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Ensembles 2012

The Optina Pustyn Male Choir • Russia

The male choir of the St. Petersburg monastery Optina Pustyn was founded in 1996 with the blessing of the head of the monastery Hieromonk Rostislaw. The ensemble’s professional singers are all graduates from the St. Petersburg Conservatory. 

The choir dedicates most of its work to rediscovering lost traditions of old orthodox monastery songs. Thanks to a close cooperation with a group of scientists, many song manuscripts which had been stored in academic libraries were able to be rediscovered and have been included in the choir’s concert programme. Since it has been in existence, the ensemble has built up a broad repertoire with works from Russian and international choral music. The work of the choir is well documented by concert tours through Russia and various European countries together with the impressive number of 13 CD recordings. A speciality of the choir is the deep bass voice of the octavist Vladimir Miller.

In their concert programme for Musica Sacra International the seven singers present arrangements of orthodox songs from several centuries.


Cond.: Alexander Semyonov

Alexander Semyonov, born in 1975 in St. Petersburg is the founder, artistic director and, as a baritone, also a singer in the Optina Pustyn Choir.


Grupo de Canto Coral • Argentinia

Grupo de Canto Coral (GCC) was founded in 1973 by its current Artistic Director, Néstor Andrenacci. The chamber choir is dedicated to the performance of choral music from a variety of periods including the contemporary. Some works in its repertoire have been written specially for the group.

The choir has performed in the most important venues in Argentina as well as in several countries in Southern and Middle America and in Europe.

GCC has been awarded prizes for performances in Argentina and abroad. Among these the “Award for Best Performance of a New Work” at the 1st International Chamber Choir Competition Marktoberdorf 1989. GCC was also awarded the prize for best vocal chamber group of 1999, authorized by the Argentine Music Critics Association and received the Konex Award, speciality Choral Music, in 2009. In 2002 GCC participated in Musica Sacra International with a programme of Christmas Carols from the baroque period of the South American countries.

Besides its concert activities, over the years GCC has undertaken a variety of other choral music projects: A youth choir as well as a children’s choir were founded under the umbrella of Grupo de Canto Coral. GCC published a semi-annual bulletin on choral activities in Argentina and organized numerous workshops in choral directing and repertory, inviting as lecturers Choral Directors, Composers, Arrangers, Singers and Instrumentalists from all over Argentina and its neighboring countries.


Cond.: Néstor Enrique Andrenacci

Néstor Andrenacci has acted as Director, Teacher of Choral Conducting and singer since 1971. In addition to the GCC-Grupo de Canto Coral, he directs the Choir of the Argentine National Bank, Trilce, the Cantoría del Socorro and the Francisco Guerrero Madrigal Group. He co-directs the Buenos Aires Orfeón. From 1989 to 2010, he was Chair of the Department of Choral Direction in the College of Arts and Musical Sciences at the Catholic University of Argentina. With GCC, Néstor Andrenacci has made nine recordings, and for his work with the group he has been recognized by the Argentine House of Representatives.

Swedish Chamber Choir • Sweden

The Swedish Chamber Choir, formerly known as the Simon Phipps Vocal Ensemble, was founded in Göteborg, Sweden, in 1997. The choir is an amateur choir with professional ambitions and an international reputation. It has during the last years established itself as one of the leading mixed choirs in Scandinavia with acclaimed recordings and various awards and prizes from international choir competitions. Amongst others the choir was awarded second prize in the Certamen Coral de Tolosa 2003 and first prize and award for the most interesting performance programme in the International Chamber Choir Competition Marktoberdorf 2005. Most recent, in 2011 the choir was the appointed overall winners of the EBU broadcasting competition “Let the Peoples sing”, winner of the “Silver Rose Bowl” and The European Grand Prix for Choral Singing in Tolosa after winning the Grand Prix in the Concorso Polifonico Internazionale in Arezzo 2010.

