Founded by graduates of the University of Coimbra, the Coimbra University Alumni Choir (CAO) was created with the intention of promoting and spreading a taste for musical and choral art, fostering philanthropic initiatives, providing assistance to recognised humanist/social organisations and also restore the ideals of Fraternity, Tolerance and Solidarity which, throughout generations, have left a somewhat peculiar mark on the Academy of Coimbra.
The Choir made its first appearance in December, 1980, at the centenary celebrations of the Orfeão Académico de Coimbra– from which the Choir originated - and, since then, it has given several hundred concerts in Portugal and abroad, having travelled to numerous countries on practically every continent (Europe, North and South America, Africa and the Far East). The most relevant concerts, owing to their institutional importance, are the concerts at the headquarters of International Organisations, namely the European Parliament, the Court of Justice of the European Communities, UNESCO and the UN. Decorated as an Honorary Member of the Order of Merit by His Excellency the President of the Republic, Dr. Mário Soares (1996), the Choir was also awarded the Medal of Cultural Merit by the Ministry of Culture (1995); the Medal of Cultural Merit of the Coimbra City Hall (2000); the Medal of Honorary Merit of the University of Coimbra (2007); the European Parliament Silver Medal (1987) and Cup (2005). Furthermore, it is a Corresponding Partner of the Pernambucan Academy of Music/Recife (1993) and “Honorary Friend” of the Bissaya Barreto Foundation (1997). However, one of the trophies we are most proud of is the reference made by His Holiness Pope John Paul II, when he addressed the Choir after a recital at the Vatican (1996): “Angels are said to sing in Heaven. We are rehearsing on Earth in order to be able, one day, to sing with them in Heaven. But already we hear a little of Heaven when you sing”.
The Choir has quite an eclectic repertoire which includes around a hundred pieces in multiple areas, but with a significant accent on music sang in Portuguese - special attention has been given to the choral interpretation of the “Canção de Coimbra” specially adapted for choral singing. This fact, along with choral quality, paved the way for several awards in international competitions, the most recent being: the Silver Medal at the XVI Christmas and Advent Music Festival in Prague (2006); the Gold Cup “Peter, the Great” at the II World Choir Festival of St
Petersburg (2008); and the Gold Medal at the Karpenisi International Festival (2009). Over the years, the CAO has given countless concerts and has partnered with national and international artistes such as, José Carreras, Simone, Rui Veloso, Luís Represas, Sara Tavares, Nuno Guerreiro, Carlos Guilherme, André Sardet, Vitorino and Janita Salomé, Cristina Branco, Jorge Palma, Mariza and Ivan Lins.
At the concerts, the Choir’s performance is usually followed by that of its Group of Coimbra Guitars - which sometimes also accompanies the actual Choir, producing a truly unique effect - thus revealing a significant example of our Music.
Since its foundation, the CAO has recorded several albums, either solo or in collaboration with other groups. Aside from one LP, in 1985, the Choir has recorded one DVD and 4 CDs: in 1994, one CD with varied music; in 1995, the second, with compositions by Adriano Correia de Oliveira, José Afonso and José Niza, accompanied by the London Philharmonic Orchestra and orchestral and choir arrangements by conductors José Calvário and Augusto Mesquita; in 1998 another CD (“Alleluya”), of Sacred Music from different eras and origins; in 2001, a live CD at the Belém Cultural Centre, the concert with which the Choir closed their Anniversary celebrations, accompanied by the Northern Orchestra; in 2005, the DVD “The Barber of Seville”, again in collaboration with the Northern Orchestra, with the S. Carlos Theatre and stage direction by Carlos Avillez; in 2008, the “Cantar de Coimbra 2”, in partnership with the Coimbra Classic Orchestra. Also in 2008, the CD “100 Years of Coimbra Fado”, by the Fado Group of the Coimbra University Alumni Choir, part of the proceeds reverting to the Portuguese Anti-Cancer League.
The Choir has been directed, since 2003, by conductor Virgílio Caseiro, Commander of the Order of Santiago de Espada, for his artistic and educational merit.