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‘World’s greatest choirmaster’ has died

Eric Ericson, whose Swedish choirs became the voices of choice for conductors as different as Claudio Abbado and Nikolaus Harnoncourt, died on Friday at the age of 94.

An innovative, intuitive teacher, he formed the choir of Swedish Radio in 1951 and directed it until 1982. At Uppsala, he was chorus master of the male chorus “Orphei Drängar” (OD) for 40 years. He founded the Eric Ericson Chamber Choir and worked with many baroque ensembles across Europe. He championed many living Swedish composers.

The angels above had better be prepared.


eric ericsson

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  1. The world has lost the King of Choral Music Conductors. He led us all to a strong understanding of Scandinavian Choral music and confidence to try our hand at singing and conducting some of the world’s great choral classics. It was an honor to have known Eric Ericson and have some short conversations with him. In 2002 my Clarion Label brought back the two Three CD sets. 500 years of European Choral Music and Virtuoso Choral Music so choral directors could experience his genius. The 40 Ericson CD’s on my shelf are Priceless and have made their way to many broadcasts on my Choral Radio Show. “Going Beyond Words”.

    Thank you Eric Ericson for the many musical gifts you have given to those of us on the Podium.

    God Bless Your Musical Spirit
    Stanley Schmidt Host/Producer
    Going Beyond Words

  2. I have very fond memories of Mr. Ericson. Big man, heavy man, but moving elegantly as a conductor with a very clear and personal style. Thank you, Mr. Ericson. It was a privilege to have to opportunity to be working with you in the early years of my musical career.

  3. George King says:

    Eric Erikson was the man who, in a memorable choral workshop with the chamber choir of which I was then a member, pointed out why singing a sharp (as in equal-tempered) major third at the end of a Baroque piece destroyed the equilibrium of the final chord. I have never forgotten the peaceful, relaxed intonation we achieved as a result and his smile of approbation, nor, most importantly, his explanation of why this was necessary. (Sad to say, our regular director was soon urging us once again ‘not to sing that third so flat’.)

  4. Sad news

    My Sister lives in Sweden. Would an obituary (in Swedish) be of any interest?


    • yes, if she’ll translate it

      • My Sister has emailed me the newspaper link & I will send it & the translation to you as soon as I get it.

        In the mean time a small correction for you. He died on Friday Night & was 94 not 93

        26.10.1918 to 15.2.2013


        • thanks, Tim.

          • Here is the link for an Obituary & photo from a Swedish newspaper


            This translates as follows:-

            Choir director Eric Ericson has died.

            The world famous choir director Eric Ericson has died, 94 years old
            - It was not he who created choir singing but he refined it. He has been an era in himself, says his friend and colleague Gustav Sjökvist.

            The world famous choir director Eric Ericson died on Friday night.

            He is known as the modern Swedish choral father and is perhaps best known for his work with the choir Orphei Drängar, where he was director for 40 years.
            - He had an extraordinary sense of tone. It is almost impossible to describe, but it emanated from his hands, his whole appearance. In the case of choral music, he is completely unique, says Gustaf Sjokvist.

            Ericson was the son of a free church Minister and was introduced to music at an early age, he learned to play the piano and organ and directed as a teenager. But it was at the Royal College of Music in Stockholm, where he developed himself and choral music in a way that has characterized the choir making in Sweden and in the world.
            - Everyone has looked up to him. He started as a teacher at the Academy of Music in the 1950s, a series of generations have had him as a teacher and colleague. He has meant so much for the emerging choir tradition, says Gustaf Sjokvist.

            During his time at the Academy of Music Eric Ericson was friends with a group that would have a major impact on his musical development. They were called Monday Group and included among other composers Sven-Erik Bäck, Sven-Eric Johanson and Ingvar Lidholm.

            Gustaf Sjokvist, who took over as head of the Radio Choir from Eric Ericson, highlights how difficult it was to try to introduce new ideas, because Ericson himself had most often managed it before him.
            - He was constantly pushing the boundaries, he was a very inquisitive person. He was also a great humanist, which you become when you are meeting and working with people all the time like he did.

            Ericson was 94 years old and survived by his wife and four children.


            It is extraordinary that for a country the size of Sweden & with much of the north in darkness for at least 4 months of the year that they estimate over a quarter of a million people in Sweden sing in choirs.


          • thanks, Tim!

  5. A giant in our profession has died and the music world is left with an enormous void. Mr. Ericson showed so many of us the excitement of 20th century choral literature, the profoundness of the Strauss motets and the musical rewards of his beloved Swedish choral. His belief that there are only 40 pieces of choral literature worthy of being studied surprised me given his adventuresome programming with the Radio Choir. But if you were fortunate enough to study one of the his top 40 with him, the insights gained into those pieces and by association the broader body of fine choral literature took you to an entirely new level of musicality. I owe him a huge debt of gratitude.

    william a. wyman

  6. Lindsay Koob says:

    Being a classical music journalist and lifelong choral singer, I began reviewing choral CDs for American Record Guide in 2002 — and, among the first choral collections I was asked to cover were the two 3-CD sets (500 years of European Choral Music and Virtuoso Choral Music) on the Clarion label that Mr. Schmidt blessed us with (top comment above) … THANK YOU, sir! These recordings were a personal revelation. Back in their original LP incarnations, they did much to revolutionize choral singing in Europe, where Ericson had even greater influence than Robert Shaw did in America … probably because he spent more time teaching. They should be required listening for any choral artist. I had known of Eric Ericson before then, but my understanding of his pervasive influence across Europe was incomplete. In the years since, as I’ve covered the music of many top European choirs for ARG, it has become almost a matter of routine to find that most their directors were Ericson’s students. And I was hardly surprised to learn how many conductors of leading American choirs had studied with him as well. While I am saddened to hear of this great man’s passing, I find comfort in the certainty that his legacy will never die, manifesting itself in glorious sound wherever and whenever choral singers raise their voices collectively in song. — Lindsay Koob

    • Dear Lindsay: One other item. I just finished a radio show called “In Memoriam Eric Ericson 1918-2013″ It is one hour in length and includes comments from Dr. William Wyman, Nebraska Wesleyan University; Bo Ejeby, CEO of FootPrint Records – Sweden; Nils Lindberg, Composer and Jazz Music from Sweden; John Rutter and Dr. Craig Jessop Dean of the Craine School of Music at Utah State University in Logan. You can hear it Sunday, March 10th at Noon Central time. Go to KVNO.ORG and click on Listen.

      Stanley Schmidt

  7. Gerald Churchill says:

    Ericson did the conducting for Ingmar Bergman’s production of “The Magic Flute.”

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