The Holst Singers are acclaimed as one of England’s greatest amateur choirs. The talent and commitment of the individual singers and the leadership of their mercurial conductor, Stephen Layton, ensure that their performances are always of the very highest standards.
Veljo Tormis is—along with Arvo Pärt—Estonia’s most famous living composer, holding an almost mystic status in his home country. He is also the passionate and practical torch-bearer for folk-singing revival, and the integration of an ancient cultural inheritance into thoroughly modern, post-Soviet lives. Interestingly, he trained at the Moscow conservatoire and was steeped in Soviet instruction during his early musical life. His music is almost all written for choirs; few composers have ever been so committed to one genre. Tormis’s choral specialism marks him out from Bartók, Kodály, Vaughan Williams and Grainger, whose pioneering interest in folksong was ultimately less purist given their use of the tunes alone in instrumental or orchestral works: for Tormis, the words and the music are inseparable.
The Holst Singers were recently invited to Estonia to perform Tormis’s music—a great honour, and a mark of their mastery of the repertoire.