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New Times intern Chris White-Sanborn lends his voice to composer Eric Whitacre's Virtual Choir project 

It seems like New Times intern and “Cougars and Mustangs” columnist Chris White-Sanborn is always up to something profoundly geeky and wonderful. So it was no surprise to get an e-mail one morning from Chris’ mom, which opened with “My son Chris had been locked in his room for weeks working on a project … .”

Turns out White-Sanborn—oh, who am I kidding?—Chris was participating in Eric Whitacre’s “virtual choir,” a project for which the Grammy-Award-winning composer and conductor sources the vocal talents of singers from around the world, submitted via YouTube. Singers record their particular part of one of Whitacre’s songs and send it in, and those selected become a small part of a massive, global choir. Chris’ voice is now part of the bass section of Whitacre’s “Virtual Choir 4: Fly to Paradise.” The piece features 8,409 videos and 5,905 singers from 101 countries, making it Whitacre’s biggest virtual choir project yet. Participants range from 6 to 98 years old.

The project began when a young fan of Whitacre’s music, Britlin Losee, recorded herself singing his piece “Sleep” and posted it to YouTube. Moved by her performance, the composer put a call out to other online fans to upload a video of themselves singing their version of “Sleep.” The first virtual choir was born. For his next project, Whitacre recorded himself conducting his “Lux Aurumque” and asked fans to record themselves singing along to that.

An animated video accompanies the recording of “Fly to Paradise,” incorporating YouTube clips of the many singers into a virtual city of song, through which a girl with butterfly wings wanders. It’s weird and wonderful.

What’s more, the video premiered for the Queen of England on her birthday, so now Chris can say he’s performed for a queen. Sort of.

The project, for which several other San Luis Obispo County residents were selected, created discussion among participants on the forums on Whitacre’s site.

“[F]rom support from other singers on the forums, people started to realize that it wasn’t about turning in a perfect performance (though it’s hard to tell that by the phenomenal solos), but about the experience and being a part of something bigger,” Chris explained in an e-mail.

So far, I’ve not been able to find our redheaded friend among the throngs of the final video, but you can try at ericwhitacre.com/the-virtual-choir.

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