WHITACRE Cloudburst



Eric Whitacre

Composed In



9 mins


SATB Choir, 1 Piccolo, 2 Flutes, 2 Oboes, 3Clarinets in B♭, 1 Bass Clarinet in B♭, 2 Bassoons, 2 Alto Saxophones, 1Tenor Saxophone, 1 Baritone Saxophone, 3 Trumpets in B♭, 4 Horns in F, 2 Trombones, 1 Bass Trombone, 1 Baritone, 2 Tubas, Piano and Percussion


Cloudburst was inspired by a punishing thunderstorm the composer witnessed while on tour in northern California. It begins with the sound of the approaching storm, growing closer until it erupts into a cloudburst. This piece was composed after being approached by Jocelyn K. Jensen in 1991 to write a piece for her high school choir.


About the Composition

The first section of this piece is a cappella. Whitacre notates long and sustained notes with text to be spoken at random by each individual singer. Next is a baritone solo which followed by the development of a new a cappella theme. A spoken and arrhythmic incantatory solo with background continues in this section

In the section titled “The Cloudburst”, handbells play as written for 2 bars and then play at random as the choir crescendos into an aleatoric section which signaled by a loud clap of “thunder”. In order to imitate the sound of rain, the choir starts claps, snaps and thigh smacks. The effect of thunderstorms is contributed by a thunder sheet, bass drum, handbells, suspended cymbal, wind chimes and piano. The storm gradually builds then fades, and the ending of the piece mirrors the beginning section, with the choir arpeggiating as the piano voices block chords.

Eric Whitacre

Fun Facts about the Composer

  1. Whitacre is the youngest composer to ever win the Raymond W. Brock Memorial Commission by the American Choral Directors Association.
  2. Whitacre’s first album as both composer and conductor on Decca Records, Light & Gold won a Grammy Award in 2012
  3. Whitacre’s first album became the No.1 classical album in the US and UK charts within a week of release.
  4. Whitacre’s famous “Virtual Choir” project was inspired when he received a video by a young girl named Britlin Losee in 2008
  5. Whitacre’s composition for symphony orchestra and chorus, Deep Field, became the foundation for a collaboration with NASA, the Space Telescope Science Institute, Music Productions and 59 Productions.

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