PSU man choir

Portland State Choirs preview: knocking on heaven’s door

University's award winning Chamber Choir, Man Choir and Vox Femina sing music by acclaimed choral composer Eriks Esenvalds and more in CD release concerts

What a year it’s been for Portland State University’s Chamber Choir! In July, it became the first American choir to compete in the prestigious Bali International Choir Festival — where it won top prize among 124 choirs and went on to perform in several other concerts and other events in Indonesia.

A few weeks later, the choir’s newly released third CD, The Doors of Heaven, not only became the first college choir recording to make Billboard’s chart of best-selling traditional classical albums but also debuted at No. 1 and stayed on the chart for two months. The album earned worldwide play on streaming platforms, like Apple Music, and favorable, sometimes ecstatic reviews in Europe and the US.

The Doors of Heaven was the first recording by an American choir entirely devoted to the enchanting, sometimes haunting music of Latvia’s Eriks Esenvalds, who’s become the world’s hottest young choral composer. Portland State’s choir had previously been the first to record his music in this country after the choir’s director, Ethan Sperry, heard it at a choral directors conference. Impressed, Esenvalds specifically asked Naxos, the world’s largest classical CD label, which wanted to record an album of his music, to use the Portland State singers.

A recent review in the online journal Classics Today praised “the extraordinary performances by the Portland State Chamber Choir, whose virtuoso work here… place(s) it among the world’s finest choral ensembles.” Another praised its “stirring performances,” adding “any lover of contemporary choral music would do well to seek out this worthy collection.” If PSUCC isn’t already America’s top college choir, they’re surely knocking at the door.

This weekend, Oregon audiences get to hear the Chamber Choir and two other Portland State choirs sing Esenvalds’ music. The concert includes his prayer for peace, O Salutaris Hostia; a rare choral setting of a poem by Leonard Cohen; another featuring a poem by former Oregon poet laureate Paulann Petersen that Esenvalds wrote especially for the Portland State Chamber Choir.

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National Choral Conference: College choir champions convene

PSU event brings some of the nation's finest collegiate choruses to perform in Portland for the first time.

by ETHAN SPERRY

Some of the nation’s finest college choirs perform in Portland’s largest choral event ever. On November 12-14, over 500 college choral singers and 300 college choir conductors will descend on the city for the 10th anniversary conference of the National Collegiate Choral Organization (NCCO). The conference includes six performances — all open to the public — as well as master classes, interest sessions, and panel discussions that are open to anyone who chooses to register for the entire conference.

Grete-Pedersen. Photo: Ole Kaland.

Grete Pedersen. Photo: Ole Kaland.

More 100 college choirs applied by blind tape audition to perform at this conference. The 10 best groups that were accepted will perform thematic programs 25 minutes in length for normal choirs and 50 minutes for headline choirs. Concertgoers should expect to hear the best of the best from around our country. Most of the choirs will be conducted by their own directors, but some will be conducted by our two headline guest conductors: Simon Carrington, founding member of the King’s Singers and Professor Emeritus from Yale University, and Grete Pedersen, founding conductor of the Norwegian Soloists Choir and world-renowned scholar on the music of Franz Joseph Haydn.

Here’s a walkthrough of the concerts and summary of other events for any Portlanders interested in crashing some or all of our conference.

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