In this NY Times article (by Cori Ellison from 2001), Ellison paints a complete picture of the Swedish Radio Choir - not your stereotypical Lutheran choir, you betcha. Ellison's initial depiction of the choir as they "bray incantations" and past director Tonu Kaljuste as a writhing "mad shaman" isn't quite what you'd expect from this good ol' Swedish choir. But you will soon be won over by the Swedish gem.
Ellison credits much of the choir's success to Eric Ericson. Because of his work with the choir, Ellison says that Swedish composers finally had a "unique, flexible instrument, ready and able to brave new choral techniques and harmonic languages" to give their compositions the proper attention. According to the article, once officially hired, Ericson wasted no time making sure that at least 75% of the repertoire was a capella. In his own words: "A cappella singing is the only way to establish high choral standards of intonation, balance and listening." But Ellison believes that Ericson's biggest contribution is the "legendary Scandinavian choral sound." The description of that sound: " sinewy, lean sonority, less expansive than that of a Slavic, German or Italianate choir."
Just how competitive is it? Ellison says that only two or three members are chosen to join each year after a grueling series of auditions. And once you're in, you're not in for good - choir members are required to re-audition every three years, and once they hit 50, that's upped to every year.
And don't think they aren't feeling the pressure from the economic climate - the government subsidized choir, and its sister-organization, Swedish Radio Orchestra, feel the squeeze of any economic down-swing.
But geez-oh-pete, do they sound glorious! As Ellison says, they've got "purity of tone and pitch, an impeccable unison, perfectly blended partials, rhythmic precision, unanimity of diction, stylistic versatility and finely modulated dynamics, from diaphanous piano to bracing forte." Who wouldn't want to listen to that level of skill?
- Melissa Wray, Marketing Intern