Choral Contest


This international choral contest has been held in Tolosa every year since 1969, always around the time of All Saints’ Day on 1 November.

Its aim is to bring together the best choirs in the world, in order to enable an exchange of styles, interpretation, choral literature, vocal education and customs of each country, as well as to raise awareness of the musical and cultural tradition of the Basque Country.

Over the decades, the competition has become one of the most important choral events in the world. and to date, almost 1.200 different choirs from all over the world have come to Tolosa to make their music.



From 31 October to 03 November

In 2019 the Tolosa Choral Contest will celebrate its 51th edition. Yes, suddenly we became one of the oldest choir competitions in Europe!

august, 2020

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Enrique Azurza


Foto: Ivan Yohan

Photo: by Ivan Yohan

Born in Tolosa, he studied choral conducting in the Basque Country and in Stockholm, sponsored by the Council of Gipuzkoa, with Anders Eby. He has also participated in other courses given by Eric Ericson and Carl Högset. Artistic director of Sociedad Coral de Bilbao since 2016. He has conducted since 1985 the Choir HODEIERTZ of Tolosa. In 1997 he founded the professional Vocal Ensemble KEA with the aim of promoting contemporary and ancient music. He teaches choral singing in Musikene – Centro Superior de Música del País Vasco. He is President of the Confederation of Choirs in the Basque Country. He has conducted the Choir of the University of the Basque Country (1999-2016), the Choir of the Choral Singing Institute of Aragon (Zaragoza, 1993-2003), has directed the Spanish National Youth Choir. . He is member of the musical committee in the International Choral Contest of Tolosa, and the World Simposyum Barcelona 2017 and artistic director of the National Choral Contest of Ejea de los Caballeros. In 1991, he received the Prize to the Best Director in the International Contest of Varna (Bulgaria). He has been the Spanish representative in the World Choral Symposia held in Sydney in 1996, with Hodeiertz, and in Puerto Madryn (Argentina) in 2011, with KEA vocal ensemble.

Helena Fojkar Zupančič


She works as choral conductor and vocal coach at Diocesan Classical Gymnasium in Ljubljana. She leads St. Stanislav’ Girls’ Choir , the 100-members (Re)Mixed Choir of Diocessan Classical Gymnasium Ljubljana and St. Nicholas Choir in Litija.

Her most important achievements are with the St. Stanislav’s Girls’ Choir absolute victory at the EBU competition Let the Peoples Sing 2009 in Oslo, performance at the European Festival of Youth Choirs Basel 2014, the World Choral Symposium in Barcelona 2017, and, in 2019, at the National Conference of American Choral Directors Association in Kansas City. She has been earning highest places with her choirs in competitions and is the recipient of special awards. She was awarded the Gallus plaque (2012) and the prize of the Republic of Slovenia in the field of musical education (2016).

In 2004 and from 2007–2009, she led the Slovenian Children’s Choir. Between 2009-2015, she recorded and performed with the Radio Slovenia Chamber Choir. She conducted the project RTV Slovenia Chamber Choir and Symphony Orchestra in 2014 at the season concert part of Mozartines. In 2015, she conducted the Slovenian Chamber Choir (now Slovenian Philharmonic Choir) at the opening concert of Ljubljana Festival.

Maria Goundorina

Russia – Sweden

Maria Goundorina was born in Novosokolniki in Russia and grew up near Moscow, where she started singing in choirs at the age of seven, taking up conducting when she was fifteen. She studied at the Ippolitov-Ivanov Music College and the Moscow Tchaikovsky Conservatory (with Boris Tevlin) and later at the Royal College of Music in Stockholm with Anders Eby, also following courses in musicology at the University of Vienna.

Her ideals in terms of choral sound have been influenced by these cities and her studies, but also by her own experiences as a singer and conductor.

She has been a member of the Chamber Choir of the Tchaikovsky Conservatory, the Arnold Schoenberg Chor and Mikaeli Chamber Choir, and has conducted numerous Swedish choirs, including the Swedish Radio Choir, Eric Ericson Chamber Choir and the choir of the Royal Swedish Opera. Since 2010 Maria Goundorina has been artistic director of Allmänna Sången. She also teaches choral direction and singing and Russian music at courses in Austria, Germany, the Netherlands and Sweden.

