‘Singing is beneficial for the soul’ (Eric Whitacre)
It was not obvious that Eric Whitacre would become one of the most famous choir composers of our time. He spent his childhood in the American village of Yerington, Nevada. At home there was a piano, where Eric received his first musical education. He hated the lessons and played only by ear. At the age of fourteen he bought a synthesizer, on which he started composing pop songs “for and about girls”. “As a teenager I dreamed of being a band member of Duran Duran or Depeche Mode.”
After high school, Whitacre went to the University of Nevada, in the gambling city of Las Vegas, “To my disappointment that there was no pop star education.” One day, a conductor asked if the university choir might be right for him. “Of course,” I said politely. But once outside, I thought: No way. These are geeks, otherworldly madmen with whom I don’t want to have anything to do.”
A friend brought him to different views. “You have to do it,” he said. “At the end of the semester we will be touring Mexico, everything will be paid, and the soprano section is full of beautiful girls.” Eric, looking back now: “The was was all about, in my youthful experience of music. ”
And so Whitacre joined the bass one day. “I saw them rumbling in their scores, and slowly the silence fell over the choir. They began to sing at the conductor’s signal. “Kyrie Eleison” from Mozart’s Requiem. Which means: Lord have mercy on us. I felt the same way, as if a mysterious voice first called me by my real name. I had never heard such music: that fabric of voices, ingeniously interlocking like the gears of a Swiss watch. For the first time, I was struck by the experience of what it meant to be part of something bigger than myself. That choral rehearsal marks the most profound change in my life. ”
The tour to Mexico continued, and yes, says Whitacre, the sopranos were all enchanting. But now his fascination mainly applied to the music itself, no longer the additional benefits.
He manifests as a missionary to the power of singing. “The voice is the only living instrument. In my opinion, singing has only beneficial effects: it teaches people to breathe well, it reduces tension, it produces hormones that stimulate empathy and connection, and it teaches its texts about languages, identity and history. ”