Formed in 2006 by conductor Michael Zaugg and now under the direction of the very dynamic and talented Andrew Gray, the elite professional ensemble Voces Boreales has rapidly established itself as an important force in the new-music choral landscape of Quebec and Canada. It performs to great acclaim in Montreal and the surrounding area, where it boasts an enthusiastic and loyal audience.
The group’s concerts feature a very unique repertoire of contemporary music from Scandinavia, the Baltic States and North America. Works by composers such as Mäntyjärvi, Tormis, Rautavaara, Whitacre, and Pärt are ideal to showcase the choir’s lush and full sound.
An important element of the programming from Voces Boreales is the combination of works from the finest choral composers of the 20th and 21st centuries, sometimes considered esoteric and challenging for the listener, with works of a more mainstream nature including, at times, works from the Renaissance, Baroque, Classical and Romantic periods.
Very committed to the creators of today, Voces Boreales has premiered works by several local composers which the Montreal Choral Institute had commissioned, including David Cronkite, David Désilets, and Christopher Hossfeld.
The group tackles works of complex rhythmic and harmonic writing with wide vocal and dynamic ranges, which require extended vocal techniques, exceptional control and exemplary ensemble skills from the choristers. Apart from the standard languages used in choral music (Latin, Italian, German, French, English), the singers have to master texts written in foreign languages which are heard much less often here, for example Danish, Swedish, Finnish, Estonian and Icelandic.
Voces Boreales has thus built a solid reputation of artistic excellence, virtuosity and adventurousness and is considered the finest group of its type in the province. This has prompted several meaningful artistic collaborations: with Quebec poet Hélène Dorion and with three Montreal-based instrumental quartets, namely Bozzini (strings), Quasar (saxophones), and Vincent Lauzer’s Flûte Alors! (recorders). All these artists are of the highest quality imaginable and have been recognized with several significant awards.
Important producers have taken notice as well. Upon invitation, Voces Boreales has performed at several prestigious events: the Festival international de Lanaudière, the Mondial choral de Laval, the national Podium Conference and Festival, the Montreal Bach Festival (Bach-Académie), the eXpressions festival (National Arts Centre), and the concert series Musique chez nous (Bishop’s University). The choir also took part in a concert celebrating the 75th anniversary of Canadian icon R. Murray Schafer, with the composer in attendance, and the concert was subsequently broadcast on CBC Radio. More recently, Ms. Karen Young, the well-known Montreal jazz singer, hired Voces Boreales, of whom she is a great fan, to sing her Missa Campanula in two different concerts and to make a recording of the piece; the CD was launched at the choir’s Lux Autumna concert in November 2015.
Voces Boreales is produced by the Montreal Choral Institute and often appears in its various educational events, such as the Montreal Choral Masterclass.