The Swedish Chamber Choir has recorded several CDs (Britten, Poulenc, Brahms) and is a frequent performer on Swedish National Radio. Its repertoire spans from the Renaissance to contemporary choral music.


Cond.: Simon Phipps

Conductor Simon Phipps, grew up in the English choir tradition and studied at Cambridge, London, Munich and Manchester. Since 1993 he has been resident in Göteborg, Sweden. Conducting the choir, he has won numerous international awards. In addition to his commitment with the Swedish Chamber Choir, Simon Phipps is the conductor of Vägus - Västra Götaland Youth Symphony Orchestra and the artistic director/conductor of the Opera Productions at Läckö Castle, western Sweden. He is engaged as a guest conductor on the international arena, most recently at Choeur de l’Orchestre de Paris in the spring of 2011.


Landes-Jugendjazzorchester Bayern • Germany

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) 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.


Cond.: 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.


via-nova-chor • Germany

The Munich via-nova-choir was founded in 1972 by Kurt Suttner, whose 35 years with the choir left a deep impression. In February 2008, Florian Helgath was chosen to follow him as the new artistic director. The ensemble, which is made up of both amateur and professional singers, concentrates its efforts mainly on contemporary choral music, without excluding musical tradition.

For numerous Munich composers, including among others Robert M. Helmschrott and Wilfried Hiller, the via-nova-choir provides a forum for the composition and performance of new choral works. The total of 40 first performances provides impressive proof of this fact.

Concert tours have led the choir, among other places to Taipei, Taiwan (Taipei International Choral Festival 2000), Jeonju, South Korea (Sori-Festival 2002), Graz, Austria (Music Festival Psalm 2003), Oslo, Norway (concert for the 90th birthday of Knut Nystedt in 2005).

The via-nova-choir Munich has won first prizes at the international choir competitions in Den Haag (1977), Cork (1985/87), Budapest (1991) and Tolosa (2009). Within Germany, they won first prize at the Bavarian Choir Competition (2009) and the German Choir Competition in Dortmund (2010) as well as the special prize for contemporary choral music at the German Choir Competition in Fulda (1994) and Dortmund (2010). In the spring of 2011, the via-nova-choir Munich was a finalist at the Grand Prix of the International Choir Competition in Maribor, Slovenia.


Cond.: Florian Helgath

Florian Helgath gathered his first musical experience in his home town with the Regensburger Domspatzen. At the University for Music in Munich he started by studying to be a grammar school teacher, and followed this by studying choral conducting under Prof. Michael Gläser. His most important teachers were Stefan Parkman, Dan-Olof Stenlund, Stephen Cleobury and Simon Halsey. He attained international success as a finalist and prizewinner at conducting competitions such as the Eric Ericson Award in 2006 in Sweden and the Competition For Young Choral Conductors in 2007 in Budapest.

Florian Helgath is the artistic director of the via-nova-choir in Munich, of the Danish Radio Choir in Copenhagen and the ChorWerk Ruhr. In addition he is regularly invited as a guest conductor for the Bavarian Radio Choir and other well-known radio choirs and he works with such orchestras as the Danish National Chamber Orchestra and the Munich Symphonic.


don camillo chor • Germany

The don camillo choiir from Munich was founded in 1994 on the occasion of a youth church service and now counts as one of the best pop and jazz choirs in Germany. „Goose pimples – all over“. That was the description of one member of the jury when talking about tzhe ensemble’s sound at the German Choir Competition in 2010, where the don camillo choir, conducted by Florian Helgath – after winning first prize in the Bavarian Choir Competition the year before– was awarded the third prize. The wide repertoire of this prizewinning ensmble reaches from gentle jazz ballads through swing standards to cleverly arranged a cappella hard rock, and between all this even a classic jewel pops up in the programme. The particular challenge which the 33 singers have successfully met for years is to do justice to the wide variety of music styles with a corresponding breadth of acoustic colour and expression. Their inspiration on this artistic path comes from regular attendances at workshops with well known conductors and a cappella jazz musicians such as Matthias Becker, Stefan Kalmer, Oliver Gies, Peder Karlsson (The Real Group) and Andrea Figallo. To take part in international competitions and festivals, the choir has until now visited Styria and Poland.


