Swedish choral director Eric Ericson dies aged 94
21 February 2013
Eric Ericson 1918-2013
The renowned Swedish choral director and teacher Eric Ericson has died at the age of 94. Originally trained as a church musician at the Royal Academy of Music in Stockholm, Ericson went on to further study at the Schola Cantorum Basiliensis and in Germany, the UK and the USA. Founder, in 1945, of the Eric Ericson Chamber Choir, he was principal conductor of the Orphei Drängar choir at Uppsala University from 1951 until 1991, and choirmaster until 1982 of the Swedish Radio Choir which he also founded in 1951. Among his awards was the Nordic Council Music Prize (1995) and Sweden’s Polar Music prize (1997). The number of works by Swedish composers premiered by Ericson and introduced to an international audience was huge, as was his collaboration with composers such as Penderecki and Henze; Ligeti’s Drei Chorphantasien was dedicated to Ericson and his choir. Ericson was a prolific recording artist.
'It was not he who created choir singing but he refined it. He has been an era in himself,' said friend and colleague Gustav Sjökvist, who took over the Radio Choir from Ericson, and now runs his own chamber choir. Highlighting how difficult it was to try to introduce new ideas, because Ericson himself had most often managed it before him, Mr Sjökvist added, '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 as he did.'
In a published interview, Ericson explained how his career had started: ‘I probably got this fascination for singing in parts, polyphonic composition, more or less with my mother's milk. As is the case with many other choristers in Sweden, I grew up within the Free church. Especially when you are the son of a pastor, ceremonial music becomes a natural part of the family's everyday life. On top of that I happened to have a music teacher at high school in Visby, who had a great dedication to choral singing. His name was Siedberg, and he worked within the Swedish Choir League. He was very talented, and had studied in Berlin as well as in Salzburg. Thanks to him I was propelled into the boys' choir at the cathedral. Already as a boy I found string music a little primitive, it was more fun to sing in parts - allegedly I led a choir of juniors at twelve ...’