The Cambridge University Symphony Chorus (CUSC) and alumni of the choir of Clare College brought a triumphant performance of Elgar’s The Dream of Gerontius to the Helsinki Music Centre on Friday 5 April.  The concert was broadcast live on national TV and radio.

The singers from Cambridge joined forces with the Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra (FRSO) and three leading Finnish choirs – Helsingin Kamarikuoro (Helsinki Chamber Choir), Musiikkitalon Kuoro (Helsinki Music Centre Choir) and Dominante – under esteemed conductor Nicholas Collon for a star-studded performance of Elgar’s momentous work.

CUSC and alumni of the choir of Clare College join the Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra and three Finnish choirs for a rehearsal of Elgar’s The Dream of Gerontius at the impressive Musiikkitalo (Music Centre) in Helsinki

The poignant text, which captures the essence of faith, mortality, and spiritual awakening, was brought to life by soloists Christine Rice (mezzo), John Findon (tenor) and Roderick Williams (baritone), under the expert leadership of Cambridge alumnus Nicholas Collon, the orchestra’s Chief Conductor.

Friday’s performance marked the first time The Dream of Gerontius had been performed in Helsinki for around 20 years. The 1,700-seat concert hall had been sold out for weeks in advance. The event was televised live by Yle, the Finnish equivalent of the BBC (a recording of which is available here), and also broadcast on the radio (performance available here). A CD recording of the project will also follow.

Matts Liljeroos, from Swedish-language newspaper Hufvudstadsbladet, hailed the performance as “spectacular”, adding: “Collon’s highly expressive Elgar interpretation made the hairs on the back of my neck stand up.”

Annmari Salmela, writing in Helsinki Newspapers, said “one can only congratulate”, and complimented the “top class” performers. She observed that “Collon simultaneously channelled the music with intimate restraint and enormous energy.”

Commenting on the performance, Simon Fairclough, director of the CMP, said: “We’re delighted to have brought one of the best-loved choral works in the English language to Helsinki for such a superb performance. Projects like this underscore our continued commitment to excellence in music, both within the University of Cambridge and far beyond.”

CUSC is an inclusive group of performers, comprising undergraduate and postgraduate students, academic and administration staff at the university, and local residents – all united by a love of singing. The Chorus’ next performance, which will feature guest singers from the Helsinki Music Centre Choir, will take place at Great St. Mary’s Church, Cambridge on Saturday 15 June, 2024. Details of the programme will be announced here in the coming weeks.