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Biography of

Eric Whitacre

1970 (Los Angeles) -
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Eric Whitacre

Whitacre conducting in 2009.
Background information
Born January 2, 1970 (1970-01-02) (age 40)
Occupations Composer, Conductor, Lecturer

Eric Whitacre (born January 2, 1970 in Reno, Nevada) is an American composer, conductor and lecturer. He is one of the most popular and performed composers of his generation. [1][2]The Los Angeles Times described his work as evoking "unearthly beauty and imagination"[citation needed] and the American Record Guide noted its "emotional directness and intensity".[citation needed] In 2008, the all-Whitacre choral CD Cloudburst[3] (released by the British ensemble Polyphony on Hyperion Records became an international best-seller, topping the classical charts and earning a Grammy nomination. The BBC noted: "what hits you straight between the eyes is the honesty, optimism and sheer belief that passes any pretension. This is music that can actually make you smile." Whitacre's Virtual Choir projects on YouTube exposed his music to a new audience. [4] [5] [6][7][8] Whitacre signed a long-term recording deal with Decca in 2010 and continues to develop his award winning musical Paradise Lost. 2010 saw a semi-staged, sold out performance at Carnegie Hall. [9] Plans for the stage show and soundtrack extend into 2011.



Whitacre began his musical training while an undergraduate at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, where he studied composition with avant garde Ukrainian composer Virko Baley and choral conducting with David Weiller. He wrote his setting of Go, Lovely Rose for his college choir and presented the composition as a gift to David Weiller. Eric went on to earn his Master's degree in composition at the Juilliard School, where he studied with John Corigliano. [10]Since then, Whitacre has received many commissioning awards and honors, with sheet music sales of over 1,000,000 copies worldwide.[citation needed] His works Water Night, Cloudburst, Sleep, Lux Aurumque, and A Boy and a Girl are among the most popular choral works of the last decade, and his Ghost Train, Godzilla Eats Las Vegas and October have achieved success in the symphonic wind community. His cutting edge musical Paradise Lost: Shadows and Wings, which combines influences including trance, electronica, and anime with choral, cinematic, and operatic traditions, won the ASCAP Harold Arlen Award, the Richard Rogers award, and 10 Ovation Award nominations. He has received composition awards from the Barlow International Composition Competition, the American Choral Directors Association and the American Composers Forum. In 2001, Whitacre became the youngest recipient ever awarded the coveted Raymond C. Brock commission by the American Choral Directors Association.

He is currently completing his first full-length oratorio for chorus, soprano soloist, and orchestra; a commission for the Berlin Rundfunkchor [11] and a major commission for the London Symphony Chorus which will be performed with the London Symphony Orchestra in October 2010. Since 2000, he has conducted concerts of his choral and symphonic music in Japan, Australia, China, Singapore, South America and much of Europe, as well as in American Universities and colleges where he regularly conducts seminars and lectures with young musicians. 2010-11 commissions include works for Chanticleer, The King's Singers and Conspirare.

Whitacre's first recording, The Music of Eric Whitacre, was named by the American Record Guide as one of the top ten classical albums of 1997. In 2006, a full collection of his a cappella music, Cloudburst and Other Choral Works, was released on the renowned British label Hyperion Records. The album became an international best seller, appearing in the top ten of both Billboard's and iTunes Top Classical Albums charts. Two years after its release, it continues to be a top-seller and won a 2007 Grammy nomination for Best Choral Performance. In 2010, Whitacre signed to Decca as a performer, conducting the first album of his music Light & Gold, which will be released in late 2010.

Whitacre writes music that incorporates contemporary sounds and influences while demanding precision, intonation and ensemble. Eric Whitacre divides his time between conducting and teaching throughout the world and the demands of his composing. He lives in Los Angeles with his wife, Grammy-award winning soprano Hila Plitmann and their son.


