(L-R): Paul Foley (GM, Decca Label Group), Eric Whitacre, Claire Long (Music Productions/Whitacre's Manager), Joseph Oerke (VP, Deutsch Grammophon & Decca Classics, U.S.), Steven Singer (VP, Decca Label Group).
Choral music rock star Eric Whitacre premiered the third installment of his Virtual Choir project at Lincoln Center's David Rubenstein Atrium on Monday night to a small but rapt group of industry professionals, fellow composers, and self-professed "Choir Geeks" - Whitacre's dedicated fans, many of whom had participated in the group-sing project.
Water Night ( Decca), a new collection of works by Whitacre (including the title piece, performed in Virtual Choir 3), hit iTunes the following day - but was not mentioned once over the course of the event, keeping the focus solely on the Virtual Choir phenomenon.
In the audience, a group of Decca execs - including General Manager Paul Foley and VP Marketing Steven Singer of Decca Label Group; and Joseph Oerke, VP, Deutsche Grammophon & Decca Classics, U.S. - watched as the classicist's glee club communed with their very own Mr. Schuester. The amateur singers - many of them high schoolers in jeans and sneakers - crowded the front of the elevated stage and 40-foot panoramic "media wall," hooting pep-rally-style when Whitacre referenced "the Choir family." In the usually staid halls of Lincoln Center, the youthful enthusiasm was a welcome anomaly - and a fitting one. The event was part of the Young Patrons of Lincoln Center's (YPLC) 101 Series, which promises to "demystify the performing arts in a casual setting."
(L-R): Composer John Corigliano, Whitacre, and TED curator Chris Anderson.
"'Young' and 'Lincoln Center,'" joked the affable Whitacre - who resembled a noble pirate, with his long blonde hair and distressed leather jacket. "Those are good words to hear together."
While it was already a viral phenomenon, Virtual Choir really caught fire a year ago, when Whitacre presented the project at thought-leader conference TED, getting a rare standing ovation. The social-media-meets-music-performance piece melds the voices and images of individual singers from all over the world, using their own self-shot videos. The original Virtual Choir video posted to YouTube in March 2010, and currently has over 3 million views. Virtual Choir 3 - a performance of Whitacre-penned piece "Water Night" - featured 3,746 singers from 73 countries.
The results sound beautiful; but more than that, they're rare moments of true international harmony.
"This is not just an act of art; it's a human act," said Pulitzer Prize-winning composer John Corigliano, who joined Whitacre and TED curator Chris Anderson onstage for a brief talk after the premier. Corigliano was one of Whitacre's professors while he was a student at Juilliard.