The 65 years old Choir of Helsinki Cathedral


cm3934Cantores Minores, the Choir of Boys and Young Men of Helsinki Cathedral, was founded in 1952. Its first conductor was the Finnish-American Dr. of Musicology, Mrs. Ruth-Esther Hillilä. The three following conductors came from Vienna (Austria) Mr. Peter Lacovich, Zwickau Prof. H. Hofmann and Dresden (Germany) prof. C. Hauschild, the original footholds of European protestant ‘Knabenchor’ -tradition. The present conductor Mr. Hannu Norjanen began as the choir’s Artistic Director in January 2005. He received his early musical training in the Cantores Minores boys’ choir (1974-80). Under his leadership the choir’s a cappella repertoire has broadened to include a wide choice of international choral masterpieces as well as contemporary Finnish choir music.

In the Cantores Minores Music Institute tuition is given in musical theory and voice as well as some instruments is given to boys from age of seven. There are a total of over 500 members in the various stages of the choir (ages from 4 to 25) and over 3000 boys and young men have sung in the Cantores Minores during its 65 years of existence and the choir has produced numerous professional musicians active in a variety of fields.

The choir’s repertoire consists of sacral music by European and especially Finnish composers from the 12th to the 21st centuries, not forgetting a selection of folk songs as required. The annual performances of the major works of J.S. Bach form the basis of training of each generation of singers. Cantores Minores performs the St. Matthew’s Passion and the St. John’s Passion on Good Friday alternate years and the Christmas Oratorio every year at Christmas time. Bach’s Mass in b minor and motets are also standard repertoire. Musical borders have been crossed when the choir participated in the Leningrad Cowboys’ CD, in Iiro Rantala’s TV-show together with Paula Koivuniemi and at the Rock, Rhythm and Love -megaconcert with Ismo Alanko during the Helsinki Festival 2008. The choir’s first CD in Norjanen’s time of Christmas Carols won rewiewers’ praise for its pure intonation and brilliant sound. The latest CD CREDO was released year 2015 and it contains Finnish and European Choir Music from 20th Century.


The choir has toured abroad on 60 occasions including five in the USA and three in Japan. The latest tour in June 2016 took the choir to Spain, where the choir performed e.g. in Madrid, San Lorenzo de El Escorial, Valencia, Barcelona, Montserrat and Mallorca. Over the years, Cantores Minores has performed for several heads of state and at private audiences for His Holiness Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedictus XVI. The choir has appeared in several world-famous churches such as Westminster Abbey in London, the Nôtre Dame in Paris, St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican, Berliner Dom, Thomaskirche in Leipzig, Frauenkirche in Dresden, Stephansdom in Vienna, Tchaikovsky Hall in Moscow and the State Academic Cappella in St. Petersburg, Washington National Cathedral in the USA and the Shinsho-ji temple in Narita, Japan.

In 1965, Cantores Minores became the first Finnish choir to win the Let the People Sing competition organized by the BBC, and in 1994 it placed well in its category in the first European Competition for Cathedral Choirs in Amiens, France. Cantores Minores was nominated the Youth Choir of the Year for the season 2009-10 by the Finnish Broadcasting Company (YLE). Year 2014 Cantores Minores was awarded the State of Finland Music Prize.

Cantores Minores organized in October 2013 for the 3rd time the Baltic and Nordic Boys Choir Festival in Helsinki with over 300 participating singers from Finland, Lithuania, Norway, Russia and Sweden. In 2015 the choir organized the XI Helsinki Bach Week the like of which Cantores Minores has organized every five years since 1965.

This year the choir is celebrating its 65th Anniversary and they will perform e.g. the St. John Passion, Mass in b minor and Christmas Oratorio by J.S. Bach and the Christmas Oratorio by Iiro Rantala. In June 2017 Cantores Minores has been invited to sing at the renown Leipzig Bach Festival and Ravenna Festival in Italy.

The President of the Republic Sauli Niinistö and Mrs Jenni Haukio are the permanent patrons of the Cantores Minores choir.

Hannu Norjanen, conductor, has three diplomas, all with distinction: organ, choral conducting and orchestral conducting. His professors in conducting class included Jorma Panula, Eri Klas, Leif Segerstam and Atso Almila. Norjanen had a scholarship in the academic year 1990-91 to study choral conducting in Stockholm in the Royal Music Academy under Prof. Eric Ericson. In October 2015, he completed a D. Mus. degree at the Sibelius Academy. Norjanen has conducted most of the Finnish professional orchestras as well as opera performances. He worked as Artistic Director of the Lappeenranta City Orchestra in 1998-2001 and Vaasa City Orchestra in 1999-2006. Since 1998 Norjanen has been the Artistic Director of Tapiola Chamber Choir. He also teaches conducting at the Sibelius Academy. In January 2005 Hannu Norjanen became the Artistic Director of Cantores Minores.

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