International Competition

The 2018 International Competition will see 8 choirs compete for the 'Oak Tree of Derry' trophy and a cash prize of £2,000.

Blagovest Chamber Choir, Latvia
Aleksandrs Brandavs

The Riga Orthodox Chamber Choir “Blagovest” from Latvia was founded in 1990 with an aim to popularise forgotten treasures of Russian sacred music, which makes up most of the choir’s repertoire. The choir has a wide range of interests, from monophonic neumatic chants, to polyphonic choral concertos and compositions of contemporary composers. Masterpieces of secular music, classics of Latvian choral music and folk songs are also included in the choir’s repertoire.

The choir has received many awards and prizes in various international choral competitions and festivals, including becoming the Champion of the 3rd European Choir Games in 2017 and Winner of the Grand Prix of Nations in Riga (Latvia) and Colombo (Sri Lanka), in the category of “musica sacra a cappella”.

Blagovest has recorded seven CDs and taken part in a number of inspiring cooperation projects with well-known singers, choirs, and composers both in Latvia and abroad.

Chorus Iucundus, Finland
Timo Lehtovaara

Chorus Iucundus is a mixed voice youth choir from the Puolalanmäki Upper Secondary School in Turku, Finland. The school has a special music department and their choir consists of 28 talented singers. The repertoire performed by the choir is variable, from Monteverdi madrigals to newly-composed contemporary music, folk songs and pop music.

Chorus Iucundus is an active performer in Turku musical life. In addition to their standard concerts the choir has been involved in two modern operas, and has taken part in the Tampere Vocal Music Festival (2015), where they achieved two golden stamps, and the Vocal Espoo International Vocal Festival (also in 2015), where they were awarded second in “The best school choir in Finland” competition.

The conductor of the choir is Timo Lehtovaara, one of the leading choral conductors in Finland.

Cor CF1, Wales
Eilir Owen Griffiths

CF1 is a mixed choir based in Cardiff. Since its inception as a Youth Association by conductor Eilir Owen Griffiths in 2002, CF1 has developed into one of Wales’ most competitive mixed choirs.

The choir has had considerable success in many choral festivals including the Llangollen International Musical Eisteddfod, Cheltenham Choral Festival and North Wales Choral Festival. Additionally, they won the Mixed Choirs Category in the Côr Cymru Competition, were named BBC Radio 3 Choir of the Year in 2014 and winner of the Mixed Choir Competition of the National Eisteddfod of Wales 2017.

The choir enjoys performing on the international stage and has travelled to the United States, Poland, Canada, Italy and Ireland, as well as across England and Wales. Some of CF1’s highlights include performing in the official opening of the Wales Millennium Centre in 2004 and singing in the Millennium Stadium before rugby matches, including the 2015 Rugby World Cup.

DelicaTon, Germany
Matthias Schmitt & Volker Bernhart

DelicaTon is a male voice choir established in the year 2000. It is the choir’s strong belief that choral music has a magical quality that brings people, cultures and worlds together, combining the body and soul with our emotions. Singing also has a great impact on the listeners and should always be an enriching experience. The choir’s repertoire comprises many different kinds of music styles, catering to the wide-ranging musical tastes of their audiences.

The choir has taken part in many festivals in Germany and abroad. In July 2012 they achieved success at the Llangollen International Choir Competition in Wales, winning the grand prix title of “Choir of the World”, as the first German choral ensemble to have ever taken part. Additionally, the choir was awarded the gold diploma at the 2011 Johannes Brahms Choir Competition in Wernigerode and at the 2014 World Choir Games in Riga in the Male Chamber Choir and Sacred Music categories.

Conductor Matthias Schmitt is the Cultural Ambassador for Main-Kinzig-Destrict (Frankfurt), conducts several choirs in state of Hessen (Germany) and was the Artistic Director of the Heart of Europe International Choir Competition in 2010.

Laetare Vocal Ensemble, Ireland
Róisín Blunnie

Laetare Vocal Ensemble was formed in September 2014, and since then has been regularly active in concert performance, competition, collaboration and recording. In 2017, Laetare released a CD of works by Irish composers Seán Doherty, Rhona Clarke, and John Buckley entitled In Circling Flight, and also featured as backing choir on the critically-acclaimed album West to the Evening Sun by singer-songwriter Ailie Blunnie.

Choral festival awards include National Choir of the Year at the Navan Choral Festival, Premier Choir at the Mayo International Choral Festival, the Victor Leeson Trophy for ‘Ireland’s Choir of the Year’ at the Cork International Choral Festival, and 2nd prize at the City of Derry International Choir Festival 2017. The choir has a particular interest in contemporary music, regularly commissioning works from leading Irish composers, and have picked up contemporary performance awards at a number of festivals.

Namdal Vocal Ensemble, Norway
Tor Halvard Nilsen

The Namdal Vokalensemble was founded in 2014 by conductor Tor Halvard Nilsen. To date, approximately 160 singers have auditioned to become a member of the choir, and presently the ensemble consists of 22 amateur singers from several rural communities of central Norway. The singers gather for practice every other Thursday, and the overall aim is to give audiences memorable, high quality musical experiences. Their repertoire consists of a wide variety of styles, ranging from classical to pop, ballads and folk music, all performed a cappella.

Tor Halvard Nilsen was educated in music at Høgskolen I Nesna (Norway), Hamburger Konservatorium (Germany) and University of Michigan (U.S.A.). In recent years, he has had further education in choir conducting with professor Ragnar Rasmussen at Høgskolen i Tromsø (Norway).

In addition to Namdal Vokalensemble, he presently conducts Spillum Damekor, Namsos Musikkorps and Kor i Namsskogan. As a freelance conductor, he is engaged as a guest conductor for choirs, orchestras and bands in Norway and abroad. He was awarded the Rana Community Culture Award in 1990, and the Trygve Hoff Honorary Award in 1998.

Noorus Mixed Choir, Estonia
Maarja Helstein & Taavi Hark

The Noorus Mixed Choir was established in 1960, and since then, has participated in a wide range of international choral competitions across Europe, released six albums, and has performed in many large-scale collaborative vocal and instrumental pieces, both live and recorded. Since 2012, the choir’s Lead Conductor has been Maarja Helstein and Maarja was joined by Taavi Hark as Assistant Conductor in 2017.

Noorus Mixed Choir’s repertoire is mainly composed of works by well-known Estonian composers, however, in recent years, the choir has increased its focus on the commissioning and performance of new pieces by young Estonians. In reflection of the choir’s name (Noorus translates to “Youth”), the choir’s creative leadership believes it important to encourage and promote fresh works written by the emerging generation of young Estonian composers.

UIS University Choir, Colombia
Juan Manuel Hernández-Morales

The University Choir UIS, made up of students and graduates from the academic programs of the Industrial University of Santander, is a pioneer of Santander’s choral groups and one of the oldest university choirs in Colombia (founded in 1962).
It has been the winner of international competitions in Hungary, Greece, Italy, Spain, Argentina and South Korea, and has also performed symphonic-choral concerts and productions in various cultural venues in South America, United States, Italy and France.

The Choir is the organiser of the Santander Choral Festival and is currently directed by Professor Juan Manuel Hernández-Morales, a graduate of the music programme at the Industrial University of Santander and winner of the “Conductor Prize” at Busan Choral Festival, South Korea, in October 2014.