|Born||January 2, 1970|
Reno, Nevada, U.S.
|Alma mater|| University of Nevada, Las Vegas |
|Occupation(s)||Composer, conductor, speaker|
(m. 1998;div. 2017)
|Children||1 (with Plitmann) 1 (with Servaes, b. 2020)|
Eric Edward Whitacre (born January 2, 1970) is an American composer, conductor, and speaker best known for his choral music. In March 2016, he was appointed as Los Angeles Master Chorale's first artist-in-residence at the Walt Disney Concert Hall.
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 a synthesizer in a techno-pop band, dreaming of being a rock star.   Although he initially resisted joining choir while attending college, Whitacre was eventually convinced. He described his own experience with his first choral rehearsal as a turning point in his life, saying, "In my entire life I had seen in black and white, and suddenly everything was in shocking Technicolor. It was the most transformative experience I've ever had—in that single moment, hearing dissonance and harmony, and people singing...".  Though he was unable to read music at the time, Whitacre began his full musical training while he was an undergraduate at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. He eventually earned a bachelor's degree in Music Composition. 
Whitacre studied composition with Ukrainian composer Virko Baley and choral conducting with David Weiller, completing his bachelor's degree in 1995. Whitacre credits Weiller with the inspiration that put the young composer on the musical path.  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.  At the age of 23 he completed his first piece for Wind Orchestra, "Ghost Train", which has now been recorded more than 40 times. Tom Leslie contributed to his interest in writing for wind ensembles.  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 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.  
Whitacre's first album as both composer and conductor on Decca Records, Light & Gold,  won a Grammy Award in 2012, and became the No. 1 classical album in the US and UK charts within a week of release.    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.
Around January 25, 2011,  Eric Whitacre began working with legendary film composer Hans Zimmer on the music for Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides . Whitacre co-composed the "Mermaid Theme" with Zimmer as well as conducting some of the choral sessions at Abbey Road Studios.  His wife, Hila Plitmann, sang the solo material in the theme, having also invented the language the mermaids were singing in the film, a combination of Latin, Hebrew, and as she says, 'Elvish.' Whitacre enjoyed working with Zimmer, saying that he was a brilliant composer and a generous collaborator.  Whitacre later collaborated with Zimmer for the 2016 film, Batman vs Superman: Dawn of Justice .
Whitacre has written for the London Symphony Orchestra and Chorus, the Los Angeles Master Chorale, Chanticleer, Julian Lloyd Webber and the Philharmonia Orchestra, the Tallis Scholars, the King's Singers, Dallas Winds, the Berlin Rundfunkchor, and the Minnesota Orchestra, among others. His work of music theater, Paradise Lost: Shadows and Wings ,  won 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. 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. 
From October to December 2010, Whitacre was a visiting Fellow at Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge, during Michaelmas (Autumn) Term.   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.  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. 
From 1998 to 2017, Whitacre was married to Israeli singer Hila Plitmann.   They have a son together, Esh Edward (b. 2005).
Whitacre married Belgian opera singer Laurence Servaes in Maui, Hawaii, in March 2019.  They have a son together, Julian (b. 2020).
A 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.  His work has been described as "weightless"  and as the "sort of music Vaughan Williams might have composed in the Cambridge branch of Dunkin' Donuts".  Anthony Tommasini described Whitacre's "Leonardo Dreams of His Flying Machine" in 2005 as "full of sound effects, portentous harmony and fractured riffs", writing that "the music was rather hokey, like a choral equivalent of a blatant film score."  Other critics, however, have described his style as "full of shimmering, shuddering, shifting harmonies that awaken the ear to a contemporary yet accessible voice".  Whitacre's style, similar to Morten Lauridsen's, has also been characterized as "neo-impressionistic".  
Whitacre's Virtual Choir projects were inspired by a video sent to him of a young girl named Britlin Losee   from Glen Cove, New York, singing one of his choral pieces.  Singers record and upload their videos from locations all over the world. Each one of the videos is then synchronised and combined into one single performance to create the Virtual Choir.  Whitacre began with a test run of Sleep , then Lux Aurumque in 2009   and then Sleep again in 2010. Whitacre's Virtual Choir performance of Lux Aurumque, has received almost 6.5 million views (as of July 2020), featuring 185 singers from 12 countries. 
Whitacre's Virtual Choir 2.0, "Sleep", was released in April 2011 and involved more than 2,000 voices from 58 countries. 
Virtual Choir 3, Water Night , written in 1995, combined 3,746 submissions from 73 countries and was released in April 2012.   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 100th 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 countries. It launched at the Coronation Festival at Buckingham Palace/BBC1 on July 11, 2013. 
The virtual World of Color Honor Choir was put together in 2013 by Eric Whitacre and Disney. The song, Glow, was written for the event. The final product included singers from all over the United States, totaling 1,473 singers. 
