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Who I am

Kari Turunen has been the Artistic Director of the Vancouver Chamber Choir since the beginning of the 2019/20 season. Before moving to Vancouver, he played a major role in choral music in Finland as a conductor, teacher of conducting, singer, clinician, administrator, adjudicator and lecturer. Concert tours and teacher, clinician and adjudicator assignments regularly took him around Europe and Asia. His choirs and ensembles won numerous prizes both in Finland and abroad.

‘I really enjoy my work with the Vancouver Chamber Choir. It might sound a bit dull, but this is what I love best. Finding new music, studying scores, and rehearsing and performing them is what I would choose over and over as a career if given the chance and I feel blessed to have the possibility to work with professional singers full-time here in Vancouver. I want to share my belief in the importance of choral music, and I want to concentrate on the concert experience and making these experiences as diverse and memorable as possible. I also want us to be relevant in a changing world without discarding the central musical values that have guided the choir in its history. I notice that I work through processes to goals more than goals to processes. In rapidly shifting circumstances, this has felt more and more like a reasonable approach.’

‘As far as my choice of music goes, the music of our time is the main focus. It is the only way in which to address the diversity of the world around us. This does not mean abandoning the tradition. It just means placing this tradition in a framework of contemporary music rather than the other way around. Another emphasis comes from my background: the choral music of the Scandinavian and Baltic countries is close to my heart and will always feature in our programs alongside the natural bias of presenting Canadian music. The third trait of my programming comes from my experience in early music, especially that of the late Renaissance and early Baroque. These periods offer such a wealth of magnificent music for voices that it never is far from my mind.’

Kari Turunen was educated at the University of Helsinki and the Sibelius Academy where he studied choral conducting (MA). He holds a doctorate in early music performance practice from the University of the Arts, Helsinki. In addition to his artistic activities, Kari Turunen has been active in many festivals, of late, mainly as an Artistic Director. He was the Artistic Director of the annual Aurore Renaissance Festival in Helsinki 2015–2020 and is the Artistic Director of the Finnish-Swedish Song Celebration in June 2022 and the Tampere Vocal Music Festival in 2023. He even has a shady past in administration and served as chair of the Finnish Choral Directors’ Association (FCDA) for almost 20 years and was the Executive Director of a national choral organization for six years in his youth.

‘Outside my work, I am drawn to the great outdoors. Walks, hikes, bike rides and cross-country skiing in the winter are a daily delight in the incredible nature of BC. I have even found an outlet here for a great, lasting passion of mine that I picked up as a kid in Australia: cricket. My wife and I enjoy life in British Columbia. We miss our immediate family, especially our two daughters, but otherwise life is good.’

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