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Eric Whitacre Singers' one-day only concert in Philadelphia is on Wednesday, March 20th at 8 PM at the Kimmel Center's Verizon Hall. The program called "Inspirations" is presented by Distinguished Concerts International, New York.

Eric was interviewed by phone from the ACDA National Convention in Dallas, TX. This is a full audio/video recording. Read partial transcript of the interview below.

 

Also, check out the Introductory Preview blog post about Eric Whitacre Singers and their program "Inspirations" in Philadelphia on March 20th.

Interview Transcript (partial):

IH: How did the idea of forming Eric Whitacre Singers come about and what professional and personal qualities were you looking for during the audition process?

EW: That’s very interesting. The choir came about because I signed a contract with DECCA, a record company, and as part of that contract they wanted me to record a number of albums of my own music and so, I had the chance to choose whatever choir I wanted to sing my music on these recordings. For the first time, I was making my own choir! What we were looking for from the singers was really a purity of tone and blend and extraordinary musicianship, because we only have a very limited amount of time to rehearse before each concert or recording. So they have to be incredible sight readers and the highest level of musician. And I also was looking for personalities, people who would do well together in a camp, basically.

IH: What direction do you envision for the choir?

EW: We just recorded three new tracks for a new recording which will be released in the Fall. We’d also like to do more touring.  Looks like we’ll be doing more European tours next year, and then, hopefully, a West Coast USA tour in the Fall as well.

IH: Will your group be performing just your music or any other composers in the future?  

EW: We are doing more Bach, Monteverdi and Corigliano (like on this program). But already for next year we are talking about doing Bach’s St. John Passion, the Passio by Arvo Pärt, and some Poulenc, things that aren’t just mine, which are amazing for me to revisit -- those are the things that I love conducting and really allow me to grow as a composer.
IH: Would you say a few words about your U.S. Tour program?

EW: The concert is called “Inspirations”, and really it’s pieces that I’ve written, what inspired those pieces, or other pieces from other composers that inspired me personally. For instance, the Corigliano piece that we’re singing [Forever Young] -- he was my teacher and my mentor at the Juilliard School, where I did my Master’s degree. The Monteverdi piece that we’re singing [Sfogava con le stelle] directly inspired my “Leonardo Dreams of His Flying Machine”. And Alleluia was inspired by my time as composer in residence at Cambridge University for the past couple of years.
 
...The deepest part of that inspiration is because I started in pop music. I’ve done an arrangement of Depeche Mode’s Enjoy the Silence, and we’ll perform it as well. It’s not announced in the program! It was one of my favorite songs growing up. It was released in 1990, and for years and years I’ve wanted to do a choral treatment of it, and so I did.  I’ve arranged it for my choir. But what was interesting to me is that I started off thinking it would be kind of a simple piece, and then I started reading the text, you know, the poetry of it, and (the same thing happens to me when I read other poetry), I started painting the words, and so the piece that’s come out, this version of Enjoy the Silence, is a little grander, a little more epic than I think I initially imagined.  

Read the Introductory Preview blog post about Eric Whitacre Singers and their program "Inspirations" in Philadelphia on March 20th.


IH: When you compose music (instrumental or for voice), is there some driving engine for you, besides the poetry itself? Is it the desire to express the emotional side in story-telling versus more intellectual, academic approach, more like an experimental sound study?

EW: It’s the first one for me by far, it’s really an emotional impression. For me, everything begins and ends with the word, with the poetry itself. I feel that I’m most successful as a composer when I’m getting out of the way of the words and doing exactly what they are telling me to do.  The best poetry -- poetry by e.e.cummings, or by Charles Silvestri, for instance -- has music buried in the words.  And so it makes my job a lot easier when I quiet myself and do what it’s telling me to do.

IH: You have conducted so many choirs of various sizes, programs and locations. Is there a preferred choral rehearsal setting for you as a conductor?

EW: Ah, that’s very interesting. Well I generally prefer a [acoustically] dry space, so that we can really hear what’s going on. You know sometimes you get to rehearse in a big church or cathedral and you sound amazing! But you don’t really sound amazing, you know? (Laughing) I like generally to rehearse very quietly. Even if it’s loud fortissimo music, I like to take everything very quietly, very intimate and intricate, so that we not only form a nice blend together as a group, but a real esprit de corps as a group of people.

IH: Have you ever gotten a bad review and, if yes, what was your reaction to it?

EW: (Laughing) Yeah, I have gotten some pretty bad reviews! Most of the time it’s pretty easy to dismiss... But sometime it stings. The hardest part about it is that there is no dialog. You know, it would be one thing if you could write back, or if the two of you could be on stage somewhere together so you could at least defend yourself. Otherwise it just feels like an unsolicited attack... But it’s part of the game, so you take your lumps and just keep trying to write.

IH: Who are the people you are having an eye on, who move you today in any area -- film, music, video games?

EW: Let’s see... In film, there’s Paul Thomas Anderson whose movie The Master came out in 2012.  I just can’t get enough of him. His films There will be Blood, Magnolia, Boogie Nights are some of my favorite movies ever.  It would be a dream to work with him someday.  By the way, Johnny Greenwood who is the guitarist for Radiohead but also a very gifted classical composer, wrote the scores of both The Master and There will be Blood.  And there are some of the most fresh and interesting haunting scores I’ve ever heard in years. So I guess, I’m really into that right now.  

You probably saw that I posted on Facebook about the video game Journey. The score was written by a friend of mine, Austin Wintory, and I thought that the game and its goal were perfectly married, and made this a new gaming platform, I felt.

 

Photo above: Eric Whitacre rehearsing with the EW Singers during recording of their latest album Water Night. Image to the right: A screenshot from video game Journey.

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Read the Introductory Preview blog post about Eric Whitacre Singers and their program "Inspirations" in Philadelphia on March 20th.

Inna Heasley is a freelance public relations consultant, founder and owner at PR Perfect. Her main focus in PR is promotion of the arts in the Philadelphia area. Inna is also an alto singer with Choral Arts Philadelphia.

Contact her directly at inna@pr-perfect.com.

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