Eric Whitacre is one of the most-performed composers of his generation. Born in 1970, he studied composition at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas and the Juilliard School with notable composers including John Corigliano and David Diamond. His choral works and band works have rapidly become accepted in the repertoire due to their strong appeal to audiences and players alike. In addition to composing, Whitacre tours the world as a conductor of his own works.
Whitacre is quite web-savvy:
Eric Whitacre on WikiMusicGuide (better than Wikipedia in this case), including complete works list.
Whitacre even writes his own program notes. Here they are for Lux Aurumque:
Lux Aurumque began its life as an a cappella choral work that I wrote in the fall of 2000. When the Texas Music Educators Association and a consortium of bands commissioned me to adapt it for symphonic winds, I rewrote the climax and included the grand “Bliss” theme from my my opera Paradise Lost.
Lux Aurumque received its premiere at the 2005 conference of the Texas Music Educators Association, and is dedicated with deep admiration for my dear friend Gary Green.
This note deserves a little further explanation. First, Gary Green is the director of bands at the University of Miami, and one of the top conductors of bands in the world. I had the pleasure of working with him as a trumpeter in the 2001 New England Intercollegiate Band, so I can testify to his greatness. His recording of this is on YouTube, and it shows his full expressive power:
For those who are counting, he takes Lux Aurumque’s 54 measures of 4/4 and extends them past 6 minutes. That’s an average of 36 beats per minute!! But it doesn’t plod – it pulls at the heartstrings at every instant!
The choral version is informative for understanding how the band version came to be. It’s set a half-step higher (that’s C-sharp minor at the opening) for mixed chorus (SATB, divided), and as Whitacre alludes in his program notes, the climax is different from that in the band version. It helped make Whitacre (and soprano Melody Myers, see about 1:00 in) famous, with this “Virtual Choir” video:
You can see Whitacre talk about this in a TED Talk (best free internet series ever):
Finally, a live performance of the choral version:
The lyrics are:
calida gravisque pura velut aurum
et canunt angeli molliter
That’s a direct translation TO Latin from a poem by Edward Esch:
warm and heavy as pure gold
and the angels sing softly
to the new-born baby.