My wife and I took the train down to Koblenz, Germany on Sunday to catch the Eric Whitacre Singers concert with Eric Whitacre conducting. My thoughts?
Totally cool. Totally totally cool.
Somehow in my choral studies at the University of Arizona I never had the chance to sing his works, even though his work was very much present in the minds of choral enthusiasts. Nevertheless, I’ve always enjoyed listening to it, and I’ve always appreciated his apparent efforts to blend concepts like dissonance with a certain amount of accessibility. You don’t need to be a theory expert to enjoy Eric Whitacre’s music, but musicians versed in theory enjoy it as well.
On Saturday, I saw this Tweet:
Off to Koblenz, Germany with the Eric Whitacre Singers. Concert Sunday. Woo hoo!
— Eric Whitacre (@EricWhitacre) July 12, 2014
I asked my wife if we should go, and voilà. Off we went the next morning.
I’m not going to write a whole review of the concert, but I will call out a couple things. First, I appreciate the casual atmosphere but nevertheless meticulous nature of the concert. Besides the Eric Whitacre Singers themselves were a chorus of 200 amateurs who’d rehearsed the day before and were joining for a few numbers at the beginning and ending of the concert. They were totally solid. In addition, Mr. Whitacre always had enough interesting backstory to provide compelling illustrations for every piece and keep us entertained while the larger choir entered and exited.
Second, I love his arrangements of others’ pieces. Seriously; love is not too strong a verb. The Bach, Depeche Mode, and Nine Inch Nails arrangements manage to remain true to the sources while adding new dimensions to them. I’ve purchased and have been listening to his “Enjoy The Silence”
recording continuously since the concert. It’s haunting. Additionally, his description of the Bach sounding like a smeared painting was dead-on.
I’ll take any chance I can get to hear his “Hurt” arrangement. I’d heard bits of it online before, but it’s a special experience to hear it live. Being familiar with the NIN original and the Johnny Cash cover lends further context to this piece, which has always hit me in the gut. I’ve always loved the song, and Whitacre’s arrangement deepens that. Again: the arrangements don’t replace the originals but deepen them.
Third; what a terrific group of singers. It’s just wonderful watching such a well-oiled machine at work, especially when they’re singing music that requires such precision. Lots of colors, interesting phrasing, great dynamic range and whatever special sauce is required to make those ideas more than just musical concepts but emotional realities for an audience.
Besides the concert, Koblenz is a really cool town. Seeing two great rivers come together is humbling and inspiring and simply beautiful, and I snapped up photos greedily.
Great trip. As I’ve said, I still feel very “abroad”, and getting to visit places like this with my wife still feels lucky. Especially since we also got to see the Eric Whitacre Singers.