Eric Whitacre

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Eric Edward Whitacre
Whitacre conducting in 2007
Born (1970-01-02) January 2, 1970 (age 48)
Reno, Nevada, United States
Alma materUniversity of Nevada, Las Vegas
Juilliard School
OccupationComposer, conductor, speaker
Years active1975–present

Eric Edward Whitacre (born January 2, 1970) is a Grammy-winning American composer, conductor, and speaker, known for his choral, orchestral and wind ensemble music. He is also known for his "Virtual Choir" projects, bringing individual voices from around the globe together into an online choir.[1][2] In March 2016, he was appointed as Los Angeles Master Chorale's first artist-in-residence at the Walt Disney Concert Hall.

Life and career[edit]

Whitacre was born in Reno, Nevada, to Ross and Roxanne Whitacre. He studied piano intermittently as a child and joined a junior high marching band under band leader Jim Burnett. Later Whitacre played synthesizer in a techno-pop band, dreaming of being a rock star.[3][4] Though he was unable to read music at the time, Whitacre began his full musical training while an undergraduate at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, eventually taking a BM in Music Composition.[3] Whitacre states that the first work that he sang, Mozart's Requiem, changed his life.[3] He studied composition with Ukrainian composer Virko Baley and choral conducting with David Weiller, completing his BM in Music in 1995. Whitacre credits Weiller with the inspiration that put the young composer on the musical path.[4] At 21 he wrote his setting of "Go, Lovely Rose" for his college choir and presented the composition as a gift to David Weiller. Whitacre went on to earn his master's degree in composition at the Juilliard School, where he studied with John Corigliano and David Diamond.[4][5] At the age of 23 he completed his first piece for Wind Orchestra, "Ghost Train", which has now been recorded over 40 times. Tom Leslie contributed to his interest in writing for wind ensembles.[4] While at Juilliard he met his future wife, soprano Hila Plitmann, and two of his closest friends, composers Steven Bryant and Jonathan Newman. He lived in the state of Nevada until he was 25. He graduated in 1997 and moved to Los Angeles and following the success of "Ghost Train", he decided to become a full-time professional composer.[3][4]

Whitacre's first album as both composer and conductor on Decca/Universal, Light & Gold,[6] won a Grammy Award in 2012, and became the No. 1 classical album in the US and UK charts within a week of release.[7][8][9] Whitacre's second album, Water Night, was released on Decca in April 2012 and featured performances from his professional choir the Eric Whitacre Singers, the London Symphony Orchestra, Julian Lloyd Webber and Hila Plitmann.

Whitacre has written for the London Symphony Orchestra and Chorus, Julian Lloyd Webber and the Philharmonia Orchestra, the Tallis Scholars, the King's Singers and the Minnesota Orchestra, among others. His musical, Paradise Lost: Shadows and Wings,[10] won both the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers Harold Arlen award and the Richard Rodgers Award, and earned 10 nominations at the Los Angeles Stage Alliance Ovation Awards. Whitacre also worked with film composer Hans Zimmer, co-writing the Mermaid Theme for Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides. In 2011, he conducted the winning entries of the Abbey Road 80th Anniversary Anthem Competition, recording the London Symphony Orchestra and the Eric Whitacre Singers, in the Abbey Road Studio 1. Whitacre's Soaring Leap initiative is a dynamic one-day workshop where singers, conductors, and composers read, rehearse and perform several of his works.[11]

Whitacre has addressed the UN Leaders program and has given a TED talk on his virtual choir's project.[12] He has addressed audiences at Oxford University, Harvard, The Economist, The World Economic Forum and the Seoul Digital Forum. From October to December 2010, Whitacre was a visiting Fellow at Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge, during Michaelmas (Autumn) Term.[13][14] He composed a piece for the Choir of Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge and worked with students in masterclasses and workshops. From 2011 to 2016, he was Composer in Residence at Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge University.[15]

Whitacre has worked with pop artists including Annie Lennox, Laura Mvula, Imogen Heap, and performed at the iTunes Festival in London on September 17, 2014.[16]

In 2016, Whitacre was appointed artist in residence with the Los Angeles Master Chorale. In July 2017, he co-presented the Eurovision Choir of the Year.[17]


