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Eric Whitacre. By: Kody Harvey Music 1010. Biography.

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eric whitacre
Eric Whitacre
  • By: Kody Harvey
  • Music 1010

Eric Whitacre was born January 2, 1970 in Reno, Nevada. He gained his interest in classical music late in life when he joined his college choir in Las Vegas, UNLV. He claims that the first time that he sand Mozart’s Requiem his life was changed forever. He continued on to the Juilliard School of Music in New York, New York where he earned his Master of Music degree. There he studied with John Corigliano, a Pulitzer Prize and Oscar-winning composer. He married Hila Plitmann, a Grammy award winning soprano, and had a son. They now live in London where he still composes and conducts. He is now only 42 years of age.

Eric Whitacre is now one of the most popular composers of our time. His first composition was Go, Lovely, Rose, which he completed at 21. He has now gone on to write and conduct many more commonly preformed pieces for the London Symphony Orchestra and Chorus, Chanticleer, Julian Lloyd Webber, Rundfunkchor Berlin and the Philharmonia Orchestra. He also conducts and instructs at workshops for aspiring conductors and musicians.

His works range from wind symphonies to solo voice, and from musical theatre to orchestral; however, most of his compositions are in the standard SATB choral style. He has 26 compositions in this style alone many with multiple parts. Outside of SATB choral style Whitacre has many other composition. For his choral parts he uses poems from such writers as Emily Dickinson and E. E. Cummings.


Another place where Whitacre has found success is with his ingenious Virtual Choir. Here he selects one of his compositions and gives the score away on YouTube or his blog where anybody is able to download it and learn a part of their choosing. They then record themselves singing the part and post the video as a response on YouTube. Whitacre then takes all of these recordings and mixes them and they become his choir. He then posts the final product of the compilation onto YouTube so that the participants as well as others can see themselves singing in the one of the largest international choirs in the world.


His rendition of Lux Aurumque had over a three million views on YouTube. In the Virtual Choir he featured 185 singers from 12 different countries around the world. After this success in 2010 Whitacre did it again with Virtual Choir 2.0 and the song Sleep. This featured over 2,000 voices from 58 countries. Now, Virtual Choir 3 has received 3746 voices from 73 countries. It is currently in production and is scheduled for launch in April 2012. With these growing numbers Whitacre plans to continue with the Virtual choirs. The inspiration for Whitacre’s Virtual Choirs came from a video from a young girl singing one of his pieces.

composition history

Eric Whitacre has been composing works since he was attending UNLV. His first major work was composed for one of his classes there. He has not stopped composing since he started. He often uses poems or short pieces written by others as the lyrics of his works.

Composition History

Cloudburst was published in 1995 by Eric Whitacre. The text is taken from a poem by Octavio Paz. This piece was written for a high school choir conducted by Dr. Jocelyn K. Jensen. She had approached him after one of his concerts and asked him to compose something for her choir. He had known her for her choirs showmanship. He had recently attained a book containing many of Octavio Paz’s poems and had recently witnessed an actual cloudburst. He adapted an old campfire game for the finger snapping to simulate rain and used large sheets of tin that they had gathered from the school for the sounds of thunder.. Originally the piece was about ten minutes long. Dr. Jo-Michael Scheibe convinced Whitacre to condense the piece. So Whitacre tightened it up to eight and a half minutes.

This piece was preformed at UNAM, the university that Octavio Paz attended, in 2009. It was preformed in its native language. Whitacre claims that this song is his favorite collaboration with Octavio Paz. He did not direct it, but was happy to know that it was preformed there.

“The rain…

Eyes of shadow-water

eyes of well-water,

eyes of dream-water.

Blue suns, green whirlwinds,

birdbeaks of light pecking open

pomegranate stars.

But tell me, burnt earth, is there no water?

Only blood, only dust,

Only naked footsteps on the thorns?

The rain awakens…

We must sleep with open eyes,

we must dream with our hands,

we must dream the dreams of a river seeking its course,

of the sun dreaming its worlds,

we must dream aloud,

we must sing till the song puts forth roots,

trunk, branches, birds, stars,

we must find the lost word,

and remember what the blood,

the tides, the earth, and the body say,

and return to the point of departure…

Octavio Paz, 1914-1998

(Adapted by Eric Whitacre, Translation by Lysander Kemp)”

go lovely rose
Go, Lovely Rose

Go, Lovely Rose is a poem written by Edmund Waller in the 17th century. Eric Whitacre set it to his own music for his choir teacher at UNLV, David Weiller. He preformed it in 1991 for the first time. In 1992 they performed it at the ACDA convention in Hawaii. After the performance Barbara Harlow, of Santa Barbara Music, told him that should would like to publish the work. It was published with two other flower poems that he had set to music.

“Go, lovely rose

Tell her that wastes her time and me,

That now she knows,

When I resemble her to thee,

How sweet and fair she seems to be.

Tell her that’s young,

And shuns to have her graces spied,

That hadst thou sprung

In deserts where no men abide,

Thou must have uncommended died.

Small is the worth

Of beauty from the light retired;

Bid her come forth,

Suffer herself to be desired,

And not blush so to be admired.

Then die! That she

The common fate of all things rare

May read in thee;

How small a part of time they share,

That are so wondrous sweet and fair!

Edmund Waller, 1606-1687”

listening guide
Listening Guide
  • Cloudburst
    • Originally 10 min
    • Written for Dr. Jocelyn K. Jensen
    • Notes
listening guide1
Listening Guide
  • Go, Lovely Rose
    • Poem by Edmund Waller
    • Set to music while at UNLV
    • Notes

Works Cited

"Eric Whitacre." Absolute Astronomy. Absolute Astronomy. Web. 21 Feb. 2012. <http://>.

Lefevre, Peter. "Walton Music - Eric Whitacre." Welcome to Walton Music. Web. 21 Feb. 2012. <>.

Whitacre, Eric. "Cloudburst." Cloudburst – SATB Choral – Music Catalog –. Web. 21 Feb. 2012. <>.

Whitacre, Eric. "Cloudburst En Ciudad De Mexico." Cloudburst En Ciudad De México – Blog –. 7 Apr. 2009. Web. 21 Feb. 2012. < ciudad- de-mexico>.

Whitacre, Eric. "Three Flower Songs." Three Flower Songs – SATB Choral – Music Catalog –. Web. 21 Feb. 2012. < flower- songs>.