Cond.: Florian Helgath

Florian Helgath gathered his first musical experience in his home town with the Regensburger Domspatzen. At the University for Music in Munich he started by studying to be a grammar school teacher, and followed this by studying choral conducting under Prof. Michael Gläser. His most important teachers were Stefan Parkman, Dan-Olof Stenlund, Stephen Cleobury and Simon Halsey. He attained international success as a finalist and prizewinner at conducting competitions such as the Eric Ericson Award in 2006 in Sweden and the Competition For Young Choral Conductors in 2007 in Budapest.

Florian Helgath is the artistic director of the via-nova-choir in Munich, of the Danish Radio Choir in Copenhagen and the ChorWerk Ruhr. In addition he is regularly invited as a guest conductor for the Bavarian Radio Choir, the RIAS Chamber Choir, the Berlin Radio Choir, the Dutch Radio Choir and the SWR Vocal Ensemble Stuttgart and he works with such orchestras as the Danish National Chamber Orchestra, the Munich Symphonic or the Georgian Chamber Orchestra Ingolstadt.


Female choir of the St. Geghard monastery • Armenia

The female choir of the St. Geghard monastery in Armenia was founded in 2001 by thwe singer and conductor Anahit Papayan. The artistic director of the choir is Prof. Mher Navoyan , a specialist for mediaeval music at the Yerevan Komitas State Conservatory. The most important aim of the 8 persons in the ensemble is the performance and spreading of Armenian sacred and folk choral music within Armenia and far beyond its borders. In addition to the divine service which the singers regularly perform in the St. Geghard monastery, the choir also performs many concerts. Their concert tours have taken them several times to Germany, Austria and France. Recently, in November 2011, they were guests at the 1st “Sacrées Journées” in Strasburg. In 2010 the ensemble won the Grand Prix iin the “Kolozhski Blagovest” Competition for Orthodox Music in Belarus and in the same year was awarded the 1st prize at the “Hajnowka’s Days of Orthodox Music” international competition in Poland.

The female choir of the St. Geghard monastery will present a programme of Armenian sacred songs and monodies from the Middle Ages.


Cond.: Anahit Papayan

Anahit Papyan completed her degree in singing at the Yerevan Komitas State Conservatory. As a child, she had already sung under the conductor Tigran Hekekyan with the “Little Singers of Armenia”. From 1998 to 2000 she performed as a soloist with the Armenian Radio Choir. Since 2001 Anahit Papayan has been a singer and conductor in the St. Geghard monastery. In addition to her work with the female choir of the monastery, she also performs as a soloist in the churches and concert halls in Armenia.

voces8 • Great Britain

The international award-winning octet, VOCES8, has established itself within a few years at the forefront of British a cappella groups. The ensemble’s repertoire ranges from Renaissance polyphony to unique Jazz arrangements and popular music.

Founded in 2003 by ex-choristers of Westminster Abbey, VOCES8’s career has developed from the classical choral scene. Today, the repertoire of the group covers a broad specrrum of a cappella music. In 2005 Voces8 made an international break through after winning first prize at the International Grand Prix for Choral Music in Gorizia, Italy. Since then the singers have appeared all over England, in Europe, the USA, Africa and Asia, in such venues as the Royal Festival Hall, the Wigmore Hall, Alexandra Palace, King’s Place, the Royal Opera House and Covent Garden.

In 2009 their first official album „Evensongs“ was nominated for the CARA. The three albums which have appeared since then show the whole ability range of the group: „Aces High“ with a musical pop and jazz homage to James Bond, „Bach Motets“ with an epoch making recording of all six Bach motets and „A Choral Tapestry“ with choral music from five centuries.

