In February 2024, the Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir (EPCC) together with maestro Tõnu Kaljuste, conductor, will again embark on a long-awaited concert tour to the United States and Canada after a five-year hiatus. The 2024 tour is supported by the Estonian American National Council (EANC/ERKÜ), which has been committed to preserving and promoting Estonian culture in the U.S. for more than 70 years.
The EPCC concerts are scheduled for February 1 – 8, 2024 at St. Ignatius Loyola Church in New York, St. Paul’s Basilica in Toronto, St. John’s Episcopal Church in Georgetown, Washington, DC, and the Episcopal Cathedral in Philadelphia. In addition to Early Music, performance repertoires will include works by Arvo Pärt, who last year was once again chosen as the most performed living composer in the world.
The Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir’s cultural ties with the U.S. date back to 1990, when cross-Atlantic tours occurred consistently every two or three years at various venues on both the East and West Coasts. From 2013-2018, the chamber choir gave concerts in the U.S. almost every year, including performances on the most famous of stages: Carnegie Hall in New York City, The Kennedy Center in Washington, DC, and The Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles.
At its concerts, EPCC has always introduced Estonian composers, and as a result, the chamber choir has developed its own knowledgeable audience and dedicated followers who are keenly interested in Estonian music, as evidenced by full concert halls. The February 2024 concert tour marks the choir’s 17th U.S. tour and is organized by the New World Classics artist management company and its Director, Kerby Lovallo, with whom the choir has successfully collaborated since 1995.
According to Esper Linnamägi, CEO of the Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir, the previous U.S. tours that were scheduled two years ago were cancelled because of Covid. But the lingering impacts of the pandemic, together with the increasingly complex economic conditions, still continue to be felt today. “Many leading U.S. chamber music organizations went bankrupt during this time, so now there are fewer organizers. Inflation has also had an impact, while concert royalties have remained the same. This means financing tours in the U.S., as well as elsewhere, has become more and more difficult in the field of classical music.”
Linnamägi adds that the choir has had a well-developed market in the U.S., and thus Estonian music and musicians have always been awaited by audiences. However, the break in tours during the pandemic carried with it the risk of a break in continuity, a gap in which the audience could start to forget. “Thanks to the Estonian American National Council’s support, we can still restore these connections,” says Linnamägi.
The Estonian American National (EANC), the EPCC’s concert tour partner and supporter, was established in New York in 1952, as the voice of the Estonian American community, to unite Estonians living in the United States and to support the restoration of Estonia’s independence. Since the restoration of Estonia’s independence in 1991, EANC has focused on supporting Estonian cultural activities and organizations in the United States, stands for Estonian and Estonian American interests, and works to raise awareness of Estonia among all Americans.
According to EANC Executive Director Leelo Linask, this cooperation is a great opportunity to continue introducing Estonian musical traditions not only to the music world, but also to a wider American audience. “This concert tour gives even more insight into the rich culture of Estonia, the magic of composer Arvo Pärt, and renowned conductor Tõnu Kaljuste with the Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir, and in doing so creates new ties between the U.S. and Estonia.”
For more than 42 years, the activities of the Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir and conductor Tõnu Kaljuste have brought the works of many Estonian composers to the world, including those of Arvo Pärt, Veljo Tormis, Erkki-Sven Tüür, Tõnu Kõrvits, Cyrillus Kreek, and others. EPCC’s most internationally acclaimed recordings include the Grammy award-winning records “Arvo Pärt. Da Pacem” (Harmonia Mundi, 2007) and “Arvo Pärt. Adam’s Lament” (ECM, 2013) and 16 Grammy nominations over the years.
The concert tour is organized in cooperation with the Embassy of Estonia in Washington, D.C., the Consulate General of Estonia in New York, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Estonia, and the Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Estonia.