B Y  E R I C   W H I T A C R E

Last year a friend emailed me a link to a video of Britlin Losee singing the soprano part to "Sleep," an a cappella choral work I wrote in 2000.

I kind of freaked out because it occurred to me that if 100 people all recorded their respective parts (Soprano, Alto, Tenor, and Bass) we could line them all up and create a virtual choir. So I asked everyone to buy the same recording of "Sleep" from iTunes, a beautiful performance by the superb British choir Polyphony. Singers from around the world posted their individual parts, simply singing along to the recorded piece. Scott Haines volunteered to cut it together.

I was thrilled (it actually sounded like music!), and I wanted to see if we could push the concept to the next level. So this time, I made my own conductor track, filming it in complete silence, hearing the music only in my head. Then I watched the video and played in the piano accompaniment part to my conductor track.

Then I offered the sheet music as a free download. As singers began posting their individual tracks, I called for "auditions" for the soprano solo. Melody Myers from Tennessee posted my favorite entry.

My goal with this "chapter" of the Virtual Choir was to see if we could not just sing our parts separately and cut them together; I wanted to see if we could actually make music. There is a lot of rubato in my conducting (slowing down, speeding up) and some very specific dynamic gestures, and the singers responded beautifully. Here's the final product:

When I saw the finished video for the first time I actually teared up. The intimacy of all the faces, the sound of the singing, the obvious poetic symbolism about our shared humanity and our need to connect; all of it completely overwhelmed me. And it must be said that a lot of the credit for its beauty should go to Scottie Haines, who spent untold hours editing and polishing the video. (BTW, Scottie and I have only met once in the "real world," unlike 99% of the Virtual Choir, whom I’ve never "met.")

Lastly, I’m hoping that this is just the beginning. My ultimate goal is to write an original piece for the Virtual Choir and have it receive its world premiere in cyber-space, with hundreds (maybe thousands) of people singing alone, together.