Celebrating its 75th birthday this year, Estonian National Male Choir (also known as RAM) was established by Estonian choral music legend, conductor and composer Gustav Ernesaks. Having sung mostly a cappella during its early years, RAM has grown into a world-famous professional choir that often performs large symphonic compositions.
Estonian National Male Choir frequently records for Estonian National Broadcasting and has collaborated with such labels as Deutsche Grammophon, Sony, Finlandia, Alba Records, GB Records Virgin Classics and Aurora.
In 2004 RAM was awarded the Grammy award for the best choral performance, first for Estonia (Sibelius’ cantatas, in collaboration with Ellerhein choir, Estonian National Symphony Orchestra and conductor Paavo Järvi). During last five years the choir has released two CDs, including “In Paradisum” with compositions by Galina Grigorjeva, which in 2015 won the award for the best classical album in Estonia. The most recent CD was released by Aurora and includes music by Norwegian composer Henrik Ødegaard. Yet to be released is a CD featuring Italian composers Giovanni Bonato and Giovanni Gabrieli.
Starting from the 2011 / 2012 season Estonian National Male Choir is led by chief conductor and artistic director Mikk Üleoja. The list of previous conductors includes Harald Uibo, Uno Järvela, Olev Oja, Kuno Areng, Ants Üleoja, Ants Soots, Kaspars Putniņš and others. The choir’s repertoire spans from renaissance to contemporary. Besides many Estonian composers, RAM has premiered compositions by such luminaries as Dmitri Shostakovich, Otar Taktakshvili, Gavin Bryars and Giovanni Bonato.
During its long history Estonian National Male Choir has performed all over Estonia and former Soviet Union, as well as in many European countries, Israel, Canada, USA, China, Japan and Singapore. In 2017 the choir sung a cappella and with orchestras in China (Shanghai), Russia (St Petersburg), Belgium (Bruessel), Finland (Helsinki). In 2018 the concerts took place in China (Beijng, Shanghai), Hong Kong (46th Hong Kong Arts Festival), in Singapore’s famous Esplanade Concert Hall and in Japan (Tokyo NHK Hall, Matsuyama, Toyota, Toride, Sendai, Nagano, Hiroshima) and in 2019 in France (Strasbourg).
In 2015 Estonian National Male Choir and Mikk Üleoja were awarded the State Cultural Award, marking the choir’s remarkable performances.
Mikk Üleoja graduated from the Estonian Academy of Music in 1997 as a choir conductor (class of Prof. Ants Üleoja) and completed his Master’s Degree in music at the same place in 2004 (supervised by Prof. Toomas Siitan). He has sang in the World Youth Choir (1989–1992), Estonian National Male Choir (1994–1996), Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir (1996–2000), and in the Gregorian ensemble Vox Clamantis (1998–2011). Mikk Üleoja has been the conductor of the St. Michael’s Boys’ Choir, the chief conductor of the chamber choir Mattone and Kaarli Church Concert Choir, and taught conducting at the Viljandi Culture Academy of the University of Tartu. From 1998 to 2011, he worked as choirmaster of the Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir. Since the 2011/12 season, Mikk Üleoja is the Chief Conductor and Artistic Director of the Estonian National Male Choir.