The choir

Charles University Choir in Prague (VUS UK) is an eminent Czech nonprofessional choir ensemble composed primarily of students, graduates, and employees of the Charles University and other Prague universities and colleges. It was founded as far back as in the year 1948 and thus it is an oldest Czech academic choir. The composer Jan Tausinger became one of the founders of the choir and at the same time its first choirmaster.

Koncert VUS UK v evang. Salvátorovi - Pocta Tvůrcům 2011

During the whole time of its existence more than a thousand chorus singers took turns in it; at present time a number of its members range from sixty to eighty, an average age of singers is 31 years. Many of the former choirmasters of VUS UK are nowadays respected personalities – the conductor Jiří Kout, Lubomír Mátl (a former choirmaster of The Prague Philharmonic Choir and The Prague Chamber Choir), Oliver Dohnányi (a conductor of The National Theatre in Prague), Miriam Němcová (a conductor of The Hradec Králové Philharmonic Orchestra and a professor of The Prague Conservatoire), Jiří Kratochvíl (a choirmaster of the international choir in the U. S. A.), or Jaro­slav Brych (a former choirmaster of The Prague Philharmonic Choir). The choir is, as the only representative of the Czech Republic, a member of European Federation of Young Choirs (EFYC). In cooperation with this big choir community, VUS UK co-participated in organizing International Singing Weeks in Tábor in southern Bohemia in the years 1984, 1987 and 1990; in the year 2004 the choir prepared a symposium “Following the trail of Antonín Dvořák”.

Besides regular concert activity in Prague and other places of the Czech Republic the choir performs often also abroad. The choir has visited majority of European countries (Germany, Austria, Italy, Switzerland, France, Belgium, Holland, Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Latvia, Estonia, Armenia, Poland, Spain, Portugal, Great Britain) but has had concerts also outside the Old Continent – first in Siberia (1987), in 1990 in the U. S. A. and in the years 1992 and 1995 it took twice a two-week concert tour around Israel where the choir performed as the first Czech singing ensemble after more than forty years. During summer 1998 the choir made another tour overseas, this time to the western coast of Canada and the U. S. A. The choir spent one week in Iceland in July 1999 and in October 2002 it took two-week concert tour around central and northern Mexico. In April 2003 it took part in a presentable tour to Latvian Riga where it had two performances within a festival “Prague Days in Riga” held by the municipality of Prague. A two-week tour to China in autumn 2011 is the most interesting activity abroad in the recent years.

The choir achieved a significant success in an international choir competition in Austrian Spittal in July 1996 where it won in the competition of twelve choirs from the whole world selected on the basis of applications of more than a hundred ensembles. On the domestic front the choir attracted an attention in the year 2005 when it won a competition Musica Sacra Praga. Until now the last laurel is a victory at the Festival of choir art in Jihlava in the year 2009 where the choir was awarded also a special prize of the jury for an outstanding interpretation of the work of Bohuslav Martinů. The choir is active also in the field of the theatre production; in 2004 it took part in a spectacular performance of the opera Carmen that was watched by around 70,000 viewers in AufSchalke Arena in German Gelsenkirchen and in September 2005 members of the choir were invited to Bamberg for cooperation on singing-part of the Opera Tosca. A cooperation with a dramatic company of the National Theatre in Prague were young singers has been taking part in plays Naši furianti (Our Uppish and Defiant Fellows) (L. Stroupežnický), Vladařka závist aneb Zahradníkův pes (The Gardener’s Dog) (Lope de Vega) and Bláznivý den aneb Figarova svatba (Crazy Day or The Marriage of Figaro) (P. de Beaumarchais) is a very interesting activity of the choir.

In the field of recording activity, VUS realized first a choice from its repertoire on LP (Supra­phon – 1988). Cooperation on the recording of Missa Solemnis of the composer Miloš Bok (BestIA – 1990) and then a recording of sacred music of Petr Eben (Lunarion – 1992) followed. Other titles were released in the own production of VUS UK; at first live recordings of two crucial cantatas of Antonín Dvořák Requiem and Stabat Mater (both together with a partner choir from Karlsruhe) and a key album containing music of the Czech composers of 20th century on the lyrics of the folk poetry (Love and Death – Janáček, Martinů, Novák, Eben, Raichl). The line of recorded titles has continued by cooperation on a repeated recording of Dvořák’s Requiem, this time for an anniversary recording of the Prague conservatoire. In the year 2006, VUS UK took part (together with VUS Pardubice) on the recording of other works of M. Bok, this time it was Credo F Sharp Minor and a cycle Dream Carrols. The series is concluded by a profile CD “The Czech Song” with a production of the Czech composers inspired by the folk poetry (Dvořák, Foer­ster, Martinů, Eben, Fišer, Tučapský and folk songs) released on the occasion of 60th birthday of the choir and the newest CD “Czech Masses” with the liturgical works of Josef Suk, Josef Bohuslav Foerster and Zdeněk Fibich released on the occasion of 65th anniversary of the choir foundation.

Besides recordings released on albums VUS realized also other recordings:

  • The choir recorded a selection of its repertoire a cappella for an international company Nova Spes in the year 1991
  • The choir recorded a few pieces of the contemporary Czech authors for the Dutch radio and television company KRO – Katholieke Radio Omroep Hilversum in the Prague Church of Saint Jilji in the year 1993
  • KRO made also a live recording of the composition An American Te Deum of the Czech composer Karel Husa living in the U. S. A. conducted by the author himself during a concert in the Dutch Utrecht in January 1994
  • The choir realized a recording for the German television company ZDF (A. Bruckner – Ave Maria) during the festival Europa Cantat in Austrian Linz in the year 1997
  • The choir made a live recording of compositions of several Czech authors of various periods for the station Vltava of the Czech Radio in the year 1999
  • Local radio stations recorded several concerts on the tour in Mexico in the year 2002