturgical room and the Master of Ceremonies himself, in penance and collection, in the realization of the holy power, its praise and ritual invocation.
For a convincing presentation of the Shōmyō, what is really important is the articulation from deep down — the movement goes from the Hara centre of energy in the lower stomach and flows through the whole body.
The founder of the specific Tendai branch of the Shōmyō was Master Ennin (794–864). Since the beginning of the 11th century, the centre of the Tendai-Shōmyō has been the temple town of Ohara (today a part of Kyoto) at the foot of the holy monastery mountain Hiei. This is where the famous reformer of the Shōmyō, Master Ryonin (1073–1131) worked, who united the individual traditions under the wing of the unified Gyosan-ryū School, which is named after the Jü-schan (Jap. Gyosan) heights near the Yellow River. It was here that the heavenly powers are said to have allowed Master Tsau Dschï (192–232) to hear the sounds of the Shōmyō which were pleasing to God. Today, the Gyosan-ryū consists of Tendai monks who, in addition to performing the liturgical duties in their main temples in various parts of Japan, also dedicate themselves to the Shōmyō teachings and their performance outside the liturgy. The priorities of this association can be ordered hierarchically as follows:
1) Study and preservation of authentic interpretations of the classical Shōmyō on the basis of original sources from Ohara and oral traditions
2) Care for the quality of the Tendai liturgy as a whole
3) Returning the Shōmyō into the general consciousness of Japanese society
4) Using the spiritual content of the Shōmyō for the dialogue between the religions and intercultural cooperation.
One of the most important personalities of the Gyosan-ryū for the last decades has been the long standing Prior, Master Amano Denchū (1926–2002), who also initiated the cooperation between the liturgical association in Ohara and the Schola Gregoriana Pragensis.
The Maulbronner Kammerchor, was founded in 1983 by Prof. Jürgen Budday as a result of an invitation to make a concert tour in the USA and has developed in the course of its 32 years of existence into one of the most famous choirs in Germany. The home of the choir is in the Maulbronn Monastery, a World Heritage Site. The choir has always enjoyed a very close relationship, as its official choir, to the Maulbronn Monastery Concerts.
The predominant interest of the Maulbronner Kammerchor is the interpretation of a cappella literature, whereby the main emphasis is on works from the 19th and 20th centuries. Numerous CD recordings are proof of the performing power of the choir, including an annual performance and recording of a Händel oratorio as part of the Maulbronn Monastery Concerts. Cooperation with well-known ensembles, invitations to festivals and concert tours regularly take the Maulbronner Kammerchor to venues at home and abroad.
The choir has a special relationship with Marktoberdorf: in 2009, the Maulbronner Kammerchor won a 2nd prize and a special prize here. In 2015, the choir, together with the Calmus Ensemble, performed the anniversary concert celebrating 25 years of the Marktoberdorf Whitsun Festivals. The performances during Musica Sacra International 2016 will be some of the last concerts under the leadership of Jürgen Budday. After 33 years, he will be handing over the artistic direction of the choir to his successor, Benjamin Hartmann.
The African American Choral Ensemble (AACE) was formed in 1976 as one of three performing ensembles in the African American Arts Institute at the Indiana University in Bloomington, Indiana, USA. The Choral ensemble performs music composed by, for or about African Americans. The choir performs a varied repertoire of music including folk songs, spirituals, formally composed choral works, hymns, traditional and contemporary gospel music, blues, jazz and more.
Though the choir performs African American music it is not just for African Americans. The choral ensemble is comprised of singers from various backgrounds who represent numerous academic majors across the university. Since 2012 the choir is under the leadership of Dr. Raymond Wise.
This ensemble’s unique repertoire has afforded them the opportunity to perform and appear in many exciting musical settings. The Choral ensemble has performed throughout USA and Canada and has appeared on radio and television and served as the chorus for operas and musical theater productions
The 2015-16 academic years marks the 40th year that the Choral Ensemble has been in existence. AACE is excited for its first European tour in Germany performing at the festival Musica Sacra International and at further concert places.
Conductor: Raymond Wise
Dr. Raymond Wise, Ph. D., began his musical career at the age of 3 with the „Wise Singers“, the singing group of his family. He studied music at the Denison University (Granville, Ohio) and achieved a Bachelor of Fine Arts Diploma. He followed this by studying opera, art and German at the Institute for European Studies in Vienna and then African-American history, music and dance at the San Francisco State University. Raymond Wise is an ordained priest of the Baptist Church. Raymond Wise has also made a name for himself as a composer. He has to date written and published more than 600 pieces. Wise is the Director of the Institute for Afro-American Arts at Indiana University, Bloomington.