Loïc Pierre


Founder and artistic director of the Mikrokosmos Chamber Choir since 1989, Loïc Pierre is also a director, stage designer, composer and visual artist. Plural artist and always looking for originality, his work draws its influences from Sam Francis, Ariane Mnouchkine, Bob Wilson, Alfred Hitchcock or Martin Scorsese. Always in search, he tries to free himself from the immutable ritual of the concert for propose another ceremony in the hope of inventing a choral theater in the service of a choral art of today.

His shows testify to this claimed merger:
Tenebrae (2001) Bright Shadows, Another History of Cinema (2006), The Night Unveiled (2013) Back to the Earth, on music by Meredith Monk (2014), Jumala (2016), Chronicles of forgotten peoples (2018) The day amazes me (2019).

Paul Phoenix


Paul Phoenix’s long career in the music business spans five decades, from Ivor Novello Award-winning Chorister at St. Paul’s Cathedral in London, through seventeen years and a Grammy Award as tenor in the world-renowned a cappella group, The King’s Singers, with whom he performed more than 2000 concerts, to founder of PurpleVocals, a coaching consultancy which draws upon his vast experience as a singer and performer. His work not only as a speaker, coach and mentor, but also as a soloist continues to take him all around the world as he shares his passion for singing and choral music. His coaching specialises is encouraging audience engagement and confidence-building with soloists, conductors, choirs and ensembles.

He lives in Cambridge, England, with his wife, Helena and two sons, Will and Ed and when not working he enjoys cycling vast distances on his bikes and supporting Manchester City!.

Mikael Wedar


Mikael was educated at the Royal College of Music in Stockholm. He has a degree in conducting, piano and classical singing. He is since 2012 employed as a church musician in the parish of Farsta in Stockholm. During 2003-2011 Mikael worked as a teacher at Kungsholmens gymnasium/Stockholm’s Musikgymnasium, teaching choral singing. The school is for gifted young singers. Mikael has in his career worked with some of the most notable choirs in Stockholm, among them Eric Ericson Chamber Choir and the Swedish Radio Choir. In 2007 Mikael founded S:t Jacobs Vokalensemble (former Youth Choir) and have been its musical and artistic leader since. In November 2013, the choir took part in 45th Tolosa choral contest in Basque Country, Spain. Out of five possible prizes S:t Jacobs Vokalensemble won all of them and qualified for the European Grand Prix of Choral Music in Debrecen, Hungary 2014, where the choir won the whole competition. In 2017 the S:t Jacobs Vokalensemble represented Sweden in the 11th World Symposium on Choral music in Barcelona. Mikael has taken part as a jury member in the Grand Prix Competitions of Choral music in Varna-Bulgaria, Tolosa-Basque Country-Spain, Debrecen-Hungary, Tours-France. He also conducts masterclasses in choral singing around the world, emphasizing on modern repertoire. In 2018, they were invited to participate at the 50th Anniversary Tolosa Choral Contest and won a 1st Prize.

Nadezhda Averina


Nadezhda Averina is a graduate of the Ponomaryov VESNA Children’s Choir School (Moscow) and the Moscow State Tchaikovsky Conservatory. She holds a Doctor of Art History and teaches at the Moscow Conservatory. She has won international contests and is an Artist of Merit in Moscow.

Since 2012 she has directed the Ponomaryov VESNA Choir School in addition to being Artistic Director and Director of the VESNA Children’s Choir. Under the leadership of Dr Averina, the choir won first prizes and various Grand Prizes at international choir contests in 2006 (Tolosa), 2010 (Nyíregyháza, Hungary), 2012 (Malcesine, Italy), 2014 (Neerpelt, Belgium and Halle, Germany), 2016 (Debrecen, Hungary) and 2017 (Daugavpils, Latvia). In 2017 the choir won the European Grand Prix for Choral Singing, even beating the adult choirs competing for the prize.

The VESNA choir has taken its concert programmes to 12 European countries as well as Canada, Japan, China and around 50 towns and cities in Russia. The choir has sung in the best concert halls in Moscow with many celebrated orchestras and conductors.

