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Director's Notes

Eric Whitacre's "A Boy and a Girl"

For this blog, I hand the pen to my colleague Mac Willaert. Mac is the very capable director of the Chorale's Ensemble. In this blog, Mac talks about his favorite selection from the Glen Ellyn-Wheaton Chorale's upcoming concert, LOVE IS IN THE AIR.


One of the most truly human experiences in our brief lifetimes on this earth is grappling with our own mortality. That may seem a grim opening to a Director's Note for a concert entitled LOVE IS IN THE AIR, but with that pain and sadness also comes great beauty and love—after all, if our time on this earth was not limited, would we be so inclined to say how we feel, to take that chance, to reach towards that which we long for? Our fleeting time imbues us with the urgency that lies at the foundation of almost every beautiful moment, and it is that essence which lies at the heart of one of my all-time favorite choral pieces, A Boy and a Girl.

Any choral aficionados, or even past guests of the Chorale, will recognize the name of Eric Whitacre, who is certainly among the most popular current composers, if not the most popular current composer. In this particular piece, Whitacre takes a gorgeous, haunting poem by Octavio Paz and sets it to one of his finest customary blends of painful dissonances and soul-stirring resolutions. As a composer, this is quite frequently his weapon of choice (to the point where he is even known to poke fun at himself for it): he creates textures so layered that they almost form a wave of sound designed specifically to tug at your heartstrings, only to keep you yearning until the last moment for the voices to resolve in an outpouring of musical emotion. Working with a text like this, it is easy to see why Whitacre felt his particular brand was a fit:

Stretched out on the grass
a boy and a girl.
Savoring their oranges,
giving their kisses like waves exchanging foam.

Stretched out on the beach,
a boy and a girl.
Savoring their limes,
giving their kisses like clouds exchanging foam.

Stretched out underground,
a boy and a girl.
Saying nothing, never kissing,
giving silence for silence.

Whitacre's unique ability to channel emotion through music is put to particular effect as he takes us on the journey of this couple, from their first date to their final resting place, side by side. It is simultaneously heartbreaking and yet vastly moving to know this nameless couple's time has come and gone, and yet they are side by side for eternity. That is love, and that is, to me, the human essence; to know our time is fleeting, and in spite of that, to live and love as fiercely as we can. Whitacre himself said:

I'm often asked which of my compositions is my favorite. I don't really have one that I love more than the others, but I do feel that the four measures that musically paint the text "never kissing" may be the truest notes I've ever written.

I am hard pressed to disagree.

LOVE IS IN THE AIR will be performed twice: Friday, May 11 at 7:30 p.m., and Saturday, May 12 at 3:00 p.m. Both concerts are at College Church in Wheaton. Please click on the banner on this page for more information.

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