little tree Eric Whitacre Choral Octavo

little tree Eric Whitacre Choral Octavo

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Commissioned by Vance George of the San Francisco Symphony Chorus, and dedicated to Eric's little sister, this piece features text by e.e. cummings.

Note from the Composer: While in my second year at Juilliard (1996) I received a phone call from Vance George, the legendary conductor of the San Francisco Symphony Chorus. He wanted to know if I might be interest in a commission for their big Christmas concert, something that would feature their amazing accompanist Marc Shapiro and the “smaller” choir of 80 singers. The only catch was that it was now the middle of October, and could I please finish the piece by the first of November.

I took the commission, of course (how could you say no to Vance George?) and my future wife Hila found for me the timeless E.E. Cummings poem “little tree.” I started writing as fast as I could and noticed something very strange happening on the page: I was writing with a completely different voice. Part of it was the nature of the poem, but most of it was residue from my first year at Juilliard. During that time I had studied composition with David Diamond, a notoriously old-school composer whose style is closest to early works of Barber and Bernstein, and I had become obsessed with intricate counterpoint and that very American sound from the 1940s. It all ended up in the music somehow; so strange how these things work themselves out ...

Anyway, I exhausted myself finishing the piece on time and then all of the musicians went on strike. The work didn't receive its premiered for another year (1997), and Vance surprised me an hour before the performance and asked me if I would like to conduct. The San Francisco Symphony Chorus. In Davies Hall. With 3,000 people in the audience. Oh yes...

“little tree” is dedicated with joy to my little sister, Kari.


  • Choral

Product Details

  • #HL 00869975
  • 196288089063
  • 6.75"
  • 10.5"
  • 0:05:00
  • 20 Pages

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