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Sleep

In the winter of 1999 I was contacted by Ms. Julia Armstrong, a lawyer and professional mezzo-soprano living in Austin, Texas. She wanted to commission a choral work from me that would be premiered by the Austin ProChorus (Kinley Lange, cond.), a terrific chorus in which she regularly performed.

The circumstances around the commission were certainly memorable. She wanted to commission the piece in memory of her parents, who had died within weeks of each other after more fifty years of marriage; and she wanted me to set her favorite poem, Robert Frost’s immortal Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening. I was deeply moved by her spirit and her request, and agreed to take on the commission.

I took my time with the piece, crafting it note by note until I felt that it was exactly the way I wanted it. The poem is perfect, truly a gem, and my general approach was to try to get out of the way of the words and let them work their magic. We premiered the piece in Austin, October 2000, and the piece was well received. Rene Clausen gave it a glorious performance at the ACDA National Convention in the spring of 2001, and soon after I began receiving letters, emails, and phone calls from conductors trying to get a hold of the work.

And here was my tragic mistake: I never secured permission to use the poem. Robert Frost’s poetry has been under tight control from his estate since his death, and until a few years ago only Randall Thompson (Frostiana) had been given permission to set his poetry. In 1997, out of the blue, the estate released a number of titles, and at least twenty composers set and published Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening for chorus. When I looked online and saw all of these new and different settings, I naturally (and naively) assumed that it was open to anyone. Little did I know that the Robert Frost Estate had shut down ANY use of the poem just months before, ostensibly because of this plethora of new settings.

After a LONG legal battle (many letters, many representatives), the estate of Robert Frost and their publisher, Henry Holt Inc., sternly and formally forbid me from using the poem for publication or performance until the poem became public domain in 2038.

I was crushed. The piece was dead, and would sit under my bed for the next 37 years because of some ridiculous ruling by heirs and lawyers. After many discussions with my wife, I decided that I would ask my friend and brilliant poet Charles Anthony Silvestri (Leonardo Dreams of His Flying Machine, Lux Aurumque, Nox Aurumque, Her Sacred Spirit Soars) to set new words to the music I had already written. This was an enormous task, because I was asking him to not only write a poem that had the exact structure of the Frost, but that would even incorporate key words from “Stopping”, like ‘sleep’. Tony wrote an absolutely exquisite poem, finding a completely different (but equally beautiful) message in the music I had already written. I actually prefer Tony’s poem now…

And there it is. My setting of Robert Frost’s Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening no longer exists. And I won’t use that poem ever again, not even when it becomes public domain in 2038.

Sleep

The evening hangs beneath the moon
A silver thread on darkened dune
With closing eyes and resting head
I know that sleep is coming soon

Upon my pillow, safe in bed,
A thousand pictures fill my head,
I cannot sleep, my minds aflight,
And yet my limbs seem made of lead

If there are noises in the night,
A frightening shadow, flickering light…
Then I surrender unto sleep,
Where clouds of dream give second sight.

What dreams may come, both dark and deep
Of flying wings and soaring leap
As I surrender unto sleep
As I surrender unto sleep.

Charles Anthony Silvestri, 1965-present

Available from all good retailers including Musicroom and J.W. Pepper.

  • Sam

    I first heard Sleep in October of 2006, my freshman year of high school, when a quartet trying out for All-State choir sang it for my measly little ninth grade chorus. Even with half of the parts missing, I remember being completely taken in by the music. In the fall of my junior year, one of the All-State pieces was A Boy and a Girl. I didn't make it into the choir (which is a whole other drama), but that piece really stuck with me, more than any of the others. So I bought Polyphony's Cloudburst on iTunes and I was hooked. That spring, I directed and sang first tenor in an octet of Sleep for solo & ensemble contest. We weren't perfect, but it was still one of the most incredible musical experiences of my life (it even competes with singing in the 601-voice Iowa All-State choir), and one of the biggest reasons that I am going to study music in college next year.

    So thank you, Mr. Whitacre, for helping me figure out what to do with my life.

    Sam

  • Allison

    My first experience with any Eric Whitacre pieces was my sophomore year in high school; my first year in my school's varsity mixed group. We sang "Lux Arumque" for our winter concert and from first sight read… I fell in love. My friends and I devoured any songs we found and my class especially fell for the song "Sleep." Our senior year we begged and pleaded with our director to let us sing this piece, and for our spring concert- our last high school concert ever- he finally allowed us. We had little time to prepare but it didn't matter because we wanted this song to be so good, we put everything into it. Our director also told us this story and it always warms me a little inside to hear it again.