Its vast and varied repertoire includes hundreds of classical works from different periods and countries and a range of styles and genres. The choir’s programmes have been recorded for radio and TV.

Dr Averina has written articles on the methodology of teaching, has arranged several pieces and has compiled numerous choir music collections (seven of which were included in the Golden Library of Choirmaster series). She holds regular seminars and master classes for choir directors and sits on the judging panel for many Russian and international choir competitions.

Gary Graden

Sweden – USA

Born in Philadelphia (Pennsylvania), Gary Graden studied at Clark University, the Hartt School of Music, the Aspen Summer Music Festival and with Eric Ericson at the Royal Academy of Music in Stockholm. He is a former member and tenor soloist with the Eric Ericson Chamber Choir and the vocal ensemble Lamentabile Consort.

Gary Graden has been choral director at S:t Jacobs Church in Stockholm since 1984 and is also choral director at Stockholm Cathedral. He also taught at Stockholm’s Musikgymnasium, where he founded and directed the Stockholms Musikgymnasium Chamber Choir. With this ensemble and the S:t Jacobs Chamber Choir he has won first prizes at many of Europe’s most prestigious choral competitions, including the European Grand Prix. He has also participated in various national and international festivals including the IFCM World Symposium in Minneapolis and Kyoto and the ACDA National Convention in the USA.

Gary Graden was formerly the artistic director of the Orpheus Vocal Ensemble in Ochsenhausen, Germany. With his trio WÅG (Wager Åstrand Graden) he is developing and exploring improvisational music for voice and instruments. With S:t Jacobs/ Stockholm Cathedral Vocal Ensemble he performs a solo and small ensemble repertoire encompassing all periods. Above and beyond his expertise in the performance of contemporary music, he has also performed such large works as George Frideric Handel’s Messiah, W.A. Mozart’s Requiem and Mass in C minor, J.S. Bach’s passions and Mass in B minor (BWV 232) as well as the requiems of Johannes Brahms, Maurice Duruflé, Gabriel Fauré and Michael Haydn.

Gary Graden is sought after throughout the world as a conductor, choirmaster and judge. He has shown a unique capacity for combining a wide variety of musical genres with the sounds of Swedish choral tradition. With the curiosity of a true musician, he also enjoys performing newly written works. Gary has worked with prestigious international choirs including the SWR Vocal Ensemble (Stuttgart), Orpheus Vokalensemble (Ochsenhausen), Jauna Muzika (Vilnius), Pro Coro Canada, the Formosa Singers (Taipei), the Singapore Ensemble Singers and the IFCM World Youth Choir, among others. His work as a conductor and singer is documented on many CD and radio recordings (BIS, Carus, Proprius, Caprice, Phono Suecia, Gehrmans, nosag, Camerata Tokyo, among others).

Gary was awarded the Johannes Norrby medal for his contribution to Swedish choral music and was elected Sweden’s Choir Director of the Year in 2005. In 2009, he and his choir received the Guidoneum Award from the Fondazione Guido D’Arezzo in Italy.

Stojan Kuret

Italy – Slovenia

Born in Trieste (Italy), Stojan Kuret graduated from the Academy of Music of the University of Ljubljana and finished piano studies at the Giuseppe Tartini Conservatory in Trieste, where he has been teaching since 1983. He served as artistic director of the APZ Tone Tomšič choir of the University of Ljubljana for 10 years. With them, as well as with the Ljubljana Vocal Academy, he made notable international artistic achievements (five grand prizes in Tours (1999), Varna (2001), Gorizia (2001), Maribor (2002), and Arezzo (2009), and three-time finalist and two-time winner of the European Grand Prix for Choral Singing in Arezzo (2002) and Varna (2010)).

In 1984 he received the Gallus commendation from the State of Slovenia for his exceptional musical achievements as well as an honour from the city of Ljubljana for his artistic direction of the APZ Tone Tomšič choir. He directed the RTV Slovenia Chamber Choir (a national radio and TV choir) for two years and also led the Italian Youth Choir for two seasons from January 2007. In September 2011 he received the prestigious Guidoneum Award in Arezzo for his successful and creative work with the Ljubljana Vocal Academy, and in 2012 he was bestowed the Prešeren Foundation Award, the greatest national cultural accolade in Slovenia.

