It Turns Out I Needed Therapy, Not Eric Whitacre’s Choral Music

Hi. I’m a non-descript but unique choral singer born between about 1990 and 2005, and this is my story.

When I was young I had lots of problems: I didn’t fit in, I felt embarrassed by my body, and I was a choral singer. Looking back I’m glad to say I got over these turbulent years, but it was no laughing matter at the time. There’s no laughter in choir, just steel water bottles falling over, endlessly.

But something happened to me in my teens. There I was, working hard on another one of Britten’s punishments, and I was starting to feel like I was the Can’t in Canticle. No matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t make this sort of harmony make sense. Was it me or was this music supposed to sound like a good choir trying to be bad in a clever way? After a while I didn’t feel like playing pass the caglia anymore. My peers kept saying how amazing and important they thought the music was, but it made me feel like quitting choir altogether. Chaconne à son goût, I suppose.

But then I discovered Eric Whitacre, and I knew all my problems were solved. At first I didn’t quite realise what was happening, it was just a normal day, when out of nowhere Eric Whitacre’s lithe consonant clusters and muscular vocal lines came striding towards me across the ballroom, singling me out from the crowd, asking me and me alone to dance. How could I say no?

And then it began: this living vestige of a more gallant century swept me off my feet like a version of Beauty and the Beast where the household items were actually neo-impressionistic harmonies and oceanic rhythmic undulations, and the beast had already been transformed into a mythically statuesque Apollo guiding me with his elegant conductor hands higher and ever higher, like an all-knowing concierge of my soul, edging me one beautifully voice-led flourish at time towards to the blissful intimacy of an exquisite resolution carefully prepared with mystifying knowledge of another world. No one else could like him as purely as I did. Eric was mine.

How could I go back? Other composers started to sound like a beautiful dream gone wrong, as if I’d spent too much time helping Ted Bundy with his car. Where my identity had previously been a hazy mush of fumbling attempts to articulate my innermost uncertainties, now I knew who I was: a sequence of chords with seconds, fourths, sevenths, and occasionally ninths, writhing in and out of shape in close proximity. Very, very close proximity. Lying side by side, even. Chords that are so tightly spaced it feels like an unforgettable nox arumque with Eric Whitacre himself.

But as I got older I realised that perhaps a beautiful man who speaks the language of my heart with other people’s mouths might not be the answer to all my problems. Just when you think you’ve discovered your tall and handsome Prince Charming, you might learn that he can’t get it up on your wedding night and you should actually be with a bald, sweaty lawyer called Harry. Sometimes, life teaches you things that choir can’t.

So, despite those beautiful rolling piano arpeggios tinkling away under the heavenly chorus of a hundred cherubs, I realised that maybe I needed to move on from the ethereal and disembodied sounds coming from my Spotify Playlists: “Sleep, Yes I Can Sleep With You Eric”, and “You Can Rustle My Hollow”, and “Is That What You Mean By Water Night?” I needed therapy.

Looking back, I don’t regret all the hours we spent together. I have a much healthier relationship with Eric Whitacre now. Like an old pair of shoes, he still feels comfortable and lifts me off the ground, but doesn’t hug me tightly to the point of discomfort, especially my heel where the little blisters can form, especially with new shoes. And this is healthy, I think. Despite the beautiful locks of Samsonic power and the sculpted, preternatural jawline, not all answers come in the form of four to eight minute choral pieces skilfully written to sound amazing even in an amateur choir. They are beautiful, and I can enjoy them, and then go about my day. Thankyou Eric: you will always be the one who taught me to fly to paradise on my own.