University of Oregon Chamber Choir 2011 Concert Tour of Finland and Estonia

An interview with Sharon Paul, Director, University of Oregon Chamber Choir

What made you choose Finland and Estonia for your choir’s tour?

We had been invited to audition for the Estonian choral competition by the Artistic Director of the festival, Hirvo Surva, after he worked with the Chamber Choir at the U of O in the fall of 2009. I had toured to Estonia twice before (in 1990 and 1991, both times with ACFEA), and wanted my singers to experience the passion the Estonian people have for choral singing throughout their culture.

What were the main highlights of the tour?

We had so many highlights! Certainly everything surrounding the Tallinn International Choir Festival was a highlight, from performing at the opening night concert, to the three rounds of competitions, to hearing so many wonderful choirs from around the world, and especially being called to the stage twice to perform at the awards ceremony because we took top honors in two categories. My students loved the informal time with the singers from around the world, sharing common repertoire (singing into the wee hours of the night!), learning of amazing new repertoire, and sharing their passion for choral music with people from such a wide variety of places such as Norway, Germany, Estonia, Latvia, Sweden, Iceland and more.

University of Oregon Chamber Choir at the Tallinn International Choir Festival

Did you choose repertoire for the Tallinn International Choir Festival that was different from what the students are used to performing? Did you prepare any differently?

The U of O is on the quarter system, so we often feel pressed for time in preparing our concerts. It was great to work on the repertoire for the competition over a longer period of time than just ten weeks. The music we prepared was not so different from what we normally explore, although the compulsory piece for the Chamber Choir competition, Rautavaara‘s Credo, was a piece I had not been familiar with.

How did you overcome the cultural differences?

The people in Estonia and Finland were so warm and welcoming, it was not hard to overcome any cultural differences, although occasionally we felt challenged decoding the symbols on the public restroom doors and hoped we picked the right one!

To learn more about Finland and Estonia as possible concert tour destinations for your ensemble, please visit our Scandinavia and Baltics destination pages, or contact us