For 15 years he has been artistic advisor for the Jacobus Gallus Choral Festival in Maribor, Slovenia.

In addition to having directed the Italian Youth Choir, he is a member of the artistic advisory group FENIARCO (National Federation of the Regional Choral Associations in Italy).

Peter Phillips


Peter Phillips has achieved an impressive reputation for his research and performance of Renaissance polyphony. Having won a scholarship to Oxford in 1972, Peter Phillips studied Renaissance music with David Wulstan and Denis Arnold and gained experience in conducting small vocal ensembles and experimenting with the rarer parts of the repertoire. He founded The Tallis Scholars in 1973, with whom he has now appeared in over 1600 concerts and made nearly 50 albums, encouraging interest in polyphony all over the world. As a result of his work—concerts, recordings, magazine prizes, published articles on music and composition—Renaissance music has, for the first time, become accepted as part of the traditional classical repertoire.

Peter Phillips continues to work with other specialist ensembles. He has appeared, among others, with the Collegium Vocale of Ghent, the Netherlands Chamber Choir, the Choeur de Chambre de Namur, the Finnish radio choir, Musix from Budapest, the Montreal Studio of Ancient Music and various others across the world. Peter also works extensively with the BBC Singers, with whom he gave a concert at the Proms in the Royal Albert Hall in July 2007 in collaboration with the Tallis Scholars. The performance was broadcast live and attended by more than 5000 people. Peter gives numerous master classes and choral workshops every year throughout the world and is also artistic director of the Tallis Scholars summer schools—annual courses based in Oakham (UK), Seattle (USA) and Sydney (Australia)—which explore the heritage of Renaissance choral music and develop an appropriate performance style. Peter was recently named Director of Music at Merton College, Oxford, where the new choral foundation he helped to establish began singing services in October 2008.

In 1995 he took over and became editor of The Musical Times, the oldest continuously-published music journal in the world. His first book, English Sacred Music, 1549-1649, was published by Gimell in 1991 and his second, What We Really Do, was published in 2003.

Peter Phillips has participated in numerous television and radio broadcasts. Besides those featuring The Tallis Scholars (which include live broadcasts from the 2001, 2003, 2007 and 2008 BBC Proms, the Edinburgh Festival in 2007, the Aldeburgh Festival and the Bath Festival), he has appeared several times on the BBC’s Music Weekly and on the BBC World Service, BBC Radio 4, National Public Radio in the US and on German, French and Canadian radio, where he has enjoyed displaying his love of languages. In 1990, ITV’s The South Bank Show featured Peter’s ‘personal odyssey’ with the Tallis Scholars and in 2002 a special television documentary was made for the BBC about the life and times of William Byrd.

Since 2014 he has been Principal Director of the London International A Capella Choir Competition and has contributed to promoting choral music since then.
He is also actively involved with various Spanish choral groups.

Jordan Sramek


Jordan Sramek is Founder and Artistic Director of The Rose Ensemble from Saint Paul, Minnesota. The driving force behind the repertoire of one of the most creative ancient music ensembles in the USA, Jordan is renowned as one the most innovative leaders on the North American music scene. He is highly respected for his meticulous research of sacred and spiritual folk music. He often travels in order to carry out this work—most recently involving the search for manuscripts—and has collaborated with musicologists and linguists in Israel, France, Spain, Sweden and Hawaii.

Jordan has developed a sharp and acclaimed talent for putting together concert programmes, creating a rich tapestry of vocal music which works for all concerts whether in the USA or in Europe. He is frequently invited to speak at musicology conferences and to give workshops and master classes. A talented choir director and vocalist known for his warm and welcoming personality, Jordan has worked with amateur and professional singers alike on a highly diverse vocal repertoire. Recent conferences and teaching appearances include the Festival d’Ile de France (Paris), the University of Indianapolis, the University of Rhode Island, the University of Vermont, Grinnell College, the University of Oklahoma, the University of Louisiana Lafayette, Luther College, the American Choral Directors Association and Chorus America.

