Jonathan Rathbone: My week with Edvard Grieg Kor

Published October 31, 2017, updated November 5, 2018.

The week I have just spent with EGK has been a truly wonderful experience for me. For many years I directed the Swingle Singers, but that was from a position inside the group, so I always had to sing as well as direct. After I left the group I started to conduct amateur choirs in London and at workshops and festivals around the world. I cherish all these opportunities to make music with people of all ages and nationalities. But this week was extra special – a rare opportunity for me to work with eight wonderful professional singers.

My first contact with the group came about when I arranged the Holberg Suite for them, and the first time I met them was when I heard them sing it. But before I arrived I was worried by one big difference – the Swingle Singers used microphones and EGK don’t. I need not have worried. They did a really good job with it.

So I knew they were all very fine voices, but more importantly, they sang together well. I had learned the importance of this from my days with the Swingle Singers.

The programme I devised this week was made up of arrangements I had written over the last 20 years or so. Some were written for the Swingles and others for choirs I had worked with. It quickly became apparent that they had done an excellent job preparing the music under the direction of Paul Robinson. I must thank him for all his help in the preparation of this concert. From the beginning of the week they made everything sound really good. Anything that didn’t work immediately soon did, because, apart from being extremely good singers, they are very versatile and most importantly – they really care about the music.

So you can see the reasons I enjoyed working with them so much. I feel I have some wonderful friends as well as work colleagues here in Bergen. I’m already looking forward to my next visit!