Gulbenkian Children’s Choir

(1966 – 1975)

The Gulbenkian Children’s Choir was an ad hoc ensemble that grew out of the Foundation's music classes for children. Its public appearances included participation in orchestral and choral concerts, and it also made a number of recordings.
16 Oct 2023 22 min
From the Archives

Organised by the Music Department, the Gulbenkian Children’s Choir consisted of children enrolled in the musical education courses that the Foundation had been running since 1960.

The choir first came together in October 1966, when the students started to attend choral singing classes in preparation for a public performance, scheduled for 14 December that year, at the Teatro Tivoli, of the children’s cantata O caçador e a princesa (The huntsman and the princess), composed by Francine Benoît and commissioned by the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation.

The Children’s Choir was conducted by Leonor Moura Esteves, one of the teachers of the music classes for children, and was supervised, until 1969, by Olga Violante, who was also coordinator of the other courses.

Gulbenkian Children’s Choir conducted by Leonor Moura Esteves
Gulbenkian Children’s Choir conducted by Leonor Moura Esteves

Over the course of its existence, the GCC had an average of 40 to 50 members.

It took part in a number of performances organised by the Foundation, including in the Gulbenkian Music Festivals of 1967 and 1969, when it appeared in the Benjamin Britten’s opera Gloriana, and Berlioz’ The damnation of Faust. Alongside the Gulbenkian Orchestra and Choir it performed in a number of concerts, including Johann Sebastian Bach’s Christmas oratorio (January 1972) and Iannis Xenakis’ Oresteia (June 1973). In June 1975, the Children’s Choir also took part in a demonstration of Orff Schulwerk, as a tribute to Carl Orff on his 80th birthday, performed by students of the Musical Education and Dance courses.

The Children’s Choir was also invited to perform by other institutions. This included appearances in schools, participation in Christmas parties and recordings for the Portuguese national broadcaster. On 1 January 1975, it gave the first performance at the National Conservatory of Oito cantos de Natal (Eight traditional Portuguese Christmas carols) collected by Leonor Moura Esteves, arranged by Jorge Croner de Vasconcellos.

In the same year, the choir took part in two tributes to this composer, who died in December the previous year, at the National Conservatory and at the Academia de Amadores de Música (Musical Amateurs’ Academy). At the end of the year, the ensemble also made a recording of Christmas Carols, including arrangements by Maria de Lourdes Martins and Fernando Lopes-Graça, for APECDA (Association of Parents for the Education of Children with Hearing Disabilities).

The Gulbenkian Children’s Choir was always an ad hoc ensemble and was never officially founded or wound up. Its existence was closely tied to that of the music classes for children, the continuation of which came under review in 1975.

Presentation of musical initiation class

Some of the members of the Children’s Choir later sang in the Gulbenkian Choir and pursued careers in music, showing the importance of this initiative of the Gulbenkian Music Department.


From the Archives

Significant moments in the history of Calouste Gulbenkian and the Gulbenkian Foundation in Portugal and around the world.

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