tue 28/01/2020

Interview: Eric Whitacre, Virtual Choirmaster | reviews, news & interviews

Interview: Eric Whitacre, Virtual Choirmaster

Interview: Eric Whitacre, Virtual Choirmaster

How the Nevada-born composer taught the world to sing on the internet

Eric Whitacre: From electropop to choral music for the cyberspace era

McDonald's (the hamburger people) are rarely acknowledged for their contributions to the arts, but without them we may never have witnessed the meteoric rise of composer Eric Whitacre. When he was 14, he heard a casting call on the radio for a McDonald's TV ad, persuaded his mother to drive him into Reno, Nevada to join the throng of hopeful teenagers, and ended up making a brief appearance in the "McDonald’s Great Year" commercial.

A friend of mine said, "There are all these cute girls in the choir and they're taking a trip to Acapulco." That was all it took for me to join up

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As Eric says, "TV shows like The Choir and Glee have already demonstrated the unquenchable power of collective singing." It's something we know all about at Vale Connection as we have a 30-strong ladies chorus that meet every week to sing acapella. It's great to see singing becoming so much more popular thanks to the talents of people like Eric. Keep up the good work! x Vale Connection Ladies Chorus

Oh dear...has anyone actually heard this album? The singing is awful, the music is old - it's all been released before. What on earth are Decca and Whitacre thinking? Listen to the disc first before writing a puff-piece like this; then read the dire reviews of the CD from your colleagues...

Glad you mentioned the American concert band commissions. Ask him about "the snow is falling," the one he accepted payment for but never delivered.

Seriously, theartsdesk.com: your stuff is really good, great staff, good reporting, but you've fallen for the Universal spin machine with this one without doing any due diligence. Get out the CD, have a listen (note that's it's dire), then start researching Eric's alleged habit of non-fulfilment of commissions... Get with it!

Well, certainly I wouldn't buy a second hand car from a man who looked like that in several of those publicity shots...

Seeing as all his music is second-hand, the publicity shots are quite appropriate...

Where are these dire reviews? I've yet to see one. And the consumer reviews on Amazon (by choral afficionados) are highly positive. And The Independent gave a highly positive review to his concert at the Barbican. I know Eric. He is deeply committed to music, and an all-around good person.

Are we talking about the same Whitacre? His London concert in Union Chapel in August was fantastic, and I love the new album. Yes, he's pretty, but I can't hate him for that as some contributors seem to (jealous perhaps?), and I love hearing him conducting his own music on the new album. Old? Is Beethoven too old to listen to???

I'm glad you made those points, Meg D and Opera Tenor. The level of comment here (Vale Connection ladies excepted) was becoming worse than embarrassing. The observation that "the singing is awful" was particularly insightful, I felt. As for "what are Decca thinking?" - they're thinking they're going to sell a shed-load of CDs.

I'll try and give a balanced opinion: I feel this disc is not as good as the Polyphony disc (in terms of performance and production), although obviously it's a coup to have EW conduct his own stuff. There is also quite a bit of crossover of material. And, no, I'm really _not_ a fan in general of the Polyphony sound, which I find too bass-heavy and "neat". I've taken a look at the reviews and the most alarming thing is the lack of them, actually. I can find two reviews of the album and only one of the concert. This has to be disappointment, I would think for Decca - especially considering what appears to be a ridiculously pushy campaign. I'm not sure it's "dire", but calling EW the "American equivalent of Karl Jenkins" seems to a bit of a mean jibe in the Independent. Also, 3 stars "ain't good", that's for sure. Anyway, I'm sure the disc will go to top place in the specialist charts, but - very sadly nowadays - you only need to sell 1-2k copies across the UK for that to happen. I can't vouch for his personality, I've never met him, however there is a certain sheen of over-production, over-hype, over-keenness maybe, which I'm not drawn to. The saddest part in all of this is that Decca signed another American composer called Nico Muhly at the same time and it's very obvious which side their PR bread is buttered. Again, I'm not a big fan of Muhly's work, but it seems very obvious that Decca has gone for the "easy" option and put most of their PR budget into EW in what is, in my opintion, a very mediocre disc indeed. I hope this raises the quality of discussion!

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