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 more than 80 countries. 
On May 4, 2018, Whitacre announced that Virtual Choir 5 would be his 2015 piece Deep Field. Other Virtual Choir projects include 'Glow' written for the Winter Dreams holiday show at Disneyland Adventure Park, California. To date, the Virtual Choirs have registered more than 60 million views. 
On May 2, 2020, during the COVID-19 pandemic, Whitacre announced that the sixth iteration of Virtual Choir would be an original song entitled Sing Gently. It featured 17,572 singers from 129 countries, including 16 performers using Sign Language, and had its world premiere on YouTube on July 19, 2020.  
In December 2020, Sing as One, an album of Whitacre's virtual choirs, was released. The album contains recordings of all eight virtual choirs listed above. 
Deep Field: The Impossible Magnitude of the Universe is a 4k film for IMAX, cinema, projection in concert with live orchestra and for screenings at arts and science events. It is an audiovisual collaboration between Eric Whitacre, NASA, the Space Telescope Science Institute, Music Productions and 59 Productions. It premiered at Kennedy Space Center (Florida) in 2018 and has since been at Smithsonian Air & Space Museum, Dolby Theatre, the World Science Festival, Griffith Observatory, the American Astronomical Society Annual Meeting and in concert halls. The film is part of several STEAM education programs in North America, Europe and elsewhere. 
The film is inspired by the Hubble Space Telescope, and its greatest discovery, the Deep Field image. The soundtrack composed by Whitacre features the Virtual Choir 5, representing 120 countries: more than 8,000 voices aged four to 87, alongside the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and Eric Whitacre Singers. 
The choir performs music from the Renaissance through to the current day, including Lauridsen, Britten, and the work of their founder and conductor. The Eric Whitacre Singers made their BBC Proms debut in 2012 in a program that included a collaboration with singer/songwriter Imogen Heap. The choir also sang at the Templeton Prize Laureate Ceremony for Archbishop Desmond Tutu alongside Annie Lennox, and the London African Gospel Choir. They work regularly with British soul artist Laura Mvula, and featured at the iTunes Festival, broadcast to 119 countries, performing with Hans Zimmer, and at an experiential installation for Anya Hindmarch in 2018. 
Whitacre's first album with Decca, Light & Gold, was released in October 2010. This album won the Grammy for Best Choral Performance in 2012.  Whitacre's second Decca album, Water Night, was released in April 2012 in the United States.  
Since 2013, Whitacre has been releasing on his own independent label, UNQUIET, established as a joint venture with his managers at Music Productions. Feature releases on UNQUIET include Deep Field, Goodnight Moon and a 10-inch gatefold vinyl featuring Whitacre's choral cover of Trent Reznor’s "Hurt" and his setting of E. E. Cummings' "i carry your heart".
On October 24, 2010, Whitacre 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.  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 continued to develop his work of music theater, Paradise Lost: Shadows and Wings . A concert version was given at Carnegie Hall in 2010. 
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."  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.  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. 
In June 2014, Whitacre gave a live webcast from the Kennedy Center and subsequently conducted a massed choir of 400 singers on the Mall, Washington D.C., to mark Flag Day and the bicentenary of "The Star-Spangled Banner". 
Composed in 2018, The Sacred Veil is a 12-movement work from Whitacre and poet/lyricist Charles Anthony Silvestri. Silvestri's wife, Julie, died of ovarian cancer at age 36 in 2005, leaving two young children. His texts (written collaboratively with Whitacre) and the score tell a story of courtship, love, loss and the search for solace.  The Los Angeles Times described the work as "memorably [celebrating] the precarious beauty of life, offering the welcome consolation of art and a momentary stay against our collective fate."  The work was premiered at Walt Disney Concert Hall, Los Angeles, in February 2019,  and recordings released in late August 2020.
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.  His work of music theater 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. 
Morten Johannes Lauridsen is an American composer. A National Medal of Arts recipient (2007), he was composer-in-residence of the Los Angeles Master Chorale from 1994 to 2001, and is the Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Composition at the University of Southern California Thornton School of Music, where he taught for 52 years until his retirement in 2019.
The Los Angeles Master Chorale is a professional chorus in Los Angeles, California, and one of the resident companies of both The Music Center and Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles. It was founded in 1964 by Roger Wagner to be one of the three original resident companies of the Music Center of Los Angeles County. Grant Gershon has been its music director since 2001, replacing Paul Salamunovich.
The Dale Warland Singers (DWS) was a 40-voice professional chorus based in St. Paul, Minnesota, founded in 1972 by Dale Warland and disbanded in 2004. They performed a wide variety of choral repertoire but specialized in 20th-century music and commissioned American composers extensively. In terms of sound, the DWS was known for its purity of tone, intonation, legato sound and stylistic range. During their existence, the DWS performed roughly 400 concerts and recorded 29 CDs.
