The Estonian National Male Choir (RAM) was founded in 1944 by the legendary composer and leader of the Estonian choral movement Gustav Ernesaks. First, the choir was named Estonian SSR State Philharmonic Male Choir, known as RAM (Riiklik Akadeemiline Meeskoor), since 1953, State Academic Male Choir, and since 1989, Estonian National Male Choir, which is currently the largest full-time professional male choir in the world. The birth of the Estonian National Male Choir was basically the result of Ernesaks' work. He stayed connected with the choir until his death (1993) – in 1944–1975 he was the chief conductor and later acted as its artistic director. Since then, the choir has been conducted by several highly esteemed choral conductors, including Olev Oja (1964–1991), Kuno Areng (1966–1990), Ants Üleoja (1991–1997), Ants Soots (1994–2005, 2008–2011), Kaspars Putninš (2005–2008). Since the beginning of season 2011/2012, Mikk Üleoja is the chief conductor and artistic director.
Over its 60 years of existence, RAM has given more than 6000 concerts all over Estonia, in many cities of former Soviet Union, as well as Western European countries, Israel, Canada and the United States. Among its notable tours, the choir has performed at The Baltic Sea Festival (Stockholm 2005), the Festival of Estonian Culture in Scotland (2005), the Sibelius Music Festival (Dortmund 2007), Bergen Music Festival (2008) and Swansea Festival (Wales 2008).
The repertoire of the Estonian National Male choir includes music from a cappella choral music to large-scale works by composers like Johannes Brahms, Benjamin Britten, Jean Sibelius, Richard Wagner, Johann Sebastian Bach, Ludwig van Beethoven, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart et al. Next to a number of Estonian composers, Dmitri Shostakovich, Gavin Bryars and others have written music for RAM. The choir has commissioned music from Aare Kruusimäe (Little Christmas Cantata, Saxophone Mass), Tõnu Kõrvits (The Night Is Darkening Around Me), Mirjam Tally (2 pages, 122 Words on Music and Dance), Andrew Poppy (Something in the Air) and others. RAM has premiered music by Gustav Ernesaks, Urmas Sisask, Tauno Aints, Peeter Vähi, Aare Kruusimäe, Ester Mägi, Arvo Pärt, Veljo Tormis, René Eespere, Erkki-Sven Tüür, Raimo Kangro, Anti Marguste, Tõnis Kaumann, Toivo Tulev, Andres Uibo and others.
Different oratorio performances have brought the choir together with the world's most famous conductors like Neeme Järvi, Paavo Järvi, Eri Klas, Kristjan Järvi, Arvo Volmer, Andres Mustonen, Paul Mägi, Jüri Alperten, Vello Pähn, Tõnu Kaljuste, Nikolai Aleksejev, Leo Krämer, Gennadi Rozhdestvensky, Riccardo Muti, Paavo Berglund, Leif Segerstam, Esa-Pekka Salonen, Jukka-Pekka Saraste, Saulius Sondeckis, Christoph Spering, Gintaras Rinkevicius and others. Performing a capella programs, RAM has worked under the direction of Lev Sivuhhin, Robert Sund, Josep Prats, Roman Toi, Chifuru Matsubara, Kaspars Putninsh, Anatoli Grindenko, Lone Larsen, Timothy Brown, Vytautas Miškinis, Toomas Siitan, Jaan-Eik Tulve and others.
The Estonian National Male Choir has performed together with The Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra, Royal Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra, Norrland Opera Orchestra, The Frankfurt Radio Symphony Orchestra, Tampere City Orchestra, The Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra and The BBC National Orchestra of Wales. Frequently, they collaborate with Estonian National Symphony Orchestra, Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir, Academic Female Choir of University of Tartu, Tallinn Boys' Choir and Girls' Choir Ellerhein.
RAM has recorded CD-s for Deutsche Grammophon, Sony, Finlandia Records, CC n 'C, Forte, Alba Records, Virgin Classics and others. The most important CD-s have been: "Vision of Estonia I-V", 5 CD-s with Veljo Tormis' choral music (conductor Ants Soots, Alba Records, 2007), "Mu isamaa on minu arm/My native Land, My dearest Love" released for Gustav Ernesaks' 100th anniversary (conductors Kuno Areng, Gustav Ernesaks, Uno Järvela, Eri Klas, Olev Oja, Ants Soots and Ants Üleoja, 2008), CD "Silva Caledonia" with music by Gavin Bryars and Toivo Tulev (conductor Kaspars Putninsh, GB Records, 2008) and CD "In Paradisum" with music by Galina Grigorjeva (conductor Mikk Üleoja, Estonian National Male Choir 2014).
In a cooperative project with conductor Paavo Järvi, the Estonian National Symphony Orchestra (ERSO) and Estonian girls' choir Ellerhein, the Estonian National Male Choir (RAM) won the Grammy Award in 2004 in the category of Best Choral Performance for their recording of Sibelius' cantatas (Virgin Classics, 2003). A year later, their recording of Edvard Grieg's Peer Gynt (recorded by the same line-up) was voted the Orchestral Album of the Year in BBC Music Magazine.
Orchestre de la Tonhalle de Zurich, Choeur d'Hommes National d'Estonie