    To this day, now as a music major at UT San Antonio, one of my favorite past times is to play songs like "Sleep," "Leonardo Dreams," "When David Heard," etc… at full blast in my car. My fellow music majors will attest to this (not that they really complain- if we're getting close to our destination and the song isn't over they'll even take detours to let it finish).

    I just want to thank you, Mr. Whitacre, for creating music that inspires passion.

    Allison Blonder

  • Guillermo Delgado

    It's funny that one of the things that caught my attention about this piece besides its overall Eric Whitacreness were the lyrics it was set too. I had thought that the text was from a poem (by James Joyce wierdly enough… dont ask me why it is i thought that.. i guess because of "She Weeps" or something…) and when i realized that i couldn't find the text except as lyrics for this song, I thought that it was kinda strange and I always wondered where it came from. I think that its amazing that these words were spawned from music the way that music is so often spawned from words. I think that its incredible that the text is so beautiful and flowing and mystic. I just listened to the music as a setting for the Frost poem and thought it was a really amazing arrangement. Oddly enough I'm not a huge fan Robert Frost's work, but there was something about the setting that just completely broke me down. I thought that the words and the music were gorgeous together as well. So you see maybe its not only what the words in the piece says, but what the music says by itself clairvoyantly that often speaks to us. Mr.Silvestri thank you for creating such a beautiful text. Frost, thank you for setting a wonderful poem, and Mr. Whitacre thank you for speaking the unspeakable and communicating the uncomprehendable.

  • Kawauna Warren

    My first Eric Whitacre experience was my senior year in high school at Memphis East High School.My choir teacher let the Chamber Choir learn "Sleep" for festival competition.At first it was a bit difficult 1. with me being soprano 1 and 2. having to blend the wierd notes with every voice part.After performing it at festival and receiving a superior rating and a 1 at festival,I began to fall in love with "Sleep".We also learned "Lux Arumque".."Many of my fellow choir mates learned "A Boy and A Girl" and are still intrigued by many other Eric Whitacre pieces..His songs are full of passion and beauty..thanks mr.whitacre for the inspiration behind your music!!!!I Love It!!!!

  • Mike

    Truly one of your brilliantly haunting pieces. It kept whispering in my ear, saying sweet things, lonely things, personal and tender things. Your chord structures and arrangement kept running through my mind, feeling its breath slowly swell and ebb across the back of my neck painting pictures of movement and color and….. ooo psycho time huh…okay… I'll make it short and sweet… "Sleep" kept me awake all night… Thanks! I luv'd every minute!….

  • Britlin

    Will always remain to be my favorite song composed by you… I remember the first time I heard it on the Polyphony cd, and how I couldn't stop thinking of how badly I needed to sing it in an actual choir. My high school chorus teacher selected it right when I came into the select chorale and it was perfect timing by God. I'll never forget what the song represents to me in a particular time in my life when I connected to it most. It gave me hope that through fear and sadness, dreams can come true when you have the strength to continue on. You have to take that leap. You have to let go and let God. You have to believe in something bigger than yourself. This music represents that for me.

    Thank you so much for this song. It is a miracle through music.

  • Kay

    This was the first of your pieces that I ever heard. My high school's select chorus performed it my sophomore year in 2005. One of my best friends, a senior at the time, was in the chorus. After their first rehearsal with the piece, she called me and demanded that I come over to her house so I could listen to it. So I went over, and we huddled up to her tiny laptop computer listening in awe to this marvelous piece of music. We probably listened to it at least 10 times. I had never heard anything even remotely like it before, and it opened my eyes to what a choir is truly capable of. I decided right then and there that not only would I sing for the rest of my life just so I could occasionally sing one of your pieces, but I would become a music teacher so I could give children the opportunity to experience the same feelings that I experienced. Since then I have sung "Leonardo Dreams of his Flying Machine" and "Lux Arumque" in high school and "Water Night" in college. I still haven't had the chance to sing "Sleep" (even though I have all 4 treble parts practically memorized =D ), but I am hoping that the opportunity will rise where I am fortunate enough to do so. I am currently entering my third year of study to become a music teacher, all thanks to you.

    You are truly a remarkable man. Thank you so much for doing what you do. You have no idea how many lives you touch.

  • rachel

    the first time i heard sleep was my freshman year of high school. i was at our fall concert and the symphonic choir was preforming their part of the concert. the had done rytmus and anther song that i cant think of.but the ended their part with sleep. i was awstruck by how beautiful it was. it was crunchy as my choir director put it. but it was the most beautiful crunchy i have ever heard. i was hooked on your songs ever since then. in that same year we did the five hebrew love sings in our womens choir and they were so amazing. the music you write is amazing. it is very inspiring and so beautiful.

