The Estonian National Male Choir is one of the best-known Estonian music ensembles in the world.
The choir’s repertoire spans from renaissance to contemporary. Besides many Estonian composers, Estonian National Male Choir has premiered compositions by such luminaries as Gavin Bryars, Giovanni Bonato, Henrik Ødegaard, Dmitri Shostakovich etc
The Estonian National Male Choir was founded in 1944 by Estonian choral conductor and composer Gustav Ernesaks. Starting from the 2011 / 2012 season Estonian National Male Choir is led by chief conductor and artistic director Mikk Üleoja. Each season the choir gives about 50-60 concerts both in Estonia and abroad.
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, Aurora, Ondine, Toccata Classics and SOOND. In 2004 choir 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).
Over the past eight years the Estonian National Male Choir has recorded no less than six CDs. The first of them, ‘In Paradisum’ which features the works of Galina Grigorjeva, was awarded the title of best classical music album at the Estonian Music Awards gala in 2015. In 2016, ‘Te lucis ante terminum’, which consisted of the works of the Norwegian composer, Henrik Ødegaard, was released under the Aurora label. In 2018, an album which contained Symphony No 13 by Shostakovich was released under the Sony label in collaboration with the Dresden Philharmonic and the conductor, Michael Sanderling. The album which was released by Ondine features ‘Kullervo’ by Sibelius, with the music being recorded in collaboration with the Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra and the conductor, Hannu Lintu. The ‘REGIRAM’ recording of the Estonian National Male Choir includes arrangements of ancient ‘runo’ songs which are performed by the choir itself along with an ensemble which consists of Celia Roose, Tuule Kann, and Robert Jürjendal. The ‘Galina Grigorjeva music for male choir’ recording, which was released by Toccata Classics in spring 2023, saw the works of Grigorjeva being performed by the Estonian National Male Choir, along with Theodor Sink on cello, and with Mikk Üleoja conducting.
The most recent album release, ‘Baltic Contrasts’, is available from May 2023. This include the works of the Baltic composers, Erkki-Sven Tüür, Pēteris Vasks, and Justė Janulytė, with the pieces performed by the Estonian National Male Choir, the Lithuanian Chamber Orchestra, and the conductor, Mikk Üleoja (released by SOOND).
The Estonian National Male Choir has cooperated with a number of outstanding conductors including Neeme Järvi, Paavo Järvi, John Storgårds, Teodor Currentzis, Michael Sanderling, Peter Ruzicka, Hannu Lintu, Nikolai Alekseyev, Juri Temirkanov, Vladimir Jurowski, Marko Letonia, Andrew Litton, Leif Segerstam, Jukka-Pekka Saraste, Christoph Spering, Jac van Steen, Paul Mann, Markus Poschner, Lothar Zagrosek etc.
The Estonian National Male Choir has also worked with the following world-class orchestras, ensembles such as the Raschèr Saxophone Quartet, SWR Symphonieorchester, the BBC Philharmonic, the Lithuanian Chamber Orchestra, the NHK Symphony Orchestra, The Tonhalle-Orchester Zürich, the Dresden Philharmonics, the Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra, the Kontzerthausorchester Berlin, the Orchestre Philharmonique De Strasbourg, the NDR Radiophilharmonie in Hannover, Orchestre National d’Ile de France, the Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra, the BBC National Orchestra of Wales, the Bremer Philharmoniker, the Estonian National Symphony Orchestra and the Tallinn Camber Orchestra etc.
Over its long history, the Estonian National Male Choir has given more than seven thousand concerts, in Estonia but also in locations as far afield as Northern America and Asia. Over the past five years their concert tours have taken them to Belgium, Lithuania, China, Singapore, Japan, Switzerland, and more. After a brief break in performing abroad over the past few years, the National Male Choir gave concerts in Tampere in Finland in April 2023 and in Manchester in England in May, performing Symphony No 13 by Shostakovich with the conductor, John Storgårds. In the middle of May, the National Male Choir will be performing an a cappella programme at Kings Place in London. Pieces to be sung at this prestigious venue include the works of Veljo Tormis, Giovanni Bonato, Gavin Bryars, Justė Janulytė, and Santa Ratniece, and the choir will be conducted by head conductor, Mikk Üleoja. The concert will be part of the Songlines Encounters Festival programme.
During the second half of September, the choir attended a concert tour in Germany, where Symphony No. 13 by Shostakovich was performed. The choir partnered with bass Alexander Vinogradov, SWR Symphony Orchestra and conductor Teodor Currentzis. The concerts took place in Beethoven Hall in Liederhalle Concert Hall in Stuttgart, Freiburg Concert Hall, Mannheimer Rosengarten and the Grand Hall of Elbphilharmonie in Hamburg.
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.
Seven records have also been released with the conductor Mikk Üleoja, of which five were recorded together with the Estonian National Male Choir, these being ‘In paradisum’ featuring the music of Galina Grigorjeva (2014), ‘Galina Grigorjeva muusikat meeskoorile’ (2023), ‘Te lucis ante terminum’ with the works of Henrik Ødegaard (2016) ‘REGIRAM’ (2019) and ‘altic Contrasts.’ Luule, see ei tule tuulest (Poetry, It Doesn’t Come from the Wind, 2007), recorded with the Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir, received the 2007 annual award of the Cultural Endowment of Estonia; the album was also named the best choral record of the year. Galina Grigorjeva’s In paradisum was voted Classic Album of the Year at the 2015 Estonian Music Awards (EMA). Mikk Üleoja was named the Conductor of the Year in 2014. In 2015, he and the Estonian National Male Choir received a national culture award for outstanding works reaching the public.