Composer Eric Whitacre said one of his guiding principles is for people to feel a part of something larger than themselves.
Whitacre is known for creating virtual choirs. It all began years ago after one woman, who was a fan of Whitacre's music, submitted her video of herself singing his "Sleep" and posted it to youtube. Now the virtual choir includes 8,000 individual voices from all across the world.
This weekend, the virtual choir will be integrated into a live performance of the Florida Orchestra and Master Chorale of Tampa Bay, which will be singing in the audience of The Straz Center, The Mahaffey Theater and Ruth Eckerd Hall, in a multi-sensory performance of Whitacre's Deep Field: A Cosmic Experience, with the composer conducting. The companion video, Deep Field: The Impossible Magnitude of our Universe, will be projected on the big screen. It was created by many hands, and set to music created by the Grammy-award winning Whitacre.
According to NASA, it marks a first-of-its-kind collaboration.
When he leads The Florida Orchestra and The Master Chorale of Tampa Bay in his Deep Field: A Cosmic Experience this weekend, Whitacre he hopes others will feel a larger connection, too.
"There’s two parts to it. One is just a sense of wonder and awe, that, at least for me, there’s a reset in it, where I just see things differently," Whitacre said. "I see myself connected to something truly much larger than I am. And then the other part, built into the piece itself, is a more human story, which is NASA’s struggle to build the Hubble Telescope and to get it into space.
"It’s inspiring. Every time I think about it, I just can’t believe they did it. I really can’t believe they built this machine, got it into space and then realized oh, there was a problem with it … and the way they repaired it, how bold and brave and how clever it was. It inspires me as a human."
So, does Whitacre think the stars and planets sing?
"Yeah, there are people now who have taken all that data and are making sound fields with it," Whitacre said. "I think, probably -- this is with a very, very limited knowledge of astrophysics and physics in general -- but I think probably everything sings.
"I imagine that even down to the fundamental building blocks of our universe, everything is vibrating and that’s really all that singing is, is vibrating at a certain frequency. Whether it’s sound or light or electromagnetic waves, everything is vibrating at a certain frequency, and so in a way, I think the entire universe sings."
This weekend's concert program includes Whitacre's Lux Aurumque, or Light and Gold, which the Master Chorale of Tampa Bay commissioned in 2000, under former director Jo-Michael Scheibe, according to The Florida Orchestra. The group also created the premiere recording of the work.
The Florida Orchestra is holding a special event with Whitacre on Saturday at the Mahaffey Theater in St. Petersburg. He will lead an afternoon of singing of his compositions, take audience questions and discuss his process for writing music. There are details here.