Revolution Together. Eric Whitacre and Bel Canto Choir Vilnius in Concert!

For the first time, Eric Whitacre – a rock star of the global choral scene, Grammy winner, TED speaker, and one of the most famous composers and conductors of his generation – and Bel Canto Choir Vilnius, Lithuania’s best mixed volunteer choir, joined forces for a special Christmas concert. On December 11-13, 2016 at the Lithuanian National Philharmonic in Vilnius, Whitacre and the Lithuanian choir performed together for the first time in the history of Lithuanian choral music.

After its Deep Field concerts in December 2015, which made it into the Lithuanian record books, just before Christmas season in 2016, Bel Canto Choir Vilnius presented another historic event. One of world’s most famous contemporary composers, Eric Whitacre – author of the Virtual Choir project, which changed the face of choral music – joined the Bel Canto Choir for two concerts in Vilnius.

These concerts featured Eric Whitacre’s most beautiful choral music as well as works by contemporary Lithuanian composers. The cornerstones of the concerts was Whitacre’s latest works – Deep Field (for orchestra, choir and mobile app) and Godzilla Eats Las Vegas! Bel Canto Choir Vilnius and a 70-strong concert orchestra were conducted on the stage of the Philharmonic Hall by Eric Whitacre himself for two nights and the artistic director of Bel Canto Choir Vilnius, Artūras Dambrauskas, on one night.

In addition to the Bel Canto Choir Vilnius, the Christmas concerts featured selected musicians from the Lithuanian Chamber Orchestra (artistic director Sergei Krylov), the Lithuanian Military Wind Orchestra (artistic director Egidijus Ališauskas), the Giunter Percussion ensemble, soloist Lina Dambrauskaitė (soprano), pianist Artūras Anusauskas and others.

Contemporary choral music that has won the hearts of millions around the world

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Bel Canto Choir Vilnius and Eric Whitacre began the first part of the concert with the Lux Aurumque from his Grammy-winning album Light and Gold. This piece also began Whitacre’s famous Virtual Choir project, which thrilled the worldwide choral music scene in 2010 and opened new opportunities for interaction between musical performances and modern technologies. According to music critics, Eric Whitacre turned Edward Esch’s subtle and honest Christmas poem into extraordinarily beautiful music with a soft, mysterious and harmonious euphoria.

Conducted by Eric Whitacre, Bel Canto Choir Vilnius also performed a choral version of Enjoy the Silence by legendary British group Depeche Mode, which Eric Whitacre wrapped in his signature “whitachords”, inviting listeners to dive into the clear and elegant aural spaces that are typical in his music. The concert also featured the composer’s Five Hebrew Love Songs, as well as one of Whitacre’s most famous pieces, Sleep – which was performed by Bel Canto Choir Vilnius with the accompaniment of the Lithuanian Chamber Orchestra. Lina Dambrauskaitė and the Lithuanian Chamber Orchestra presented Goodnight Moon, Whitacre’s piece for soprano and string orchestra.

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Bel Canto Choir Vilnius also presented works by some of Lithuania’s most famous contemporary composers. The choir performed Vaclovas Augustinas’ latest piece, M.K. Oginskio Priesakai Sūnui, his Du Dob Dob and Vytautas Miškinis’ Pater Noster.

Left in a boundless universe. Deep Field – for the orchestra, choir and mobile app – returned to Vilnius with even greater force

One cornerstone of the concerts was Deep Field, the composer’s grand opus for orchestra, choir and mobile app. Bel Canto Choir Vilnius presented this innovative, cosmic composition to the Lithuanian public for the first time during the Christmas season in 2015. Vilnius then became the third city in the world to witness a performance of this impressive composition.

In 2016, Deep Field returned to Vilnius with new power. Eric Whitacre has added an organ part and improved the Deep Field mobile app to create an even more evocative electronic sound. The piece integrates a special Deep Field mobile app with the audience’s smartphones, which also become musical instruments thanks to the pre-downloaded app.

Eric Whitacre wrote Deep Field after being inspired by photos of the same name from NASA’s Hubble space telescope, which captured the deepest view of the universe so far known to science. In 1995 this powerful telescope, orbiting Earth above its atmosphere, was aimed at a small space in the sky and spent ten days recording the view in that space. The photos sent by the Hubble telescope exceeded scientists’ greatest hopes – in that tiny space, scientists counted 3,000 galaxies! The galaxies were at various stages of development and billions of light years from earth, and each one contained billions of stars and other cosmic objects. This photo, which captured the incomprehensible depth of our universe, didn’t just change people’s opinion and understanding of the universe. It also provided scientists with priceless information to aid their attempts to determine the universe’s age and its past and future.

The NASA Hubble telescope’s photos inspired Eric Whitacre to use music to help express the emotions felt when observing a boundless universe. With Deep Field, he combined the capabilities of classical and choral music with the latest technology, finding fascination in the synthesis of science and music, and boldly seeking to involve the audience in musical performances.

Godzilla Eats Las Vegas! – Sin City hero’s second visit to Vilnius. He liked it here again 😉 

A second cornerstone of the Christmas concert was Eric Whitacre’s Godzilla Eats Las Vegas! the composer’s surprising and bold piece that had the audience in Vilnius laughing and shrugging with surprise. The composer himself says the piece is “completely absurd” and presents it as a joke.

This playful and boisterous piece is like a mosaic of various audio sections, with contrasting and sometimes painfully familiar and characteristic musical details dropped together with seemingly no pattern other than the author’s own invented script. The piece features cries of panic, shouts, mambo and tango rhythms seeming to come from nowhere and small musical quotations from Frank Sinatra, Wayne Newton and even Tchaikovsky. To portray Godzilla’s fantastical story, Eric Whitacre uses about 30 different styles of music, instantly changing between them and thus creating the hectic mood of Godzilla’s visit to the American “Sin City”.

Eric Whitacre has written the following about Godzilla Eats Las Vegas!: “The idea that this piece is being played all over the world in such serious concert venues is the single funniest thing I have ever heard. It has been played on the steps of the Capitol by the United States Marine Band, by the Scottish National Wind Symphony (they played in kilts, so help me God!), and I have a video of a Japanese audience visibly confused and shaken by the whole experience. Can you imagine? I’m laughing my head off even as I write this!”

The composer created Godzilla Eats Las Vegas! in 1996, but in 2015 he created a new arrangement of the piece with another American composer, Jonathan Newman.

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