Olga is a young a cappella singing group that approaches old traditions in a fresh way. She combines enthusiasm, humor, and drama with genuine vocal clarity to enrapture both young and old. Her repertoire covers more than five centuries of musical joy, and the ensemble is already known for her unique programs, in which moving classical music comes together with popular repertoire – from Medieval Icelandic drinking songs to nostalgic hits from your grandfathers day. The characteristic Olga sound blends all music into a compelling whole.
Olga Vocal Ensemble was founded in 2012 at the Utrecht Conservatory in the Netherlands. All members of Olga completed their studies in classical singing there, under the guidance of the Icelandic tenor Jón Þorsteinsson.
With Dutch, Icelandic, and Russian singers, as well as music from many nationalities and genres, Olga is a truly international ensemble. She has already had countless successful concerts both in and out of the Netherlands. Tours to wild and craggy Iceland have been a regular fixture since the very beginning. In addition to this, the Olga boys recorded their first CD in 2014, received coaching with Paul Phoenix, former member of the King’s Singers, and adopted a red kettle as Olga’s mascot.
Here’s a nice quote about Olga by Paul Phoenix:
“In October 2014 I had the pleasure of spending three days working with Olga Vocal Ensemble at the Utrecht Music Conservatorium. Amongst many ensembles I’ve coached and worked with around the world, Olga stands out as a group performing to the highest standards and having great potential for the future. I love their style, their humour and spirit, as well as the unique sound which stems from their Icelandic roots and their love of folk music. See them in concert, listen to their recordings and be charmed by their wit!”
Bjarni Guðmundsson, tenor,
Bjarni grew up in the countryside of Iceland and spent a lot of time working on his grandparents’ farm. He loves being in nature. Sometimes he says, “I’d like to build a cabin in the forest and live there!” When he is not singing he works as a tour guide in Iceland, driving people around in Superjeeps and hiking mountains. His favorite thing is to fish and then eat the fish for dinner. He believes in elves and trolls and is friends with spirits all over the world.
Jonathan Ploeg, tenor,
was born into a musical family with five children. He played the oboe for nine years but gradually found his way into singing. Before studying as a singer, he worked as a handyman. Jonathan also works as a cheesemonger at a market in Haarlem. He likes to travel the world and see distant countries. Also, he likes to eat pure things. Organic things. Nice things. Spanish things. Furthermore, he conducts choirs. Together with his brother Imre, he founded a popular choir called JIP.
Gulian van Nierop, baritone,
likes to sleep in, play chess, and read. Before becoming a singer, he obtained a bachelor’s degree in Biomedical Sciences at the University of Amsterdam. He maintains a healthy interest in biomedical proceedings and occasionally flips through the odd biomedical textbook. He also plays the piano and conducts two orchestras. His favorite thing about Olga is the pre-concert sauna visits. He strives to be vegetarian, but he’s a sucker for Icelandic lamb (served with “shoe” sauce, of course).
Pétur Oddbergur Heimisson, bass-baritone,
is from Reykjavík. He likes sports and knitting. As a kid, he couldn’t stay still even for a minute, so he trained in several sports like skiing, badminton, football, and athletics. He currently plays for two futsal teams in Utrecht. His family has a summer house on an island off the west coast of Iceland, and he can picture himself going there a lot when he’s older.
Philip Barkhudarov, bass,
is originally from Moscow, Russia, but he grew up in New Mexico in the United States. He first studied physics and computer science, but then decided that singing was more fun. In his spare time, Philip is always eating tasty things, especially if they’re spicy – it must be said, there is nothing quite like New Mexican cuisine to put some spring in your step. He also loves anything science fiction-related and hopes to one day have a whole room of his house devoted to Lego.