In addition to their active concert activities, the singers are very tied up with their work for the organization „Voces Cantabiles Music“. The aim of the educational work of „Voces Cantabiles Music“ is the encouragement of creativity in young people of all ages through the medium of music. Within this framework, Voces8 has given workshops and master classes in more than 200 schools throughout England as a contribution to this wide ranging project.

Chœur La Grace • Congo

Chœur La Grace was founded in August 1985, as a result of an initiative by Diasonama Ndungidi, Nlandu Wazolua, Mundele Pedro and Kua Nzambi Toko, all experienced choral directors who came together to promote choral music from the Central African region. For its regular season programming the group has 140 members from the metropolitan area of Kinshasa and the hinterlands. 40 of these members are themselves choral directors of other choirs.

The members of Chœur la Grace meet several times a week to learn and rehearse a wide ranging a cappella repertoire. At least once a year all the choirs from which the members are drawn come together for a festival, clinics, workshops or symposia, and everyone usually looks forward to the mass choir concert that often climaxes such gatherings. The number of voices range from 1000 to 3000!

Chœur la Grace possesses a richly varied repertoire. Afro Gospel, a mixture of simple hymnodic harmonies often heavily spiced rhythmically, is a main staple, followed by folk and traditional songs and chants from different ethnic groups of the Congo, Central Africa, and neighbouring Angola region.

Chœur la Grace frequently tours in the Central and South Africa region. European tours have also become a regular feature, with recent tours to France, Belgium and the U.K.


Cond.: Ambroise Kua-Nzambi Toko

Ordinarily, he’s a quiet, softly-spoken man, inconspicuous and almost petit. But on the podium Ambroise Kua-Nzambi Toko fills every space, and captivates both his performers and audiences with his wild exuberance. Kua-Nzambi holds degrees and advanced certification in the musical arts. For 22 years he has composed choral pieces, directed groups, lectured, and served as an independent columnist on music.

Kua-Nzambi passionately talks about forging a unified front to promote African choral music. His festivals, now legendary for their size and scope, are testament to this drive. They now attract participants from across Africa and Europe. His wish list includes establishing a school to train singers, building a recording studio, and publishing a monthly journal about the choral music of the Congo region of Africa.


Moran Singers and Yair Dalal • Israel

The Moran Singers Ensemble was established in 1998 as a professional body with the aim of advancing artistic singing and musical excellence among young singers and promoting solo singing. The ensemble performs a selection of the best of Israeli choral music by top composers, among them Gil Shohat and Yehezkel Braun. In recent years the ensemble has taken part in concert series with the Israel Netanya Kibbutz Orchestra, a chamber music series with the Israel Symphony Orchestra Rishon LeZion, a subscription series of the Israel Chamber Orchestra and a series of concerts with the Israel Camerata Jerusalem.

In 1998 Moran Singers Ensemble won 1st prize at the Shirat Hayamim international Choral Competition held in Israel, repeating this success in summer 2002 with another 1st prize at an international competition in Japan. In 2000 the Moran Singers travelled to Germany to perform at a liturgical music festival and as the official representative of Israel at the Expo 2000 in Hanover. In the summer of 2005 the Moran Singers Ensemble was invited to take part in the Bach Festival in Toronto, giving special performances of Cantatas conducted by maestro Helmuth Rilling. In the summer of 2008 they represented Israel at the Vox Pacis (The Voice of Peace) Festival in Stockholm, Sweden, which was designed “to create a meeting of cultural and spiritual understanding and create a dialogue”. In addition to Israel, other participating countries included Egypt, Morocco, Estonia, Georgia, Greece, India, Tibet, Sweden, Norway and Finland.


