HOUGHTON - When it was announced world-renowned composer Eric Whitacre would be making a two-day stop in Houghton tonight and Friday, it's safe to say that Michigan Technological University Director of Choral Activities Jared Anderson was happy about the news.
"It's really exciting; (Whitacre) is kind of a rock start in the choral world," Anderson said. "The face that he's coming to Houghton is a big deal."
Superior Wind Symphony Director Nicholas Enz echoed the sentiment.
"It's tremendously exciting and unheard of to have someone of such international notoriety come to a smaller place like Houghton," Enz said.
Whitacre, who is one of the world's most popular and performed composers, will give a free lecture at 7:30 tonight at the Rozsa Center for the Performing Arts, and will then direct the Michigan Tech Concert Choir and Superior Wind Symphony - along with more than 130 high school singers and band musicians - for a concert at 7:30 p.m. Friday at the Rozsa.
Whitacre, who is known for his melding of technology and music, will be presenting Thursday on how he utilizes technology to draw the world together and create music, according to Enz. However, the main event is Friday night's concert that will bring hundreds of musicians - including local high school students - together. Both Enz's and Anderson's students are thrilled to be able to work with such a high-profile musician.
"Most of the time when we perform music, it's somewhat disconnected from the composers," Enz said. "It's so amazing to have a composer here that's telling you, 'When I wrote this, this is what I was thinking about at the time.'
"To have that sort of flexibility and see where the inspiration comes from, you see a whole new element."
The choir choruses will have around 190 people in them, which will give many studnets a unique learning opportunity.
"All of these students know his name and have heard his music," Anderson said. "They are all familiar with his sounds and his compositions, so all of the students, singers and band instrumentalists are very excited to work with Eric."
Whitacre, who will depart to give a lecture at the Harvard Medical School after leaving Houghton, has written compositions for the London Symphony Orchestra and Chorus, Julian Lloyd Webber and the Philharmonic Orchestra, and The King's Singers, among others. He has also written a musical, "Paradise Lost: Shadows and Wings," and co-wrote a theme with Hans Zimmer for the film, "Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides."
One of his most unique contributions, however, has been his Virtual Choir 2.0, Sleep. The project involves more than 2,000 voices from 58 countries being brought together for a giant virtual chorus, and he will re-create that on a smaller scale Friday, combining high school musicians from across the Upper Peninsula with the Tech ensembles to perform "Cloudburst," "Godzilla Eats Las Vegas" and "Sleep."
Tickets for Friday's concert can be purchased through the Rozsa Box Office at rozsa.mtu.edu.