Eric Ericson was born in 1918 and passed away in February 2013 after a long and rich life in choral music. He devoted his entire career to choral singing. His work contributed to the high status of his own choirs in Sweden as well as internationally, he helped promote musical genres and composers, and he was a major contributor to the establishment of choral singing as a serious, advanced form of music-making. In 1979, he became Professor in Choir Conducting at the Royal College of Music in Stockholm, where over the years he has probably taught an astonishing 15,00 choir conductors.

Eric is, together with Martin “Max Martin” Sandberg, the only Swedes who to date have been awarded the Polar Music Prize. In 2009, Eric was honoured with Skeppsholmskyrkan being renamed the Eric Ericson Hall which then became a hub for Swedish choral music spearheaded by the Eric Ericson International Choral Centre. He is considered to be one of the world’s leading choir conductors. After his death, Dagens Nyheter’s Marcus Boldemann wrote: “His interpretations had a crystal-clear quality, a rigour which, on closer examination, was teeming with life and ultimately the famous, lithe, Ericsonian expressiveness.”

Eric grew up in a free-church home in Visby. His father Gustaf was a minister in the Methodist Church. Through his music teacher at school, Eric was accepted into the cathedral boys choir, and already as a 12-year old he was conducting a junior choir. After studies in Stockholm, Basel and other places, he started the Swedish Chamber Choir in 1945, which was later renamed the Eric Ericson Chamber Choir, the group which later became his principal instrument for developing his signature choral sound in a cappella singing.

In parallel with the Chamber Choir, Eric was the conductor and musical director for the Swedish Radio Choir from 1951–1982 and of the male voice choir Orphei Drängar from 1951–1991. He was also choirmaster in Saint James’s Church in Stockholm from 1949 to 1974 and conducted The Real Group for their album Stämning from 2002. He has been guest conductor of many major choirs in other countries, including the Netherlands Chamber Choir, Groupe Vocal de France, the BBC Singers, and the Vienna State Opera Choir. He was been awarded many prizes. In addition to the 1997 Polar Music Prize, the prestigious Danish Sonning Prize in 1991 and the Nordic Council Music Prize in 1995,

Eric was named an honorary doctor at Uppsala University in 1983 and at the University of Alberta in Canada in 1996. He was also a member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Music and honorary chair of the International Federation for Choral Music. In 1998, when Eric turned 80, a music professorship was created in his name at Uppsala University.

Millions of people in the world sing in a choir. Listening to choral singing can be a truly magnificent musical experience as can contributing one’s own voice to a part in a choir. Singing in a choir can break down barriers between people and have a positive impact on body and soul, and on our capacity to work together towards a common goal. Sweden is a leading choral nation with an estimated over half a million choristers, and in no small part we have Eric Ericson to thank for that.

Eric Ericson. Foto: Anders Roth.