Cond.: Naomi Faran

Naomi Faran, founder of the Moran Choirs and its conductor and musical director, graduated at the Tel Aviv University’s Rubin Academy of Music and pursued further studies in choir conducting under Professor Dan Olof Stenlund. She regularly gives master classes in conducting in Israel, as well as other countries. In 2003 Naomi initiated and founded the Israeli Vocal Center in Beit‐Yitzchak which holds workshops and master classes for young singers all the year and is supported by the ministry of culture. In the 30 years of her career Naomi has initiated a number of international projects intended for the promotion of peace through singing among them a project with Israeli‐Arabs, a Peace concert in Oslo in cooperation with Palestinian children and “Women Singing for Peace” sponsored by the European Union which received a prize for excellence.


Yair Dalal

Yair Dalal, born in 1955; composer, violinist, Oud player and singer plays an important role in shaping the global world music scene. Much of Dalal’s work reflects his extensive musical skills in both classical-European, Jazz and Arabic music and also reflects the strong affinity he has for the desert and its inhabitants. Over the years Dalal has played in concerts and festivals worldwide, e.g. at the Nobel Peace Prize Gala concert in 1994 honoring the Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, Foreign Minister Shimon Peres and Palestinian Chairman Yasser Arafat.

Fawzy Al-Aiedy Trio • France

The composer, singer and oud player Fawzy Al-Aiedy was born in the Southern Iraq town of Basra „between two rain showers around the year 1950“. He first studied traditional oriental music (singing and the oud), then western music (classical oboe) at the Music Institute in Baghdad. After leaving Iraq in 1971, he continued his studies in Paris. Al-Aiedy‘s interest is mainly in mixed forms of music which convey creativity and feelings, which can reach people and bring them together. His voice is full of poetry and fuses popular and classical sounds from written and vocal musical traditions. 

The Tunisian violinist and composer Jasser Haj Youssef covers a wide range of repertoires, fron baroque music to contemporary sounds and jazz. He was the first musician to introduce the viola d’amore into oriental music. Jasser is a specialist for traditional and classical oriental music and one of the leading interpreters of his generation. Since 2004 he has been living in Paris and has played with a number of international stars, including Sœur Marie Keyrouz, Barbara Hendricks and Youssou N’Dour.

Adel SHAMS EL DIN is a master of the drums, especially the Riq. The Egyptian was introduced to drumming by his brother, Shams, who sent him to the master drummer Fathi Gunayd. El Din worked first of all together with the university orchestra, the radio and the Troupe Folklorique from Alexandria zusa. In 1979 he moved to Paris, where he has performed with well known Arabian musicians (Wadi El Safi, L’Ensemble de la Paix with Soeur Marie Keyrouz) as well as with international Stars such as Jean-Michel Jarre. His unique technique can be heard on more than 40 albums.

Fawzys various creations reflect his heartfelt wish for a close relationship of the cultures and his listeners. With his new repertoire „Ultime Prière, Fawzy Al-Aiedy calls up memories of oriental mysticism with texts from the 10th and 12th centuries (Ibn Arabi, Hallaj) and from the present. The music becomes a binding force, a chance for dialogue and spirituality. This last prayer is a light of hope for a better world. Fawzys emotional singing and the bewitching sound of his oud fuse together with the virtuoso melodies from Jasser’s violin and Adel’s drum to form a prayer which unites humanity, spirituality and poetry.

Maryam Akhondy und Ensemble Barbad • Iran/Germany

Maryam Akhondy was born in 1957 in Tehran/Iran. She finished her training in classical Persian singing and studied dramatics at the Academy for Fine Arts (Tehran University).

She gave her first concerts with Persian music groups in Europe in 1986. There followed tours with the ensembles „Nawa“, „Tschakawak“ and „Barbad“ among other places in Scandinavia.

Between 1994 and 1999 Maryam Akhondy worked closely with the Cologne World Music orchestra „Schäl Sick Brass Band“ and gave over 100 concerts in Belgium, Germany, France, Italy, Luxembourg, Morocco, the Netherlands, Austria, Switzerland, Slovenia, Turkey and Hungary. The albums they recorded together „Majnoun“ (1996) and „Tschupun“ (1999) were awarded prizes from the German Record Critics.

