The Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir (= EPCC) as a full-time professional choir was founded in 1981 by Tõnu Kaljuste. It was first formed as the amateur chamber choir Ellerhein, founded by Tõnu Kaljuste's father Heino Kaljuste (1925-1989) on the 15th anniversary of the children's choir Ellerhein in 1966. In 1971 Tõnu Kaljuste became the conductor of the chamber choir Ellerhein, on the basis of which in 1981 he formed the full-time professional Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir. Tõnu Kaljuste acted as artistic director and chief conductor for 20 years. In 2001 he invited British conductor Paul Hillier to take over his position at the EPCC. At the 1991 Takarazuka Chamber Choir Competition in Japan the choir won three gold medals and was awarded the Grand Prix. Since then the choir has not been envolved in any competition, the main activities having been concerts at home and abroad, and recordings under different recording and broadcasting companies.
The repertoire of the EPCC ranges from Gregorian chants to late baroque and 20th century music. Works by J.S. Bach and contemporary composers, as well as Estonian choral music have a great importance in choir’s programs. Music by Arvo and Veljo Tormis has had very special place in the EPCC’s repertoire for many years.
The EPCC has worked with various conductors and orchestras, such as Claudio Abbado, Helmuth Rilling, Sir David Willcocks, Dale Warland, Eric Ericson, Anders Öhrwall, Martin Haselböck, Ivan Fisher, Ward Swingle, Joseph Jennings, Neeme Järvi, Paavo Järvi, Andrew Lawrence-King Roland Böer, Toomas Vavilov, Anu Tali and others; Australian Chamber Orchestra, Norwegian Chamber Orchestra, Israel Philharmonic Orchestra, Prague Chamber Orchestra, Lithuanian Chamber Orchestra, Stuttgarter Kammerorchester, Berlin Rundfunk Orchester, Concerto Copenhagen, Concerto Palatino, Estonian National Symphony Orchestra and others. Partnership with Tallinn Chamber Orchestra has been long and fruitful. These two groups have made several tours together, both in Europe and in the USA, focusing mainly on works by Arvo Pärt, and recorded several CD's. The EPCC tours regularly in Europe, USA, Canada, Japan, and Australia.
Besides concert tours the EPCC has also made numerous recordings for various broadcast and recording companies. All these recordings have received very high recognition by leading music critics and musical magazines all over the world. The Grammy Committee has noticed the choir's works several times: at the 38th Grammy Awards (October 1994 - September 1995) Tõnu Kaljuste was nominated for the Best Choral Performance (Category 81) as a conductor with Arvo Pärt's Te Deum; at the 39th Grammy Awards (October 1995 - September 1996) Manfred Eicher was nominated as the Classical Producer of The Year (Category 77) with three records released by ECM, among them Arvo Pärt's Litany and E.-S. Tüür's Crystallisatio; the record Kanon Pokajanen raised two nominees at the 41st Grammy Awards (October 1997 - September 1998): Arvo Pärt as the composer of the Best Classical Contemporary Composition (Category 92) and Manfred Eicher (with this and four other records) as the Classical Producer of The Year (Category 77). In summer 2002 the EPCC and Paul Hillier started cooperation with Harmonia Mundi, recording two first CD's: Baltic Voices I and Russian Baroque (released in 2003). The three-years project Baltic Voices, which’s main idea is to explore the breadth and depth of choral music from the countries around the Baltic Sea, is continuing in 2003 and 2004. From Copenhagen to St Petersburg, from Stockholm to Riga, and of course with a strong representation from the choir's native Estonia, we will focus primarily on the mainstream tradition of the past hundred years, but there will also be music from earlier periods, and newly commissioned works from younger composers's repertoire for many years.
When the EPCC landed in New York for its first N. American tour in 1995, they were known only as the performers on the Grammy-nominated, best-selling CD of Arvo Pärt’s austere Te Deum. The concerts showed much more - a virtuosic ensemble who could dazzle in everything from Bach to folk songs to works by fellow Scandinavians. In March 2006 they will return for their 6th tour to perform works newly recorded for Harmonia Mundi - including the Arvo Pärt classic, Miserere. Tour repertoire will also include Francis Poulenc, Benjamin Britten, and Erkki-Sven Tüür.