Whitacre is best known for his choral works and both his choral and instrumental styles use pandiatonic clusters usually arranged in successively increasing or decreasing density. Whitacre achieves this growth and decay by splitting voices divisi—in one case up to 18 parts. These sonorities can often be read as seventh or ninth chords, with or without added seconds and fourths. Whitacre makes frequent use of quartal, quintal, and secundal harmonies, and is also known for his use of unconventional chord progressions[citation needed]. His use of rhythm often involves mixed, complex, and/or compound meters. His pieces sometimes include frequent meter changes and unusual rhythmic patterns.[citation needed] Another trademark of Whitacre's pieces is the use of aleatoric and indeterminate sections, as well as unusual score instructions involving, in some cases, hand actions or props.[18] His work has been described as the "sort of music Vaughan Williams might have composed in the Cambridge branch of Dunkin' Donuts."[19]

Whitacre's style, similar to Morten Lauridsen's, has been described as "neo-impressionistic".[20][21]

Whitacre frequently composes his works as direct homages to the works of a number of poets, including Octavio Paz, Emily Dickinson, E. E. Cummings, Charles Anthony Silvestri, Robert Frost, Rumi and Federico García Lorca.[3]


Virtual Choir[edit]

Whitacre's Virtual Choir projects were inspired by a video sent to him of a young girl named Britlin Losee[22] from Long Island, New York[23] singing one of his choral pieces.[24] He began with a test run of Sleep, then Lux Aurumque in 2009[1][25] and then Sleep again in 2010. Whitacre's Virtual Choir performance of Lux Aurumque, has received 4.8 million views (as of August 2015), featuring 185 singers from 12 countries.[1]

Eric Whitacre's Virtual Choir 2.0, was released in April 2011 and involved over 2,000 voices from 58 countries.[26] Virtual Choir 3, Water Night, written in 1995, combined 3,746 submissions from 73 countries and was released in April 2012.[27][28] By the entry close date of February 1, 2012, 3,746 videos had been uploaded by 2,945 people in 73 countries, singing one or more parts of "Water Night". On April 15, the 100-year anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic, the "Water Night" Virtual Choir video was shown in the new Titanic Belfast commemorative building.

Virtual Choir 4, "Fly to Paradise," contains 8,409 videos from 5,905 people from 101 different countries. It launched at the Coronation Festival at Buckingham Palace/BBC1 on July 11, 2013.

The Virtual Youth Choir, in association with UNICEF, launched at the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games opening ceremony. It featured 2,292 singers aged 18 and under from over 80 countries.[29][better source needed]

On May 4, 2018, Whitacre announced that Virtual Choir 5 would be his 2015 piece Deep Field. The site is set to open later in the month for video submissions.

Recording projects[edit]

Whitacre's first album with Decca, Light & Gold, was released in October 2010. This album won the Grammy for Best Choral Performance in 2012.[30] Whitacre's second album with Decca, Water Night, was released in April 2012 in the United States.[31][third-party source needed]

Performance projects[edit]

Whitacre, 2009

On October 24, 2010, he conducted an all-American program with the London Symphony Orchestra and Chorus at the Barbican London in a performance that featured his commission for the London Symphony Chorus entitled Songs of Immortality. On November 28, 2010, he sat on the panel of judges for the final episode of Choir of the Year, broadcast on BBC Four and BBC Radio 3.[citation needed] In December 2010, Whitacre conducted the I Vocalisti choir in Hamburg, and was a guest conductor of the Christmas performance of the Berlin Rundfunkchor. In November 2010, Whitacre conducted Côrdydd, a Cardiff-based mixed choir, and friends in a concert of his work at the BBC Hoddinott Hall in the Wales Millennium Centre. He continues to develop his musical Paradise Lost: Shadows and Wings. A concert version was given at Carnegie Hall in 2010.[32] Plans for the stage show and soundtrack extend into 2013.