In particular with her ensembles Barbad and Banu, which she founded in 2001, she is constantly traveling and performing concerts throughout Europe. In her ensemble Barbad - the name is that of a Persian musician from the 7th century AD and also the name of a Persian stringed instrument - has a classical line up with Tar, Tombak and Daf the musical dialogue between the instrumentalists and the singer is regulated by Radif (the order and system of Persian music). The texts are extremely poetic, the songs at one and the same time serious and celebratory. Many of then pieces end in Tahrir improvisations, vocal coloraturas, which seem to glide effortlessly over several octaves.

In 2004, Maryam Akhondy and Barbad were already guests at Musica Sacra International.

For this year’s festival, the musicians have put together a new programme with music and songs from the thousand year old tradition of the Zoroastrians.

Shantala Subramanyam und Dakshin • India

Shantala Subramanyam, born in Bangalore, India, was immersed in music right from her birth having been born into an illustrious music family. She was initiated into formal training in Carnatic [South Indian] classical vocal music at the tender age of 4 and she took to flute playing when she was about 11 years old. It was her good fortune to be trained in vocal music and rhythm by eminent performers from South India. Her brother Shashank and father M.N. Subramanyam nurtured her talent carefully, assuming the role of a teacher. At this time in India where women flutists are only a hand few, Shantala is bound to emerge as a dominant contributor to this field owing to her diligent and hard training. This view has been echoed by music critics. She has been highly appreciated for her melodic presentations combined with complex rhythmic patterns. Shantala has been performing solo concerts in famous organizations all over India since a young age. This apart, she has toured in USA, Europe, Singapore, South Korea and Japan to perform alongside her brother as a support flutist.

Together with the musicians of her Ensemble Dakshin – Parthasarathy Ganesh (Chitravina, K. Sai Giridhar (Mridangam) and Tripunithura N.Radhakrishnan (Gatham) – she presents Carnatic music from South India.

Ensemble Khuree Tsam • Mongolia

Gankhuyag Natsag, founder and artistic director of the Ensemble Khuree Tsam, was born in Ulan Bator, Mongolia. Early in his childhood, his parents, who are famous masters of handcrafts in the traditional Mongolian style, introduced him to the fine art of traditional handcrafting, and many great artists have instructed him since then. After finishing secondary school, he started working at the Union of Mongolian Artists earning acclaim as a painter and papier-maché artist creating objects for traditional performing art troupes in Mongolia. While working at the Union he participated in many international festivals and exhibitions, and got his first international recognition by winning first prize at the XII World Festival of Youth and Students in Moscow in 1985. He has also performed in various mystery plays and cult dances. He made the "tsam" dance masks and costumes in relation with the production of Tsam masks made from paper-mâché and the choreography of dance rituals (Khuree Tsam). Within the cooperation with Mongolian Lamas Gankhuyag Natsag has been taught a lot by the venerable Lama Sereeter, Lama Dashzeveg and Lama Danzan.

In 1997 Natsag founded the Khuree Tsam Ensemble, which has revived the old rituals of the Tsam dances and performed them, at first in monasteries, then in public. The rituals of the Mongolian Tsams combine tantric and much older shaman dance traditions in a particularly harmonic way.

Optina Pustyn Male Choir • Russia
Grupo de Canto Coral • Argentinia
Swedish Chamber Choir • Sweden
Landes-Jugendjazzorchester Bayern • Germany
via-nova-chor • Germany
don camillo chor • Germany
Frauenchor des St. Geghard Klosters • Armenia
Voces8 • Great Britain
Chœur La Grace • Congo
Moran Singers und Yair Dalal • Israel
Fawzy Al-Aiedy Trio • France
Maryam Akhondy und Ensemble Barbad • Iran
Shantala Subramanyam und Dakshin • India
Ensemble Khuree Tsam • Mongolia
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