Patrick Hawes is a British composer, conductor, organist and pianist.
Hila Plitmann is an Israeli-American two-time Grammy Award-winning operatic soprano, songwriter, and actress specializing in the performance of new works.
Cloudburst is a composition by Eric Whitacre for eight-part choir, with piano and percussion accompaniment. Whitacre began writing the piece in 1991, at the request of conductor Dr. Jocelyn K. Jensen for her high school choir - the final version of the piece was published in 1995. The text was adapted from Octavio Paz's poem El cántaro roto, and inspired by the experience of the composer witnessing a desert cloudburst.
Pacific Chorale, founded in 1968, is a professional chorus performing in Costa Mesa, California at the Renée and Henry Segerstom Concert Hall at Segerstrom Center for the Arts.
The Kansas City Chorale is a professional 27-voice chorus conducted by Charles Bruffy. They perform a four concert series in Kansas City, tour nationwide, and perform with their sister choir, the Phoenix Chorale, also conducted by Mr. Bruffy. During his tenure as conductor, the chorus has achieved international acclaim. Mr. Bruffy, renowned for his fresh interpretations of both traditional and new music, was noted by The New York Times as a disciple of the late Robert Shaw.
Paradise Lost: Shadows and Wings is a musical work of theatre, with music by composer Eric Whitacre, lyrics by Whitacre and David Noroña, and book by poet Edward Esch, set in two acts. The innovative music combines styles of opera, musical theater, cinematic music, as well as electronic music techniques of trance music, ambient music, and techno to portray the story of an abandoned tribe of angels in search of their wings. Although it has various non-classical influences, it is meant to be performed by singers with operatic or musical theater backgrounds.
Water Night is one of composer Eric Whitacre's earliest works, written in 1995 during his attendance at University of Nevada, Las Vegas, and commissioned by the Dale Warland Singers. It is written for SATB choir a cappella with three, four and five-part divisi in vocal sections. The text is from Octavio Paz's poem Agua nocturna, adapted by Whitacre and translated by Muriel Rukeyser. According to Whitacre, "[t]he music sounded in the air" as he read the poem. Whitacre dedicated this composition to his friend Dr. Bruce Mayhall.
Masterworks Chorale is a choral ensemble based in San Mateo, California.
Sleep is a composition for a cappella choir by Eric Whitacre, with lyrics by Charles Anthony Silvestri. He composed it in 2000, setting a poem, "Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening" by Robert Frost. When the lyrics were found still under copyright, Whitacre won Silvestri to write new lyrics to the existing music.
Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides—Original Motion Picture Soundtrack is the soundtrack album to the 2011 eponymous film. Hans Zimmer, who produced Klaus Badelt's score for The Curse of the Black Pearl and composed the music for Dead Man's Chest and At World's End, returned to score the fourth installment of the Pirates franchise. Collaborators included Rodrigo y Gabriela, which are listed as featured artists, and composers Eric Whitacre, Eduardo Cruz and Geoff Zanelli.
Shining Night: A Portrait of Composer Morten Lauridsen is a 2012 documentary film about the American choral composer Morten Lauridsen,, National Medal of Arts recipient (2007) and most-performed living American choral composer.
Lux Aurumque is a choral composition in one movement by Eric Whitacre. It is a Christmas piece based on a Latin poem of the same name, which translates as "Light, warm and heavy as pure gold, and the angels sing softly to the new born babe". In 2000, Whitacre set a short Latin text for mixed choir a cappella. In 2005, he wrote an arrangement for wind ensemble. The choral version became known through Whitacre's project Virtual Choir in 2009. The piece is also available for men's choir. A performance takes about four minutes.
Christopher Glynn is an English classical pianist and festival director. He is especially noted for his work as an accompanist with many leading classical singers. He is also Artistic Director of the Ryedale Festival.
Jake Runestad is an American composer and conductor of classical music based in Minneapolis, Minnesota. He has composed music for a wide variety of musical genres and ensembles, but has achieved greatest acclaim for his work in the genres of opera, orchestral music, choral music, and wind ensemble. One of his principal collaborators for musical texts has been the poet Todd Boss.
Washington, D.C. and its environs are home to an unusually large and vibrant choral music scene, including choirs and choruses of many sizes and types.
A virtual choir, online choir or home choir is a choir whose members do not meet physically but who work together online from separate places. Some choirs just sing for the joy of the shared experience, while others record their parts alone and send their digital recordings, sometimes including video, to be collated into a choral performance. There may be a series of rehearsals which singers can watch online, and their performance recordings may be made while watching a video of the conductor, and in some cases listening to a backing track, to ensure unanimity of timing. The worldwide COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 inspired a large growth in the number of virtual choirs, although the idea was not new.
Charles Anthony "Tony" Silvestri is an American poet and lyricist, and a lecturer in history at Washburn University.