    -rachel

  • JoycelineKawaii

    Mr. Whitacre, I seriously love you. I just want to know, what are you thinking when you come up with these pieces?? They are so freaking amazing, they touch me and give me chills whenever I hear them. God has seriously blessed you with a gift of making music that just…..ahhhg. Words are uncomprehending to your music. Thanks for everything. You're amazing.

  • Elizabeth

    Your music is beautiful. I fell in love with music long long ago. But every time I hear one of your pieces I fall in love again. I have been away from music for a while now, and listening to this piece and others just brings tears to my eyes every time. I sit and let my soul soak into the chords. The harmony and dissonance, the emotion, passion, beauty is overwhelming and wonderful. Thank you for sharing your gift with the world and adding color, tenderness, and love to my life. From the bottom of my heart and soul, thank you.

  • Jesse Bridgeman

    My god Eric…this brings me to tears every time I hear it. I try to hold back but after the repeated "As I surrender unto sleep" section, the high soprano dissonance absolutely breaks me down. Stunning in every way possible, Eric Whitacre, you're undeniably the best musician I have ever heard.

    • Eric Baker

      These are my thoughts exactly. There is something transcendent about the specific notes you used there that elicits an emotional response from me every single time. It is amazingly powerful!

      • CarlK

        I'm glad it's not just me. I absolutely cannot listen to "Sleep" without seriously choking up, and that's when I'm resisting as hard as I can. If I just let it flow…. Whew…. An incomparable piece.

  • Sandra Sovick

    I have to say watching you conduct it brings my heart to beat strong..My grandfather composed music and I could imagine you conducting his songs ..and with tears in my eyes ..you have a Gift from God Almighty …what beautiful music you bring from the heart and soul of the singers in your choir…God Bless you..Sandy

  • Kyle Gunby

    Our wind ensemble in Whitnall High school played this along with Lux Aurumque AND October. We loved the pieces and ended up playing October again for a concert a year or two later. I'm pretty sure our conductor told us he met you in person. He was Andy Putnam: a peculiar fellow with (not a lot of) red hair and a strange love for Percy Grainger…

  • Janet Forster

    Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful ……….. the music, the poem, the performance and the story of how it all came to be. Thank you all.

  • Lin Wedds

    'Sleep' arrested me the first time I heard it. It is like looking into the face of pure love… the face of God. Thank you for sharing such a stirring creation with the world. Every listen makes me melt! Mysteriously blissful.

  • http://mariapetrova.com/bodytalk Maria Petrova

    This absolutely blows my mind.

  • Jennifer

    I am a college senior working toward a degree in Vocal Music Education. I have had one true unwavering love in my life and it has been music. In high school, I had heard of Eric Whitacre and his fabulous music but never once had I had the privilege of singing it. Then last year (2009) the director of my university's select choir decided we would do not one but two of Whitacre's works: "Lux Aurumque" and "Sleep". We were given "Sleep" first and after the first read through I was moved to tears. There was so much passion and beauty in the music. I reminded me of why I wanted to share music with the world, to bring music like this into the lives of young music lovers everywhere. There have been many pieces of music in my life that have touched my heart and soul, but "Sleep" will forever be a reminder of why my truest love is music. Thank you Eric Whitacre for reminding me of why music is so important to my life.

  • Tyler Gioacchini

    I love Sleep. It is by far my favourite choir piece. It fascinates me. And the other day in Psychology class, another thing presented itself to me which amazed me more. We were looking at brain wave charts for levels of sleep. Looking at them and listening to Sleep, they line up perfectly (meaning as sleep stage brain waves change as you get deeper into sleep, likewise the sound of Sleep changes "wavelength" as the song progresses). Truly amazing.

  • http://www.grimke.co.uk Bill Drayton

    I'm afraid that as my microphone is malfunctioning and I would not be satisfied with the sound, very regrettably I cannot take part in the virtual choir singing "Sleep". I've enjoyed listening yet again to this rendition. Eric has a wonderfully expressive gift. And the sound of the choir is fantastic!!

  • http://www.facebook.com/PandaRen.1988 Yulianto Wibowo Jaya

    I sang this piece way back to july 2010, on the Asian Youth Choir 2010 in Philippines. The first time I received the score, I read the introduction and the history of the song. I'm touched, shocked into my core, and swarmed by goosebumps when I started to sing the piece, even in the rehearsals. I really like the arrangement. every part is interlinked to each other in a chord. and when we sang each part or any different composition (not a full SATB part) in the rehearsals, I can hear many unique arrangements, feels almost like we sang a different kind of sleep every time we change the composition. love the piece, Mr. Eric. I'm filled with gratitude for the chance to sing this beautiful piece.

