New Whitacre Piece Brings Bells To the TED Stage

New Whitacre Piece Brings Bells To the TED Stage

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I have always been a big Eric Whitacre fan.  He writes gorgeous, soaring works for band, choir, and orchestra that tug at your heart strings which I loved performing back in high school.  (Fun fact: Whitacre is a Nevada Native!)  Whitacre has a history of pushing the boundaries of the possible, and he was the one to pioneer the virtual choir project that spawned the current Handbell Virtual Ensemble that HBMA HMA is sponsoring.  His latest project that he premiered at the TED conference continues pushing the boundary of technology and music by Skyping in performers in real time to sing together (spoiler alert, he also weaves bells into the piece ingeniously).

A couple things stood out for me in this performance:

  1. Technology use: I love how Whitacre not only had performers join from across the globe, but he also wrote the music to compensate for the time delays created by the internet instead of spending tons of money to upgrade the technology.  One of the reasons video performances haven’t taken hold yet is because of the latency in internet connections, so maybe this will be a solution that will allow performers from across the globe to perform together.
  2. Audience participation: I love how towards the end he turns around and gets the audience to snap along.  He did not tell the audience before hand that they would be participating, yet they knew exactly what to do because they were swept up in the music.

Here is a video behind the scenes, looking at what it took to pull off this performance

In the future, I would love to have him write a bell piece!!  Anyone want to help me commission one?

If you liked this, I would highly recommend checking out his other works.  Also, subscribe to our blog in the side bar to get more stories about inspiring musicians.

Cover photo credit: TED Blog


  1. linn schmidt says:

    mornin’ from up north…have really enjoyed your outside the handbell box offerings…the slack guitar and matt compton’s interview were very interesting…i am willing to participate in the commissioning of a eric whitacre piece for handbells…as you changed the initials of the guild jenny probably will not allow you to put your anouncement up on the website or rima’s monthly news letter…but have you thought about the handbell-l…i received the digest form in the evening here in alaska so it has not arrived yet today…ringing in peace, linn

    • Thank you for enjoying our blog! We have quite a lot of fun putting it together.

      I’m glad you agree that we should have him write a piece for bells. I hadn’t thought about putting it up on the L, but I will start pushing it around and see what people think.

      (Also, AGEHR officially changed their name to Handbell Musicians of America, so I am assuming that they would prefer we use HBMA now, but I’ll double check that just to make sure.)

  2. Marquise Usher says:

    Cloudburst was my first introduction to Eric Whitacre back in 2006. A CD came out called “Cloudburst” and it was done by Polyphony and Stephen Layton. I believe they formed back in 1986 for a concert in King’s College Chapel, Cambridge. The entire album is composed of Whitacre’s arrangements and adaptations.

    A fellow ringer from Florida, Monika Durbin actually got the chance to play the handbells in Cloudburst when it was performed in her area. I’m not sure if it was a church or community choir….

    And to give you an answer about the abbreviation of Handbells Musicians of America, its HMA. I was there in Nashville and donated to the initiative when the name change was announced. :-)

    And DUH commission away!

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