calida gravis que pura velut aurum
et canunt angeli moliter
warm and heavy as pure gold
and the angels sing softly
to the new-born baby.
On Sunday afternoon, I had the great pleasure of being one of the members of the congregation for The Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols at St. John's Church in Elora, Ontario: the home of one of the foremost choral ensembles in North America. The music was breathtaking, as was the atmosphere of the beautiful church, which is nestled in some of the most sacred farm country in our part of the world. As we exited the church, we were greeted by the Rector, who was standing in the doorway. Behind him, outside, twilight was fading and snow was falling... It was the perfect end to a most perfect afternoon.
One of the most moving pieces of music that I heard during the service was Eric Whitacre's "Lux Arumque: Light and Gold". The sound was haunting... and the words brought tears to my eyes. Whitacre's genius is found in the structure of the chords that he uses in his compositions. His signature "Whitacre Chords," or pan-diatonic clusters are usually arranged in successive increasing or decreasing density. Whitacre achieves this growth and decay by splitting voices divisi: in one case up to 18 parts. He is not only a prolific composer, he is a ferociously busy conductor, lecturer and teacher, as well.
In 2009, Mr. Whitacre embarked on a mammoth project, involving this particular choral piece. Using computer technology, he organized a "Virtual Choir": 185 voices, beamed in from 12 different countries around the world. He conducted the singers online, combined their efforts and recorded the result in a spectacular video, which he then published on Youtube. Within two months, the video had over one million "hits". Not only did this ground-breaking idea expose a whole new audience to this genre of music, it brought together musicians from around the world who otherwise might never have had the opportunity to collaborate on a musical project.
Watch, listen, and enjoy: