The Swedish choral conductor Eric Ericson is awarded the 1997 Polar Music Prize for pioneering achievements as a conductor, teacher, artistic originator and inspirer in Swedish and international choral music.
Eric Ericson was born in 1918 and grew up in Visby on the island of Gotland in the Baltic Sea. His father was the reverend of a local church community and became Ericson’s automatic link with church services, which awakened his interest in music. Through a devoted choir music teacher at school, Ericson entered the cathedral’s boys choir. His higher musical education would then be very broad based. He started at the Royal Academy of Music in Stockholm (1941-1943) and continued at Basel’s Schola Cantorum during World War II. Additional studies in England, America, and Germany preceded his appointment as cantor in Jakobskyrkan in Stockholm in 1949. In 1953, he was made a professor at Stockholm Conservatory.
A choir is a musical ensemble of singers. It is perhaps the oldest and most widespread type of musical performance as a group. Choral music is unison or polyphonic, each harmony consists of several persons. Strictly speaking, the typical four-part setting of a chorale, in which the sopranos sing the melody along with three lower voices, is known as a chorale harmonization.
As an art form the choir is unique, partly because it is a grand musical experience both to listen to as well as to participate in. Sweden is a leading choir nation with over half a million practitioners.
Eric Ericson founded the Eric Ericson Chamber Choir (Kammarkören) already in 1945. The choir has taken a central place both on the Swedish and International choir music scenes. Its founder’s great interest to constantly find new music and new works makes the choir’s repertoire very wide: from Renaissance music to the latest avant-garde. The choir is at the very top of professional ensembles, and has received numerous awards such as the Deutsche Schallplattenpreis and the Dutch Edison Award. EEKK annually conducts several foreign tours and has appeared extensively throughout Europe, the USA and Canada. The choir has made numerous recordings of a cappella repertoire and is found in many record company catalogs.
The Eric Ericson Chamber Choir
The EEKK has taken a central place both on the Swedish and International choir music scene. Its founder’s great interest to constantly find new music and new works makes the choir’s repertoire very wide: from Renaissance music to the latest avant-garde. The Choir is at the very top of professional ensembles, and has received numerous awards such as theDeutsche Schallplattenpreis and the Dutch Edison Award. EEKK annually conducts several foreign tours and has appeared extensively throughout Europe, the USA and Canada. The choir has made numerous recordings of a cappella repertoire and is found in many record company catalogs. In addition to the extensive a cappella works, EEKK continuously collaborates with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra and with the Drottningholm Baroque Ensemble with which the choir has toured and made recordings of Bach’s Mass in B minor, Christmas Oratorio, St. John Passion and Matthew Passion.
Between 1951 and 1991, Ericson was the head conductor of the prestigious choir Orphei Drängar, OD, an Uppsala based male choir founded in 1853. Ericson’s notoriety opened many doors for OD. He introduced more contemporary, modern composers and focused on the technical skills of the choir, a focus that bear fruit in the development of OD’s characteristics.
OD established itself at the highest international levels, and got well known for its rhythmic precision, precise phrasing and powerful sound. Under Ericson’s time as choir leader, the choir also gained organizational and financial stability. The successful Caprice concept was launched and Ericson had as many opportunities to demonstrate his humor and his skill as a pianist. He also conducted the Swedish Radio Choir (Radiokören) 1951-1982 and has been a teacher at the Royal Academy of Music in Stockholm.
One of very few engagements beside the choral activities is the conducting of Mozart’s Magic Flute for the 1974 Ingmar Bergman movie adaptation.
Ericson’s international recognition broadened with the years: he made guest appearances with all the world’s major choirs, such as the Netherlands Chamber Choir, Groupe Vocal de France, BBC Singers, RIAS Chamber Choir and Wiener Staatsoper Choir. In 1991 he was awarded the Danish Sonning Prize and in 1995 the Nordic Council Music Prize. He became an honorary doctorate at Uppsala University in 1983 and at Alberta University, Canada 1996.
Eric Ericson was also a member of the Swedish Royal Academy of Music and Honorary President of the International Federation for Choral Music. In 2009 the church on Skeppsholmen in the centre of Stockholm was re-inaugurated as “Eric Ericson-hallen” a cultural centre for choir music and an exceptional concert hall.