Whitacre is a founding member of BCM International, a quartet of composers consisting of himself, Steven Bryant, Jonathan Newman and James Bonney, which aspires to "enrich the wind ensemble repertoire with music unbound by traditional thought or idiomatic cliché."[33] Whitacre made his BBC Proms debut with a late night Prom in 2012. In 2015, he returned to the Proms to conduct a program of all-American music with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, BBC Singers and BBC Chorus.[34] In 2015, Whitacre wrote Deep Field for orchestra, chorus, and mobile app; the piece was inspired by the Hubble Deep Field images and audience members play electronica from their smartphone apps.[citation needed]

Awards and honors[edit]

Whitacre has won awards from the Barlow international composition competition, American Choral Directors Association, American Composers Forum and in 2001 became the recipient of The Raymond W. Brock Commission given by the American Choral Directors Association.[35] His musical Paradise Lost: Shadows and Wings earned him a Richard Rodgers Award and received 10 nominations at the 2007 Los Angeles Stage Alliance Ovation Awards. The album Cloudburst and Other Choral Works received a Grammy nomination in 2007 for Best Choral Performance. Later, his album "Light & Gold" won a Grammy for Best Choral Performance in 2012.[36]


Wind symphony[edit]

SATB choral[edit]


Music theatre[edit]

Other arrangements[edit]

  • Rak HaHatchala (Only the Beginning) [aka Five Hebrew Love Songs]; for soprano voice, solo violin, piano
  • Goodnight Moon; for soprano voice and string orchestra

Film and television[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Lux Aurumque on YouTube
  2. ^ Canadian TV April 2010. Archived 2010-05-01 at the Wayback Machine. Accessed May 2, 2010
  3. ^ a b c d e Hyperion Records profile
  4. ^ a b c d e Composers On Composing For Band, Volume 2. Ed. Mark Camphouse, GIA Publications, 2004, ISBN 9781579993856 pp. 253–262
  5. ^ Audio interview with Whitacre – BBC June 29, 2008 Accessed July 14, 2010
  6. ^ Light & Gold
  7. ^ Official website
  8. ^ "Classical Albums Charts". Billboard. 6 November 2010. Retrieved 14 November 2018.
  9. ^ "Official Specialist Classical Chart Top 20". Official Charts. 30 October 2010. Retrieved 14 November 2018.
  10. ^ Paradise Lost: Shadows and Wings
  11. ^ Soaring Leap
  12. ^ TED Talk
  13. ^
  14. ^ "Eric Whitacre conducts Sidney Choir in new setting of College grace". Sidney Sussex College. 2010. Retrieved 14 November 2018.
  15. ^ "Eric Whitacre appointed as Composer in Residence". Sidney Sussex College. 3 May 2015. Retrieved 14 November 2018.
  16. ^ "iTunes Festival 2014 Setlists". Retrieved 14 November 2018.
  17. ^ ""Choral Eurovision" is coming to Latvia". LSM. 28 February 2017. Retrieved 14 November 2018.
  18. ^ Shrock, Dennis (March 2009). Choral Repertoire. Oxford University Press (USA). p. 761. ISBN 978-0-19-532778-6.
  19. ^ Allison, John (August 10, 2015). "Prom 32: Eric Whitacre, review: 'overstayed its welcome'". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved August 19, 2016.
  20. ^ Angela Hall: Added-Tone Sonorities in the Choral Music of Eric Whitacre, St. Louis 2012.
  21. ^ Shane M. Lynch: Music Historiography and Useful Style Histories: The Case for the Evolving Era of Neo-Impressionism and its Influence on American Choral Music of the Late Twentieth and Early Twenty-First Centuries, Washington 2008.
  22. ^ Sleep – Eric Whitacre – Message and Singing from Britlin on YouTube
  23. ^
  24. ^ Introduction to the Virtual Choir on YouTube
  25. ^ Niccum, Jon (April 9, 2010). "Net Worth: Viral choral video traces roots to Lawrence encounter". LJWorld. Retrieved January 12, 2011.
  26. ^ Sleep on YouTube
  27. ^ Water Night on YouTube
  28. ^ Virtual Choir
  29. ^
  30. ^ Chorus America. "Eric Whitacre Wins Grammy's "Best Choral Performance"". Light and Gold. Retrieved March 18, 2012.
  31. ^ "Help! – Blog – Eric Whitacre". July 30, 2011. Retrieved May 26, 2012.
  32. ^ Smith, Steve (June 16, 2010). "A Juggernaut Rolls Into Carnegie, Chorus in Tow". The New York Times. Retrieved January 12, 2011.
  33. ^ BCM International
  34. ^
  35. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on March 8, 2016. Retrieved March 27, 2016., Retrieved March 2016
  36. ^ "54th Annual GRAMMY Awards Nominees And Winners". Retrieved May 26, 2012.
  37. ^ Whitacre's own foreword to Sleep, Walton Music, 2002
  38. ^ full text of i thank You God for most this amazing day.

External links[edit]