Open to the World. Eric Whitacre & Bel Canto Choir. Together.
An unforgettable and unique Christmas concert in Vilnius. Bel Canto Choir Vilnius together with a superstar of the worldwide choral scene: Grammy-winning American composer and conductor Eric Whitacre.
Bel Canto Choir Vilnius (artistic director Dr. Egidijus Kaveckas) and Eric Whitacre − the world’s most popular contemporary composer, conductor, Grammy winner, TED speaker and creator of the Virtual Choir project − presented the final concert of the “Open to the World” series. On two consecutive nights, December 9 and 10, 2018, Eric Whitacre and Bel Canto Choir Vilnius performed two exceptional sold-out Christmas concerts at the Lithuanian National Philharmonic Hall in Vilnius.
Bel Canto Choir Vilnius and Eric Whitacre have also invited a number of talented guest artists to join the performance: Norwegian singer-songwriter Marius Beck, soprano Lina Dambrauskaitė, rock singer Tomas Sinickis, the Ąžuoliukas (Little Oak Tree) boys’ choir, the Mikroorkéstra string quartet, Motiejųs Bazarąs and Raminta Gocentienė (piano), Evaldas Stulgaitis (electronics) and Darius Rudis (drums).
The Boy Who Laughed at Santa Claus
The Open to the World Christmas concerts featured some of Eric Whitacre’s most famous pieces, such as “Lux Aurumque”, “Sainte-Chapelle”, “Fly to Paradise”, “Goodnight Moon” and “Glow”, along with Christmas songs by other composers.
For the first time in Lithuania, Bel Canto Choir Vilnius performed some of Whitacre’s newest arrangements of rock and pop songs. Together with singer-songwriter Marius Beck, Bel Canto Choir Vilnius performed “Wrecking Ball” by Miley Cyrus and the traditional American folk song “Man of Constant Sorrow”, popularized in the 2000 film “O Brother, Where Art Thou?” by the fictional bluegrass group the Soggy Bottom Boys. These pieces were adapted for choir and first performed by Eric Whitacre Singers and Marius Beck in 2014 at the iTunes Music Festival in London. Many pieces from that concert were presented at the Lithuanian National Philharmonic, too.
Bel Canto Choir Vilnius and Eric Whitacre’s Christmas concert also featured an exceptional premiere: Whitacre’s boisterous and surprising oratorio “The Boy Who Laughed at Santa Claus” for mixed chorus, children’s chorus, and piano. Named after the eponymous Christmas poem by Ogden Nash, the composition was first performed at the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles in 2017. Following the world premiere, Eric Whitacre decided to further improve the piece, so Lithuanian audience had the chance to hear the newest version of “The Boy Who Laughed at Santa Claus”.
A very special connection. Eric Whitacre & Bel Canto Choir Vilnius met for the second time
Eric Whitacre is a superstar of the contemporary choral music scene. His pieces are performed by millions of singers and musicians and he regularly performs at the world’s most prestigious concert venues. Whitacre has released several chart-topping albums, such as at the Grammy award-winning “Light and Gold”.
Eric Whitacre is delightfully charismatic and an exceptional public speaker. He has given talks at many Fortune 500 companies, such as Apple and Google, the World Economic Forum in Davos, United Nations events, and TED conferences. Whitacre is a graduate of the prestigious Juilliard School.
Through his work, Whitacre has left a big mark on the world of contemporary music. He was the first composer to combine traditional music performance with the internet’s unlimited possibilities — his unique Virtual Choir project has modernized the image of choral music, uniting singers from over 110 countries around the world.
Many critics also admire the Whitacre phenomenon. He stands out with his distinctive musical style and original and innovative ideas. British composer John Rutter has described Eric Whitacre as one of the most important composers of the 21st century.
Eric Whitacre and Bel Canto Choir Vilnius first met in 2016 and performed two sold-out concerts entitled Revolution Together at the Lithuanian National Philharmonic in Vilnius.
Bel Canto Choir Vilnius and the talented Marius Beck met for the first time in Vilnius
With a sure-fire instinct for a unique sound, new talent Marius Beck is an exceptional singer- songwriter and a master of economy and style. His performances undulate seamlessly through human emotions, from inner torment to love and passion. On guitar, with a band, live or recorded, Marius Beck is simply mesmerizing.
One of the finalists of The Voice Norway in 2012, Marius has since released his debut EP of original material, “Majors & Minors”, and played gigs from Norway to the iTunes Festival at London’s Roundhouse, broadcasted live to 119 countries and now available on iTunes.
Two more exceptional premieres
Bel Canto Choir Vilnius and Eric Whitacre’s Christmas concerts featured two more special premieres. For the first time ever, the choir appeared on stage together with renowned Lithuanian rock musician Tomas Sinickis, performing his song “Vilnius”. The piece has been adapted for choir by composer Deivydas Zvonkus.
The choir also presented a piece by one of its own members, Simonas Girdzijauskas. Titled “Heartbeats”, the piece was written by Simonas, one of the choir’s basses, specifically for this concert. When Eric Whitacre first visited the choir in 2016, Simonas promised the composer that for his next visit, the singer would compose a piece of his own. As Eric Whitacre returned to Vilnius two years later, Simonas has made good on his promise and “Heartbeats” was performed at Bel Canto Choir Vilnius and Eric Whitacre’s joint concert.
Open to the World
Open to the World is a 5-concert series by Bel Canto Choir Vilnius, dedicated to the 100th anniversary of the restoration of Lithuania’s independence. During the Open to the World Series, Bel Canto performed together with two of the world’s most popular contemporary composers, Eric Whitacre (USA) and Ola Gjeilo (USA/Norway), two of Sweden’s best choirs Svanholm Singers and Sofia Vokalensemble, the elite vocal ensemble VOCES8 (UK), and the fantastic Swiss choir Männerstimmen Basel.
The aim of the project is to present the world’s best to Lithuanian audiences, to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the restoration of Lithuania’s independence, to be, create, innovate, learn and improve. Together.
The patron of the project is NEWSEC, the leading property consultancy in the Nordic and Baltic region; sponsors – Lithuania’s leading construction company MITNIJA and insurance company SEESAM. The project is co-financed by the Lithuanian Council for Culture. Media partners – LRT, the Lithuanian public broadcaster, and the country’s leading news website DELFI. Advertising partner – advertising agency OGILVY.
The concert in photos
Open to the World video
The project co-financed by
Program. 1st part of the Concert
Fly to Paradise
With a Lilly in Your Hand
Sacha Skarbek, arr. Eric Whitacre
Man of Constant Sorrow
Dick Burnett, arr. Eric Whitacre
Tomas Sinickis, arr. Deivydas Zvonkus
Program. 2nd part of the Concert
That Was the Worst Christmas Ever
Sufjan Stevens, arr. Marius Beck
The Boy Who Laughed At Santa Claus
The Little Drummer Boy
Katherine Kennicott Davis, arr. Eva Holm Foosnæs at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology
Down in the River to Pray
Artists & Performers
Bel Canto Choir Vilnius
Artistic director and conductor Dr. Egidijus Kaveckas, second conductor and choirmaster Milda Zapolskaitė, choirmaster and concertmaster Raminta Gocentienė, vocal coach Liudas Norvaišas
Boys Choir Ąžuoliukas
Artistic director Vyautas Miškinis
Mikroorkéstra String Quarter
Director Simas Tankevičius
Motiejus Bazaras and Raminta Gocentienė
Eric Whitacre, Megan Davies, Claire Long (Music Productions) and Audrius Valatkevičius (Bel Canto Choir Vilnius)