- FINANCIAL TIMES:
These simple words, sung by an 18-year-old economics student, pierce the silence of a room in Cambridge. With a piece of sheet music in her hand, Catherine Shaw is standing in front of a laptop perched at eye-level.
The screen shows two images â" on one side, the laptopâs camera-view of Shaw, and on the other, a man conducting, his movements synchronised with a piano accompaniment she can hear on earphones. The man is Eric Whitacre, who in the space of a year has become the most commercially successful choral composer in history. It is his song, âSleepâ, with words by Charles Anthony Silvestri, that Shaw is singing and Whitacre is conducting, as part of a project to create the worldâs biggest online choir.
The choir is open to anyone who submits a video by December 31 (www.virtualchoir.org explains how) but the project is being kick-started by a group of choral scholars, scions of Cambridgeâs renowned choral tradition. Each has agreed to record their individual contribution during a âVirtual Choir Party Weekendâ at Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge, where Whitacre is on a three-month visiting fellowship.
Shaw has downloaded music and moving image from Whitacreâs website, and is now uploading her version of the song to his virtual choir page on YouTube, where it and up to 1,000 others will be edited together. Whitacre is expected to play clips at a Technology Entertainment Design (TED) conference in California in February, and the finished audio track will be available online sometime in April, with an audio-visual track following later.
Earlier this year Whitacre did a pilot version of the online choir. A group of 185 singers from 12 countries, most of them professionals, performed âLux Aurumqueâ, another of his a cappella works. The resulting video attracted more than 1m views in 60 days. On the back of that phenomenon Whitacre signed a recording deal with Decca and launched a second, much larger virtual choir project, devoted to âSleepâ.