Māris Sirmais


Māris Sirmais is one of the most important names in the world of choral music. He is a pillar and guide for Latvian choir culture and a voice respected by thousands of participants in the Latvian Choral Festival. He has been Artistic Director of the Latvian National Choir since 1997. Sirmais also helped develop one of Latvia’s brightest cultural symbols, the Youth Choir Kamēr…, of which he was principal director from its founding in 1990 until 2012. He is Head of the Department of Choral Conducting and Professor at the Jāzeps Vītols Latvian Academy of Music and has served on several occasions as a member of the judging panel at national and international choral competitions. Māris Sirmais was also awarded the Order of the Three Stars and is an honorary member of the Latvian Academy of Sciences and recipient of numerous titles and awards for his cultural achievements and for popularising Latvia throughout the world.

Māris Sirmais regularly works with Latvia’s various professional orchestras and has conducted collectives including Kremerata Baltica, the Umeå Symphony Orchestra, Helsinki Strings and the Evgeny Svetlanov State Academic Symphony Orchestra. He has also collaborated with world renowned soloists, including Maxim Rysanov, Kristīna Blaumane, Egils Siliņš, Aleksandrs Antoņenko, Julius Berger, Gidons Krēmers, Nicolas Altstaedt, Douglas Webster and Inese Galante, among others.

Māris Sirmais is a member of the artistic committee of the Latvian Choral Festival.

Shin-Hwa Park

Corea del Sur

Dr Shin-Hwa Park is the Director of Ansan City Choir, Professor at the Ewha Womans University, President of the Korean Federation for Choral Music (KFCM), former president of the Korean Choral Directors Association (KCDA), Director of the Ewha Chamber Choir and presenter of the FEBC-FM Christian music radio programme. He received his degree and doctorate in church music and vocal music from Yonsei University in Seoul and his DMA in Choral Conducting and Literature from the University of Colorado Boulder.

Dr Park is one of the most sought-after choir directors in Korea for leading choral courses and workshops. He has served as guest conductor of the National Chorus of Korea, the Seoul Metropolitan Chorus, Busan City Chamber Choir and many other ensembles. He gives more than 40 lectures every year and between 1996 and 2015 his choirs released some 83 CDs. He also directs the Calvary Choir of Young-Nak Presbyterian Church, which comprises 150 singers.

Dr Park was the first winner of the Ulrim Grand Prize in 2004 and received the Ansan Art Prize that same year. The following year he was selected as one of the best professors of the Ewha Womans University and in 2007 he was awarded the Korean Music Prize. He is regularly invited to serve on the judging panel at various choral competitions both at home and abroad. In 2011 he conducted Ansan City Chamber Choir in the Vatican by invitation of the Papal Household. His choir also performed at the 2012 ACDA Northwestern Division Convention in Seattle, Washington, and at the 2015 ACDA Conference in Salt Lake City, Utah.

Stephen Connolly

United Kingdom

For many years, Stephen Connolly was a bass singer and co-director of the world famous vocal ensemble The King’s Singers. He interpreted over 120 concerts per year for nearly a quarter century, appeared frequently in both radio and TV shows, and recorded many CDs with EMI, BMG Records, Signum Records and Sony –including three Grammy Award nominations and a Grammy Award. More recently, he has acted as a judge in several contests and has taught many choral workshops. In 2008, Stephen founded the International A Cappella School, which offers international residences for singers and choirs. In 2010, Stephen was appointed Head of Vocal Studies of the Cheltenham Ladies’ College. He lives in Gloucestershire.

Georg Grün


Georg Grün is considered to be one of the most sought-after international choral conductors and specialists for choral sound. He founded the KammerChor Saarbrücken in 1990 and has been its artistic director ever since then. He has won important international and national choir competitions, he gives concerts at numerous renowned music festivals and he regularly produces CDs with CarusVerlag and Rondeau Productions. From 2000 until 2012 he held a professorship for choral conducting at the Musikhochschule in Mannheim. There, he founded a chamber choir with which he also won several international prizes. In 2012, Georg Grün changed to the Hochschule für Musik Saar as a professor and became artistic direction of the Ev. Chorgemeinschaft an der Saar.

