Eric Whitacre is a renowned composer whose pieces continue to entertain musical fans globally. He was born in Reno and was introduced to the piano through lessons. He learned to play the trumpet by ear by listening to the school band but was kicked out due to his obnoxious behavior. His love for music continued in high school, where he learned how to play the keyboard, also by ear. Formal music training began in college when he joined the University of Nevada to major in music education although he could not read music. His gifts have become a blessing to the musical fraternity, and here are ten of Eric Whitacre’s best songs.
10. A Boy and A Girl
The song is about a boy and a girl who are in love. In the first two stanzas, they cannot help but show their love to each other by exchanging kisses while savoring oranges and limes. However, in the last stanza, the boy and girl in question are afraid of expressing their love. Instead of kissing, they sit in silence and let the silence communicate whatever is in their hearts. Whitacre disclosed that the line “never kissing” in the last stanza is the truest he has ever written.
“Sleep” was commissioned by Ms. Julia Armstrong, who had lost her parents within weeks of each other. She wanted it as a tribute and asked Whitacre to incorporate “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening,” her favorite poem by Robert Frost. Due to the nature of the assignment, the composer had to take his time understanding every line of the poem and ensuring that none of the words were lost in his music. Unfortunately, a legal battle prohibiting Whitacre from using Frost’s poem resulted in him seeking help from another poet, Charles Anthony Silvestri. In the end, he preferred Silvestri’s version.
8. When David Heard
Barlow Endowment for the Arts commissioned music from Whitacre, and the composer decided to use mostly silence in the piece. It is dedicated to Ronald Staheli, a music conductor composer revered for how profoundly he understands Whitacre’s compositions. Whitacre was inspired by King James Version, II Samuel 18:33. The verse tells how King David wept upon learning of Absalom’s demise. The composer confessed that it took over 200 sketches to find the perfect balance between silence and sound before finally settling on “When David Heard.”
Brian Anderson was a high school band director and when he happened to meet Whitacre, the two music enthusiasts talked for hours as they dined at a Chicago restaurant. Whitacre must have made quite an impression on the band director because the following day, Anderson informed the composer that he would commission a piece of music from him as soon as he arranged his finances. For over a year, Anderson went silent and Whitacre thought the band director gave up on the project. However, the song that resulted from the chance meeting is “October, which Whitacre completed in February 2000.
6. Water Night
According to Eric Whitacre’s Music Catalog, “Water Night” is a dedication to Dr. Bruce Mayhall, his mentor and friend. The composer had given up on school. Fortunately, Dr. Mayhill talked to him for over four hours, convincing Whitacre to give education a chance and finish his degree. Whitacre wanted to quit his university studies to become a professional artist. He got home and started reading Octavio Paz’s poems. “Agua Nocturna” stood out, inspiring him to compose “Water Night” as a dedication to his mentor.
We all know how Disney goes out of its way to create unforgettable experiences for its fans. It outdid itself by partnering with Whitacre, so he composed a song for “World of Color- Winter Dreams.” The performance of the song went to another level thanks to the Honor Choir, comprising over a thousand singers from all the states in America. The singers submitted recordings of the song, and most of them were chosen for the World of Color Honor Choir.
The song was inspired by a personal experience. According to WOSU, Whitacre witnessed what he referred to as “the most transformative and profound experience” of his life. As he and other singers relaxed by the lakeside, soaking in the wonders of nature, suddenly all animals were silent, and clouds gathered. They heard a big thunderclap before the rain fell. He then composed the song based on a poem by Octavio Paz.
3. Sing Gently
When the coronavirus pandemic struck, gatherings were prohibited, which meant that choirs were no longer singing together. Thanks to the internet, Whitacre resolved to keep the singers doing what they love most. Thus, he used the idea of a virtual choir he had obtained from watching a fan posting a video of herself on YouTube while singing one of his songs. The composer wrote this piece for Virtual Choir 6 to encourage them to continue singing together regardless of the challenging times.
Whitacre revealed that although he is not an atheist, he still is not a Christian. For this reason, he avoids writing pieces that can be used for liturgical purposes. However, his view on liturgy changed after spending time with the Chapel Choir. He was receptive to the idea of liturgies and when autumn came, he could no longer withhold his awe of the beauty of the season. All he could do was praise God with a simple “Alleluia.”
1. Lux Aurumque
Loosely translated to “Light and Gold,” the song is dedicated to Dr. Jo Michael Scheibe. Master Choral of Tampa Bay commissioned it, and Whitacre found inspiration in a poem by Edward Esch. The composer asked poet Silvestri to translate the Latin poem for him, being fascinated by its simplicity yet notable elegance. It is a Christmas piece that Whitacre began writing in the fall of 2000. It premiered in 2005 at the Texas Music Educators Conference.
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