Whitacre is probably best known for his choral works; however, both his choral and instrumental styles use his signature "Whitacre chords," or pan-diatonic clusters usually arranged in successive increasing or decreasing density. Whitacre achieves this growth and decay by splitting voices divisi—sometimes into up to four or five parts. These sonorities can often be read as seventh or ninth chords, with or without suspended seconds and fourths. Perhaps his most famous chord is a root-position major triad with an added major second and/or perfect fourth. Whitacre makes frequent use of quartal, quintal and secundal harmonies, and is also known for his use of unconventional chord progressions. His use of rhythm often involves mixed, complex, and/or compound meters. His pieces sometimes include frequent meter changes and unusual rhythmic patterns. 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 and/or props. [12]


Whitacre's Virtual Choir projects began with Sleep in 2009 [13] and was followed by Lux Aurumque in 2010 [14] [15] Combining 185 voices from 12 countries, the virtual choir has been described as a "musical experience that works better than anyone might have expected" (Gramophone, August 2010)[16] Not only did it receive 1,000,000 hits in the first two months captured the attention of entrepreneurs and decision makers worldwide, from the United Nations to Google.[citation needed]

Whitacre's first album with Decca, Light & Gold will be released in October 2010. From October to December 2010, Whitacre will be a visiting Fellow at Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge during Michaelmas (Autumn) Term, and will compose a piece for the college choir, as well as work with students in masterclasses and workshops. The concert version of his musical Paradise Lost: Shadows and Wings was performed to a sold out audience at Carnegie Hall in June 2010

Eric's had worked collaboratively with Distinguished Concerts International New York [17] (DCINY) and will collaborate with them again in 2011 in New York, Vancouver and Los Angeles.. He was described by the New York Times as a "younger, hipper Andrew Lloyd Webber, with fleeting hints of Bernstein and Sondheim". [9]

On 24 October 2010, he will conduct an all-American programme with the London Symphony Orchestra and Chorus at the Barbican [18] London, in a performance that will feature his commission for the London Symphony Chorus entitled Songs of Immortality. On 28 November 2010, he will sit on the panel of judges for the final of Choir of the Year, broadcast on BBC Four and BBC Radio 3. In December 2010, Whitacre will conduct the I Vocalisti choir in Hamburg, and will be guest conductor of the Christmas performance of the Berlin Rundfunkchor [19]

On 6 November 2010, Whitacre will conduct Côrdydd, a Cardiff-based mixed choir, and friends in a concert of his work at the BBC Hoddinott Hall in the Wales Millennium Centre [20]

Whitacre is a founding member of The Consortium, 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." [21]

Awards and honors

Whitacre has won awards from the Barlow international composition competition, American Choral Directors Association, American Composers' Forum and in 2001 became the youngest recipient ever of The Raymond C Brock Commission given by the American Choral Directors Association. His musical Paradise Lost: Shadows and Wings earned him a ASCAP Richard Rodgers Award|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.

Since July 2004, Australia has hosted an annual Eric Whitacre Wind Symphony Festival. The Italian cities of Venice and Florence both host annual Whitacre Festivals.


Wind Symphony

  • Equus
  • Ghost Train Triptych
    • Ghost Train
    • At the Station
    • Motive Revolution
  • Godzilla Eats Las Vegas!
  • Noisy Wheels of Joy
  • October
  • Sleep (Choral Transcription)
  • The Seal Lullaby (Choral Transcription for Wind Symphony and Piano)
  • Lux Aurumque (Choral Transcription, transposed a semitone lower from C-Sharp Minor to C Minor)
  • Cloudburst (Choral Transcription)
  • Winter (Choral Transcription)
  • Libertas Imperio (From Paradise Lost: Shadows and Wings)

