Eric Whitacre
Eric Whitacre

Eric Whitacre

About Eric Whitacre

A composer best known for his choral music, Eric Whitacre has also written many wind band compositions and some electronic music. Since his first pieces appeared in the early 1990s, he has also presented works for orchestra, and his first opera, Paradise Lost: Shadows and Wings, premiered in 2007. The 2010 "virtual choir" recording of his Lux Aurumque, featuring over a hundred singers from a dozen countries, became one of his best-known. His style is quite approachable and features trademark chords (sevenths and ninths, sometimes heard against a background of sustained seconds and fourths), unexpected chord progressions, aleatoric elements, finger snapping by choral singers, and a host of other typically recognizable characteristics. His soundworld, though modern and quite individual, is invested with certain elements out of the past: his orchestral version of Water Night, originally written for chorus, carries echoes of Barber's Adagio for Strings, and some have compared Whitacre's style to that of Morten Lauridsen. That said, Whitacre is among the most original voices of his time, and his music, particularly his choral works, is widely performed. His first album as both composer and conductor, Light & Gold, arrived on Decca in 2012 and topped the classical charts in both the U.S. and U.K.
Whitacre was born in Reno, Nevada, on January 2, 1970. Though he showed interest in music in his youth, playing in the Douglas High School Band in Minden, Nevada, he did not begin advanced music studies until he entered the University of Nevada, where his most important teacher was noted composer Virko Baley. Whitacre also studied choral conducting with David Weiller. He earned his master's degree at Juilliard, where he studied composition with David Diamond and John Corigliano. By the mid-'90s, his choral music, including his 1992 composition Cloudburst and 1995's Water Night, were rapidly gaining currency. His first recordings appeared in the late '90s, and by the turn of the century, Whitacre, barely in his thirties, was internationally recognized as among the most important American composers. It wasn't just his choral works that were drawing attention; in 2004, the Eric Whitacre Wind Symphony Festival was established in Australia by the Sydney Opera House. Other Whitacre festivals would appear in Venice and Florence, beginning in 2007.


In 2006, the Hyperion label released a highly acclaimed collection of Whitacre choral music that included Water Night and Cloudburst. More recordings followed while a parallel stream of performances took place in the concert hall. Whitacre's opera Paradise Lost was premiered in July 2007 at the Theatre at Boston Court. In the late 2000s, a girl sent Whitacre a video of her performing one of his choral pieces, and it inspired him to collect vocal performances from around the world. He pieced them together for "virtual choir" versions of his a cappella work Sleep and his single-movement choral piece Lux Aurumque. He recorded the latter with 185 voices from 12 countries and uploaded a corresponding video in 2010 that soon went viral. In October of that year, he released the album Light & Gold on the Decca label. It topped the Billboard classical album chart and took home the Grammy Award for Best Choral Performance in 2012, the same year Whitacre made his BBC Proms debut. He also issued his second album for Decca, Water Night. It, too, went to number one on the traditional classical chart.
In 2014, Whitacre conducted a choir of 400 singers in a performance of The Star-Spangled Banner as part of a Flag Day concert on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. Inspired by the Hubble Space Telescope's Deep Field image, Whitacre wrote Deep Field, for chorus and orchestra, in 2015. The work was premiered that year by the Minnesota Orchestra and Minnesota Chorale, with the composer conducting. Teaming up with members of NASA and the Space Telescope Science Institute, this work was used as the score for the 2018 film Deep Field: The Impossible Magnitude of the Universe, which utilized an 8,000 voice virtual choir. Whitacre's 12-movement work, The Sacred Veil, received its world premiere at the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles in February 2019. Featuring the words of poet/lyricist Charles Anthony Silvestri, it was a work based on the life and loss of Silvestri's wife, Julie, who died of cancer in 2005. A recording of The Sacred Veil by the Los Angeles Master Chorale, with Whitacre conducting, followed on Signum Classics in 2020. ~ Robert Cummings & Marcy Donelson

  • HOMETOWN
    Reno, Nevada, US
  • BORN
    January 2, 1970

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