Eric Whitacre's Virtual Choir

Interview

Friday, March 22, 2013

While classical institutions usually bemoan the aging audience, Eric Whitacre’s fanbase is squarely in a prize demographic of 18-to-30 year olds. Whitacre is the most popular choral composer working today, his music performed by school choirs, university groups, and professional singers alike. The Eric Whitacre Singers, his ensemble, has just finished its first US tour.

The 43-year-old attributes his success with young listeners and singers to an active presence on social media, but it certainly helps that his sensibility is steeped in 1980s New Romantic pop. He’d still give it all up to be with Depeche Mode: “Even if they don’t need a keyboard player, they’ve got to need somebody to carry their suitcases around! I’m here.” But Whitacre is serious in his regard for their songwriting; he’s arranged the band’s hit “Enjoy the Silence” for his ensemble. “Some of these songs — they’re dated because they use ‘80s synths and drum machines, but the songs themselves are poignant and genuinely moving,” he tells Kurt Andersen. “Some of my pieces, if I play them on the piano, bare bones, you can hear the influence of Depeche Mode.”

Whitacre’s most celebrated success has been online, where he’s organized a virtual choir consisting of thousands of people from all over the world contributing by video. He got the idea from a teenager in Long Island who posted on YouTube, as something of a fan letter, a video of herself singing the soprano part to his piece “Sleep.” “With the Virtual Choir," Whitacre explains, "we’re trying as hard as we can to push the technology so that very soon I hope, we’ll be able to sing in real time,” using Skype. “My hope is that I’ll be able to pull out my iPhone 8 and start conducting Beethoven Nine, and a thousand people can join in on their lunch hour, from their phones.”

 

Bonus Track: “Oculi Omnium,” performed by the Eric Whitacre Singers (from the album Water Night)

 

Video: Virtual Choir 1 “Lux Aurumque”

Virtual Choir 2 "Sleep"

Virtual Choir 3 "Water Night"

    Music Playlist
  1. Soprano line to Eric Whitacre’s “Sleep”
    Artist: Britlin Losee
    Label: YouTube
  2. Sleep
    Artist: Eric Whitacre’s Virtual Choir 2
    Label: YouTube
  3. Requiem in D minor K626: II Kyrie
    Artist: Nigel Short & Chamber Orchestra of Europe
    Album: Mozart: Requiem & Ave Verum Corpus
    Purchase: Amazon
  4. Oculi Omnium
    Artist: Eric Whitacre
    Album: Water Night
    Purchase: Amazon
  5. Symphony No. 9 in D Minor, Op. 125 “Choral”: IV. Presto – Allegro Assai – Choral Finale
    Artist: London Symphony Orchestra
    Album: Beethoven: The Complete Symphony Collection
    Purchase: Amazon

Produced by:

John DeLore and Jenny Lawton

Comments [5]

Jeff from Levittown, PA

I had just left the Princeton Garden Statesmen practice, who sing 4-part harmony. It was my first visit. When I left I turned the car on and caught the middle of Eric's interview where he's recalling his first experience in a choir--the joy he felt hearing 4-part harmony in 3-D around him. I had just experienced the same thing for the first time moments before!

Mar. 27 2013 01:25 PM
ADA LEVY from SARASOTA, FLORIDA

I sing with a few groups here in Sarasota, Florida and will pass this one to my fellow singers. Thank you for sending it to me. Ada levy

Mar. 26 2013 12:00 PM
Pete

He's unreal.

Mar. 25 2013 02:32 AM
Marjorie from Philadelphia

I loved this interview and made everyone in my family listen. BUT it ran three days AFTER the Eric Whitacre Singers were in Philadelphia. Now that I know about them I need them to come back.

Mar. 24 2013 07:14 PM
Nigel from North Swindon, U.K.

Umm...Enjoy the Silence was released in 1990.

Mar. 24 2013 11:04 AM

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