SATB Choral

  • Animal Crackers, Volume 1 (Poems by Ogden Nash)
    • The Panther
    • The Cow
    • The Firefly
  • Animal Crackers, Volume 2 (Poems by Ogden Nash)
    • The Canary
    • The Eel
    • The Kangaroo
  • A Boy and A Girl (poem by Octavio Paz)
  • Cloudburst (poem by Octavio Paz)
  • Five Hebrew Love Songs (poem by Hila Plitmann)
    • Temuna
    • Kala Kalla (Light Bride)
    • Larov (Mostly)
    • Eyze Sheleg! (What snow!)
    • Rakut (Tenderness)
  • Her Sacred Spirit Soars (poem by Charles Anthony Silvestri)
  • Leonardo Dreams of His Flying Machine (libretto by Charles Anthony Silvestri)
  • Little Birds (poem by Octavio Paz)
  • little tree (poem by E. E. Cummings)
  • Lux Aurumque (poem by Edward Esch; translated into Latin by Charles Anthony Silvestri) (also set for male chorus)
  • Nox Aurumque (poem by Charles Anthony Silvestri)
  • The Seal Lullaby (poem by Rudyard Kipling)
  • She Weeps Over Rahoon (poem by James Joyce)
  • Sleep (originally a setting of Robert Frost's poem, "Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening"; for copyright reasons[22] the published version uses a specially-written text by Charles Anthony Silvestri)
  • Sleep, My Child (Choral transcription from Paradise Lost: Shadows and Wings)
  • The Stolen Child (setting of a poem by William Butler Yeats, commissioned in 2008 by the National Youth Choir of Great Britain and The King's Singers for their respective 25th and 40th anniversaries)
  • This Marriage (poem by Jalal al-Din Rumi)
  • Three Flower Songs
  • Three Songs of Faith (poems by e. e. cummings))
    • i will wade out
    • hope, faith, life, love
    • i thank You God for most this amazing day[23]
  • Water Night (poem by Octavio Paz; translated by Muriel Rukeyser)
  • When David Heard (from II Samuel 18:33)
  • Winter (poem by Edward Esch)
  • What If (lyrics by David Norona and Eric Whitacre)

Choral works not yet published:

  • The City and the Sea (poems by e.e. Cummings)
    • i walked the boulevard
    • the moon is hiding in her hair
    • maggie and millie and molly and may
    • as is the sea marvelous (written for the Irvine, and Villa Park high schools)
    • little man in a hurry (Written for Mahtomedi High School, among others.

SSA Choral

  • She Weeps Over Rahoon (text by James Joyce)
  • Five Hebrew Love Songs (poem by Hila Plitmann)
  • The Seal Lullaby (text by Rudyard Kipling)

TTBB Choral

  • Lux Aurumque (poem by Edward Esch, translated into Latin by Charles Anthony Silvestri)
  • The Seal Lullaby (text by Rudyard Kipling)


  • October
  • Winter
  • A Boy and a Girl
  • Lux Aurumque
  • Water Night

Solo Voice

  • The City and the Sea (poems by e.e. cummings)
  • Five Hebrew Love Songs (poem by Hila Plitmann)


Winter (for Strings, Choir and Sitar)

Music Theatre

Other arrangements

  • Rak HaHatchala (Only the Beginning) [aka Five Hebrew Love Songs]; for soprano voice, solo violin, piano
  • 'Virtual Choir' composed of 185 voices, 243 tracks, and 12 countries all based through webcam entries from participants.[24]


Eric Whitacre is published by Chester Music and Walton Music


  1. ^ Billboard Magazine article. "Whitacre's ace space" 18 Mar 2006 Page 56
  2. ^ CNN article February 11, 2007
  3. ^ Hyperion Records, 2005 Liner notes.
  4. ^ Lux Aurumque
  5. ^ Sleep : Youtube Video
  6. ^ Hyperion Records - Whitacre Biography Accessed 2010-04-15
  7. ^ Canadian TV April 2010. Accessed 2010-05-02
  8. ^ TED featured Virtual Choir
  9. ^ a b New york Times article. A Juggernaut Rolls Into Carnegie, Chorus in Tow. June 16, 2010 Accessed 2010-07-14
  10. ^ Audio interview with Whitacre - BBC 29 June 2008 Accessed 2010-07-14
  11. ^ [ Whitacre Official Site]
  12. ^ Dennis, Shrock (2009) Choral Repertoire OUP USA p761 ISBN 0195327780
  13. ^ Sleep
  14. ^ Lux Aurumque
  15. ^ Article from The Laurence Journal April 9, 2010
  16. ^ Gramophone magazine, August 2010 issue.
  17. ^ Distinguished Concerts International New York
  18. ^ Barbican
  19. ^ Berlin Rundfunkchor.
  20. ^ Wales Millennium Centre.
  21. ^ BCM International
  22. ^ Whitacre's own foreword to Sleep, Walton Music, 2002
  23. ^ full text i thank You God for most this amazing. "most this" is not a typo.
  24. ^ . Lux Aurumque. SoundWorks. 27 Mar. 2010. Accessed 3 May 2010.

External links

This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Eric Whitacre. Allthough most Wikipedia articles provide accurate information accuracy can not be guaranteed.
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