Piece of the Week: Sleep by Eric Whitacre


Eric Whitacre is best known for his groundbreaking “virtual choir” projects, which have brought together thousands of singers from countries across the globe using social media and online video sharing to perform pieces that explore themes of connectivity and transcendence. Whitacre chose “Sleep” as the piece that  his Virtual Choir 2.0 would sing; the video of this performance was released in April 2011 and has (as of this writing) earned over 1.6 million hits on YouTube alone.

Eric Whitacre’s music uses a gorgeous blend of extended harmonies and approachable, pop-music inspired structures. We at SmartMusic love Whitacre’s work and share his mission of bringing people together with innovative online musical experiences.

Composition Notes by Eric Whitacre:

“Sleep” began its life in 2000 as an a cappella choral piece, with a magnificent original poem by Charles Anthony Silvestri. The chorale-like nature and warm harmonies seemed to call out for the simple and plaintive sound of winds, and I thought that it might make a gorgeous addition to the wind symphony repertoire. “Sleep” can be performed as a work for band, or band and mixed chorus.

Click Here to view Eric Whitacre’s Virtual Choir 2.0 perform “Sleep”

Audio Sample:

Audio provided by Mark Custom Recording Service, Inc.

Composer Biography:

An accomplished composer, conductor and lecturer, Eric Whitacre is one of the brightest stars in contemporary concert music. Regularly commissioned and published, Whitacre has received composition awards from ASCAP, the Barlow International Composition Competition, the American Choral Directors Association, and the American Composers Forum. In 2001 he became the youngest recipient ever awarded the coveted Raymond C. Brock commission by the American Choral Directors Association, and his album Light & Gold won a Grammy in 2012. Commercially, Whitacre has worked with such luminaries as Barbara Streisand and Marvin Hamlisch.

Born in 1970, Whitacre has already achieved substantial critical and popular acclaim. The American Record Guide named his first recording, “The Music of Eric Whitacre”, one of the top ten classical albums in 1997, and the Los Angeles Times praised his music as “electric, chilling harmonies; works of unearthly beauty and imagination.” His Water Night has become one of the most popular choral works of the last decade, and is one of the top selling choral publications in the last five years. Ghost Train, his first instrumental work, written at the age of 23, is a genuine phenomenon; it has received thousands of performances in over 50 countries and has been featured on 40 different recordings. His music has been the subject of several recent scholarly works and doctoral dissertations, and his published works have sold well over 350,000 copies worldwide.

As a conductor, Mr. Whitacre has appeared with hundreds of professional and educational ensembles throughout the world. In the last five years he has conducted concerts of his choral and symphonic music in Japan, Australia, Singapore, much of Europe, and dozens of American universities and colleges. Eric received his M.M. in composition from the Juilliard School of Music, where he studied composition with Pulitzer Prize winner John Corigliano.

Click Here for more information on Eric Whitacre’s career, compositions, and current projects.

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If you are an educator, musician, composer or student with a suggestion for a “piece of the week” blog post, you can email your suggestion to Griffin at [email protected]. Please let me know the name of the piece, composer, publisher, and why this piece is special to you.

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