Chorus of approval for festival opener

The opening concert of the Norfolk and Norwich Festival takes place in Norwich Cathedral next Friday May 4 (8pm) with the Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir making its first visit to the city.

The opening concert of the Norfolk and Norwich Festival takes place in Norwich Cathedral next Friday May 4 (8pm) with the Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir making its first visit to the city. Founded in 1981 by Tõnu Kaljuste, who acted as artistic director and chief conductor for 20 years, the choir is recognised today as one of the best in the world. It has worked under such conductors as Claudio Abbado, Sir David Willcocks and Neeme Järvi and since 2001 its chief conductor and artistic director has been Paul Hillier, who studied at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama in London and who, in 1973, co-founded the Hilliard Ensemble.

Although most famous as a choral specialist, Hillier receives many invitations to appear with orchestras especially in programmes which also involve EPCC. He has conducted Concerto Copenhagen (Bach's B minor mass, Monteverdi's Vespers, Handel's Messiah) and has appeared with Manchester Camerata and this season makes his debut with the Scottish Chamber Orchestra conducting Bach's St John Passion. He will also direct Theatre of Voices in music by Stockhausen, Reich, Gibbons, Buxtehude, Pärt and Bach. Last year he released recordings of music ranging from Terry Riley's In C to Gibbons' Cries of London.

Since his involvement with EPCC Hillier has widened the choir's perspectives and continued its success both in the recording field and as a performing group. Its repertoire ranges from Gregorian chant to late baroque and 20th century music.

Works by Bach and contemporary composers (as well as Estonian choral music) have a great importance in the choir's programmes and music by Arvo Pärt and Veljo Tormis has shared a very special place in its repertoire for many years. In this concert three works by Pärt will be heard as well as Tchaikovsky's Legend and three psalms of David by Cyrillus Kreek. The concert ends with a collection of vespers and matins from Rachmaninov's All-Night Vigil.

The choir has made numerous recordings for different broadcasting and recording companies all receiving recognition from music critics and musical magazines.

In the summer of 2002, EPCC and Paul Hillier worked with Harmonia Mundi USA in a three-year project to explore the breadth and depth of choral music from the countries round the Baltic Sea. Other projects with Harmonia Mundi have been Powers of Heaven in 2003 (Russian Orthodox Church music from the 18th century) and Rachmaninov's All-Night Vigil in 2005. The recordings Te Deum, Litany, Crystallisatio, Kanon Pokajanen, Baltic Voices I and Baltic Voices II have been nominees for Grammy awards.

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The choir's most recent recording - Arvo Pärt's Da Pacem - has received rave reviews round the world.

t Tickets £23, £15, £12, £7, under-26s £5, are available on P 01603 766400. For a brochure listing all festival events and activities P 01603 877750 or visit www.nnfestival.org.uk

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