Georg Grün works as guest conductor guest professor, juror and tutor at international masterclasses for choral conducting both nationally and internationally. He is a mentor at the forum for conductors of the German Music Council and Chairman at the international jury of the chamber choir competition in Marktoberdorf. In 2017 concerts, lectures, master classes and guest performances will take him to Estonia, France, Ireland, Italy, Poland, Russia, Spain, Turkey and the United States.

Stojan Kuret


He was born in Trieste (Italy). He is a graduate of the Music Academy at the University of Ljubljana and obtained his Piano Degree at the Giuseppe Tartini Conservatory of Trieste, where he has been a professor since 1983. He was the artistic director of the APZ Tone Tomši choir of the University of Ljubljana for 10 years. With that choir and the Vokalna akademija Ljubljana, he has achieved many prestigious artistic recognitions (fi ve grand prizes –Tours 1999, Varna 2001, Gorizia 2001, Maribor 2002and Arezzo 2009–, three-time fi nalist and two-time winner of the European Grand Prix for Choral Singing – in 2002 in Arezzo and in 2010 in Varna). In 1984, he was honoured with the Gallus Award for his extraordinary achievements in the fi eld of music and the Ljubljana City Award for the artistic direction of the APZ Tone Tomši choir. He conducted the RTV Slovenia Chamber Choir (national radio and TV choir) for two years. Starting January 2007 and for two years, he conducted the Italian Youth Choir. In September 2011, he was awarded the prestigious Guidoneum Prize in Arezzo, due to the successful and creative work he has done with the Vokalna akademija Ljubljana.

In 2012, he received the Prešeren Foundation Award, the highest cultural recognition of Slovenia.

Bengt Ollén


He studied under Gösta Ohlin and Gunnar Eriksson at the Music and Drama Academy of Gothenburg, and Orchestra Conducting under Lennart Hedvall, Jorma Panula, Robert Reynolds and Everett Lee. Bengt Ollén is Sofi a Vokalensemble’s founder and conductor. Since 1995 he has led the vocal ensemble with great passion and a never-dying enthusiasm, taking the choir to the highest artistic levels. Bengt’s vision is to create music “beyond the notes”. In his opinion, music should move the listener. Therefore, each singer’s commitment is a vital piece in the musical progress: for the music to be a success, everybody must participate. That is Bengt’s musical belief.

Bengt is also the founder and conductor of the Södra Dalarnas Chamber Orchestra. This orchestra participates yearly in the “Musik vid Slijan” festival.

Bengt is frequently engaged as a judge in contests, as a guest lecturer and conductor in festivals, workshops and concerts, both at national and international levels. Since 1994 he works as a choir professor in the internationally renowned Stockholms Musikgymnasium. With his choirs, he has found remarkable success in choral contests all over the world.

Ko Matsushita


He was born in Tokyo in 1962. He obtained his Composition Degree at the Kunitachi College of Music and graduated in Choral  Conducting at the Kodály Institute in Hungary. His works as a music composer are interpreted in Japan and all over the world. As a conductor, he has led several choirs of the Greater Tokyo Area, and has received many awards in international choral competitions.

In 2005, he was the fi rst Asian to be recognised with the Robert Edler Prize of Choral Music.

Alexander Vatsek


Choir and orchestra conductor, vocal coach, judge at international contests, choral advisor, speaker and arranger. He is the founder of the Oreya Choir and the Gaudeamus Brno Choir (1996), and has won 10 Grand Prizes and 37 1st Prizes with them. He has been recognised as an Honorary Artist in Ukraine and honoured with the I. Ohiyenko Award. He has taught choral seminars and workshops worldwide, and has conducted symphonic projects in France, Germany, Romania, Ukraine and the Czech Republic. He has been a jury member of the Choir World Games in Busan (South Korea), Bremen (Germany), Xiamin (China) and Wernigerode (Germany). As well in Tolosa (Spain), Marktoberdorf (Germany), Maribor (Slovenia), Riva del Garda (Italy), Artek (Ukraine), Tallin (Estonia) and Bergen (Norway). In addition, he has been the choral advisor of the Czech Republic (2002-2006).

august, 2020

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