Born in Russia, Yuri Klaz came to Canada in 2000. In 2003, he was appointed the artistic director and conductor of The Winnipeg Singers.
Artistic Director and Conductor
Yuri Klaz was born in Petrozavodsk, Russia, where he was a graduate of the music college and the conservatory of music. He received his Masters degree in conducting at the St. Petersburg State Conservatory. In 1982 he became an associate professor of choral and orchestral conducting at the Petrozavodsk Conservatory. In 1987 Mr. Klaz was appointed the artistic director and conductor of the Chamber Choir of the Karelian Art Centre in Petrozavodsk. Under his direction, the choir led an active concert life and participated in national (Russia) and international concert tours and competitions in Germany, Finland, Estonia, Ireland, and Norway, where the choir received numerous awards.
In 1995, by decree of President Boris Yeltzin, Mr. Klaz was awarded the prestigious title, "Honoured Artist of Russia" and received a silver medal for exceptional achievement in the development of art in Russia. Mr. Klaz came to Canada in 2000 to become the artistic director and conductor of the Winnipeg Philharmonic Choir.
In addition to the Philharmonic concert series, he has prepared the choir for performances with the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra, Brahms’ German Requiem in 2003, Mozart’s Requiem in 2006 and most recently Vaughan Williams A Sea Symphony. He has conducted performances at the WSO New Music Festival each year since 2001. Mr. Klaz made his debut as conductor of the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra to critical acclaim in a concert featuring The Winnipeg Singers and the Winnipeg Philharmonic Choir in March 2005. In 2006 Mr. Klaz made his conducting debut with the Manitoba Chamber Orchestra in Mozart’s Mass in C minor (Robert Levin edition) again with the combined forces of The Winnipeg Singers and The Winnipeg Philharmonic Choir.
In April of 2003, Mr. Klaz was appointed the artistic director and conductor of The Winnipeg Singers. In the past four years he has conducted the Singers in performances of many major choral masterpieces including Bach’s Mass in B minor and Christmas Oratorio and Rachmaninov’s All Night Vigil and the Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom.
Mr. Klaz also directs the First Mennonite Church Choir and continues as conductor of The Winnipeg Philharmonic Choir.
Mr. Klaz has attended four World Symposia on Choral Music, most recently Kyoto in 2005, where he conducted The Winnipeg Singers, honoured as an invited choir. He has written numerous articles devoted to the choral and artistic activities of Sibelius, Kuula, and Madetoja. An active teacher and conductor, Mr. Klaz has toured the northern United States giving conducting seminars. Since his arrival in Canada, Mr. Klaz has attended two Association of Canadian Choral Conductors (ACCC) conventions, 2004 in Winnipeg, where he was a clinician and 2006 in Victoria.
The Winnipeg Singers, Winnipeg's premiere choir, has long been regarded as on one of Canada's finest choral ensembles. The choir's mandate is to make a diversity of choral music, performed to the highest standard, accessible to a growing audience. The Winnipeg Singers consists of 24 trained voices, performing music that spans the times from the Renaissance to the present. Each year the choir commissions new Canadian works and premieres other new works for its Manitoba audiences. It presents a concert series each year, engaging some of North America's finest musicians as guests. The Winnipeg Singers have performed joint concerts with such diverse organizations as Shakespeare in the Ruins, The Ron Paley Trio, MusikBarock Ensemble, Winnipeg's Contemporary Dancers and Les danseurs de la rivière Rouge. The Singers regularly appear as guests of the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra, the Manitoba Chamber Orchestra, and have given concerts and workshops for local social agencies, business firms, and high schools.
The Winnipeg Singers, established in 1972, has twice been recognized for its excellence in choral music by the Canada Council with the awarding of the Healey Willan prize. The choir is regularly heard on local and national CBC radio. In July 2005, the choir represented Canada at the 6th Taipei International Choral Festival and at the 7th World Symposium on Choral Music in Kyoto. In July 2016, the choir toured Germany, Austria and Italy. At the 2016 International Choral Festival in Florence, Italy, The Winnipeg Singers was recognized with the “most outstanding choir” award.
The Winnipeg Singers can trace its origins to a choir begun in the 1930s by composer and voice teacher W. H. Anderson for radio broadcast on the CBC. This choir, known as The Choristers, performed secular music and on occasion offered public concerts. Filmer Hubble, who conducted the group for a national weekly CBC radio broadcast of sacred music called Sunday Chorale succeeded Anderson in the 1950s. This choir also performed a series of yearly concerts. Hubble was succeeded by a student of W. H. Anderson, Herbert Belyea, also a composer and voice teacher. In the early 1970s, William Baerg was asked by the CBC to form a group of singers which would perform concert broadcasts. This choir, the CBC Winnipeg Singers, was devoted to the exploration of both sacred and secular works from all eras and initiated the form of The Winnipeg Singers as it exists today. In 1973, when the CBC was no longer able to support the choir, The Winnipeg Singers began to produce its own annual concert series, which it has done ever since. Past artistic directors of The Winnipeg Singers include William Baerg, John Martens, Wayne Riddell, Mel Braun, Vic Pankratz and Rudy Schellenberg. The current Artistic Director and conductor, Yuri Klaz, began his association with the Singers at the start of the 2003/2004 Season.
The Winnipeg Singers conducted a three week tour of Austria and West Germany, serving as choir-in residence at the Classical Music Festival in Eisestadt, Austria.
In the spring of 1999, they toured Alberta and Saskatchewan.
The Winnipeg Singers performed at the Toronto International Choral Festival in June 2002.
In May of 2004, the choir performed at the Gala Concert of Podium 2004, the national biennial convention of the Association of Canadian Choral Conductors, held in Winnipeg.
The Winnipeg Singers traveled to Taiwan and Japan in July of 2005 where it was honoured to represent Canada at the 6th Taipei International Choral Festival and the 7th World Symposium on Choral Music in Kyoto. While in Japan, the choir performed in Setagaya, a sister-city of Winnipeg, in Tokyo at the Canadian Embassy and in Kobe for a Symposium sponsored satellite concert.
European Concert Tour - On July 9, 2016, the Singers landed in Frankfurt to start their 16 day tour. Performances took place in Rothenburg, Regensburg, Munich, Salzburg, Venice, Florence and Rome. The highlight took place at the Florence International Choir Festival where they were the winners of the Golden David, the award that goes to the best overall choir at the competition. The Singers also won two of the three categories it entered: chamber choir and sacred.
The choir departed Rome for Winnipeg on July 25, 2016.
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The Winnipeg Singers are regularly heard on local and national CBC radio. They have released four CD recordings, O Praise Ye the Lord, Prairie Voices, Swingle Bells, and Sid Robinovitch: Choral Odyssey. The Canada Council, with the awarding of the Healey Willan prize has twice recognized The Winnipeg Singers for their excellence in choral music.