  • Kevin Kraak

    I remember being on a winter holiday in my hometown of Cape Town here in South Africa in 2007, and had just bought a copy of Polyphony's Cloudburst at the mall. The first thing I did when I got into my car was to play it and of course I loved the first two tracks, but then 'Sleep' started up. There I was stuck in peak-hour traffic and didn't give a damn cos the music was incredibly moving – I just kept replaying the track. I got back to Johannesburg and ordered a whole bunch of your music including 'Sleep' and performed it along with 'Lux arumque' in 3 concerts wiuth my then chamber choir 3 months later. WOW – thanks for your amzaing music.

  • http://createanything.blogspot.com steve

    Sleep was the first modern choir piece I'd ever heard. I heard it my senior year of high school. I'm now a Vocal Major in college.

  • Amber

    This piece is truly one of the most beautiful choral arrangements ever created in my opinion. It's haunting, captivating, and possesses all that makes the perfect song. It's definitely safe to say it gives me goosebumps every time I listen to it and a longing for as much talent as you were blessed with.

    I first heard your music my freshman year of high school. Our dance company choreographed a number to 'A Boy and a Girl' and I absolutely fell in love right then and there. I felt as if I HAD to be a part of this miraculous music. I probably pestered my choir director (who is known for his procrastination) to death trying to get him to listen to your work and have us do a song. The next year he saw your virtual choir and we attempted to do 'Lux Arumque'. It was a bit high level for us, so that dream was washed away. But now, two years later, we are finally serious about doing a piece and are actually involving ourselves in your next virtual choir for 'Sleep'. Words cannot describe how exultant I am to be doing this.

    Thank you so much, Mr. Whitacre, for inspiring myself and many others with your brilliant work.

  • dayna

    hi i am dayna i heard about sleep this year as a freshman i say its very well written and the reason why i got my interest in sleep is beacuse i reacently started an essay for my chior class to get my grades back up i thought this would be boring at first but its really interesting…… a while back i was going to drop choir but when i saw your work it had opened my eyes and i decided to stay in choir next semester my twin brother will be joining in my choir class to :) have a nice day

  • Steve Fenwick

    This man is a genius. He creates wonderful mood music and Sleep is no exception – tiny hints of Bruckner and Tavener in its structure. A wonderful sequel to Lux Aurumque and I ordered the CD as soon as I heard it. A brilliant composer.

  • Jason

    I'm a band person and we're playing Sleep right now, but I have to say I rather enjoy the choral version. It gives it a whole new effect when the dissonance is coming from an actual person with words associated to it. It floods me with memories of past events that undoubtedly would pull at the strings of anyone listening to it. Excellent Job, as in everything else you do Eric.

  • Frank Vail

    I heard this piece performed for the first time last night by the Lake Shore High School Wind Ensemble. I was intrigued by the "back story" because Frost's poem is my all time favorite poem, and Frost my all time favorite poet. It saddens me that something which has meant so much to me for over 30 years is a source of disappointment for Mr. Whitacre. Nevertheless, he is right when he says Silvestri's poem is exquisite. I hope it has come to mean as much to Whitacre as "Stopping" means to me. Furthermore, I hope he will forgive me for not abandoning my love for this poem, even though I will now read it with a touch of melancholy. If it is any comfort, I plan to use this story in the future as I teach poetry to my English classes here at Lake Shore. Thank you for providing a beautiful example to share with my students.

    Frank Vail, Chairman

    Department of English

    Lake Shore High School

    Angola, New York

  • Patrick

    I performed this piece twice while in college. I had the honor of performing 'Sleep' internationally on a two week tour in China. The second time I performed it was my last concert in that choir as a senior. My close friend, David, was the conductor of that piece.

    It still sends shivers up my arms and my spine anytime I listen to a copy of the song – or look back at video from that international tour. The piece received outstanding responses from the audiences we performed it for. I would like to compliment Mr. Whitacre for such an outstanding job on this piece.

    I originally came to college as a Business major, only intending on performing with the Concert Choir as an activity. However, after that international tour and performing Sleep, I knew where I should have been the whole time. I graduated with a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Music and I am now preparing to go to graduate school for Music Production and Audio Engineering – with an emphasis for Choral Recording. :-)

  • Ellie

    I sang this in high school, and it has stayed with me since.

