The Bulgarian people have long known that the human voice is much more expressive in song than in conversation. In their tradition, they have taken the art of singing to the top of its artistic expression. The perfection which is at the core of traditional Bulgarian folklore is the outcome of efforts dating back some thousand years ago and it has passed on from generation to generation through the centuries.
THE GREAT VOICES OF BULGARIA Women’s Choir is a successor of The Women’s Choir of Sofia, a group of professional singers that has existed for more than 50 years. Their throat vocal technique is based upon a completely natural kind of sound production, sustaining the voice by using the neck muscles, instead of the diaphragm. Since1980, under the direction of Zdravko Mihaylov, their repertoire was expanded to include arrangements of traditional Bulgarian music composed with modern harmony and polyphony. During the 1980’s and early 1990’s they merged with soloists from The Bulgarian State Radio and Television Female Vocal Choir, (of which Mihaylov was Principal Conductor from 1978 to 1983) and The Philip Koutev National Folk Ensemble. Thus creating the best possible collection of folklore voices in Bulgaria, and thanks to Mihaylov’s abilities as a first - rate choirmaster, they gained international fame under the name Le Mystere des Voix Bulgares / The Mysterious Voices of Bulgaria, which won the Grammy Award and the Grand Prix de Disque and toured the world.
Soloists of the THE GREAT VOICES OF BULGARIA Women’s Choir during the years have been: Elena Bozhkova, Kalinka Valcheva, Olga Borisova, Kremena Stancheva, Anastasia Kostova, Vasilka Andonova, Nadejda Chwoineva, Stoyanka Boneva, Violeta Nakova, Nadka Karadjova, Liliana Galevska, Stoyana Lalova, Yanka Taneva, Hristina Lutova, Tsvetanka Varimezova, and Zlatina Ouzounova.
Their traditional repertoire consists of the most popular and virtuoso songs of authentic Bulgarian folklore, arranged by composers such as Philip Koutev, Krassimir Kyurkchiysky, Stefan Moutafchiev, Kosta Kolev, Ivan Valev, Stefan Dragostinov, Peter Liondev, Stefan Kanev , Radko Enchev and others.
In 1999, after Zdravko Mihaylov’s sudden death, his son Ilia Mihaylov became the Music Director of THE GREAT VOICES OF BULGARIA Women’s Choir.
Highlights of their creative activities include: recording music for BBC Radio 3, collaborating with the renowned composer Мichel Colombier for the French label Naïve, creating the original score for Jean Epstein’s 1923 silent film La Belle Nivernaise together the trio of the French jazz pianist François Raulin, premiering the Balkan Crossover Project with the Hungarian organist László Fassang and the traditional flute and bagpipe virtuoso Bálazs Dongó Sokolay, as well as the installation The Conductor for videoprojection and female folk singers, created by the visual artists Missirkov/Bogdanov.
THE GREAT VOICES OF BULGARIA Women’s Choir regularly works with the emblematic Bulgarian musician, kaval virtuoso and composer Theodosii Spassov. Together they created several projects, one of them featuring Spassov’s original composition, especially written for the choir. The project premiered at the Twelfth Salon des Arts festival at the National Palace of Culture in Sofia. Following this successful opening, the artists were invited to perform at the 2010 Donaufest in Germany where they were warmly received by the public and positively reviewed by the press.
Furthermore, the Bulgarian Ministry of Foreign Affairs selected Mr. Mihaylov and the choir to produce two albums, Anthology and The Treasures of Bulgaria which were to become the country’s official gift for the occasion of its joining The European Union. On New Year’s Eve 2007, they performed in front an audience of 30 000 people at Sofia’s Battenberg square together with the iconic progressive rock band FSB celebrating the same historic event.
In 2005 they were invited by Valery Gergiev at the Moscow Easter Festival and performed concerts in the Kremlin, Tchaikovsky Concert Hall, and St. Peter’s Monastery. In the same year the choir toured Canada and established a box office record, as one of their concerts sold 10 000 tickets.
THE GREAT VOICES OF BULGARIA Women’s Choir and Ilia Mihaylov were featured in three documentaries – Glasove (2005) produced by the National Film Center, Off Stage (2005) by the award winning director Andrey Paounov, and most recently in 2010 by the French music television MEZZO, which was included in the prestigious series The Choirs of Europe, a very high honor as only ten emblematic choirs and conductors were featured in this program.