    I wanted to thank you for composing such a beautiful song–we sang it to my grandmother when she was in hospice, and it was a truly precious and meaningful moment for my family.

  • Jerry III

    I was first introduced to Eric Whitacre's music when I was a freshman when I heard the Iowa All-State choir do a piece by him. I thought it was so beautiful and different and I started to listen to it more. This past year I decided to try out for the Iowa All-State Choir for the first time, and was a participant this past year. I then did some research on the Iowa All-State choir on youtube, and saw they sang a song called Cloudburst. I was drawn in by the name and I decided to give it a listen. At that time my friend from school was telling me about Eric's music, which I have forgotten at the time. As I listened to Cloudburst for the first time, I lost breath, and started crying from the beauty of the music. I then listened to Sleep, and cried also. Mr. Whitacre's music has changed my life forever, and I would like to say thank you very much! =)

  • Anthony

    Mr. Whitacre,

    I am a junior in high school and was exposed to your music in my sophomore year. As a member of the band, we would listen to "Sleep" as a group to calm down before performances and practices, and now as a junior I am singing it with our Carillon chorus group! I just started singing this year, and am so happy that my exposure to the vocal arts comes by singing "Sleep!" Now I can sing along to myself when I listen, and I still use it to relax, just like I will when I go to All State this year. Thank you so much for writing such a beautiful masterpiece, and thank you to Mr. Silvestri for providing your work ground!

    -Anthony

  • Christina

    Forbidding to use Robert Frost's poem: Epic fail, Robert Frost Estate!

    • Dan DePriest

      I think they probably realize by now they blew it big time.

  • Claudia

    For months I had been constantly listening to this song, singing it all the time and actually learning by ear the soprano and alto parts on my clarinet. As I was playing it at the beginning of my band class one day, I noticed a score sitting on a music stand that said SLEEP.

    I looked at it closer. ERIC WHITACRE.

    Oh. My. God!

    As soon as my band teacher came in, I grabbed the score and held it up, shouting, "Sleep? Are you serious?! We're playing this? I love this song! Oh my God! Yes! This is the best day of my life!"

    The band listened to the choral recording before sight-reading the piece. I was tempted to sing. Or give away the climax. I just mouthed the words. And when we played it, I swear, I poured my soul into it.

    Nobody else cared.

    The teacher said to us, "I think this piece is too mature for you guys. Not that you're not mature. The notes and rhythms are easy, but you have to have this…understanding of the music. We were going to perform it with the chorus. But I don't know. Maybe it's too much." I didn't say anything about it after that. But I still secretly hope that one day, he'll pull the score out of a pile and say, "Hey, let's try this piece again."

  • Cassandra

    Your music is so beautiful…it makes me cry every time i listen. I believe that your are one of the best composer in our generations and i'd love to be a part of your virtual choir.

  • Jenna

    I hadn't listened to this piece in months, let alone thought about it in months, until my friend posted on facebook that he was listening to it. I immediately went to youtube to listen to it, as I don't have the recording my high school choir did. I remember holding this piece in my hands sophomore year and looking over it, attempting to sight-hum the soprano part to myself. I was hooked. I went home that night and began to look up everything having to do with this Eric Whitacre guy and ever since then, I have always had a love for your music. The way the chords seems to have this hold on your soul and then suddenly the notes go off in every direction, pulling your soul with it. I cry every time I hear this song. And that is the biggest compliment I can give to a piece of music – the only other piece I cry while listening to is my other favorite work (Sleep became my other favorite) is Mozart's Requiem. I just want to thank you for this piece, which I am listening, and yes, crying, to right now. It is probably the closest I will ever get to my favorite quote, which I think this piece expresses: "After silence, that which comes nearest to expressing the inexpressible is music" – Aldous Huxley. Thank you.

  • Madelon Michel

    I heard Sleep this morning on the (dutch) radio for the first time in my life and I really loved the music. I looked for the words and found them here on your website (reading that story about those awful heirs!) and now I am going to find the music. I am a professional choirconductor, as is my husband. My choirs are female choirs, his are mixed. Is there a setting for female choir of Sleep? I will absolutely try to make my husband perform it with the best of his choirs. Thank you for being such a fine composer!

  • Ashley

    I first performed Sleep in the 2007 All-State choir. It was my first big choral experience, but it would not have been so memorable if it weren't for such a wonderful work. On the day of the concert, we went through one last run-through of the piece, but it just happened to be one of those magical moments in choir that you experience when everyone is equally in touch with the music and every note comes together in a special way. We all couldn't keep from shedding tears, even the director who had to be excused for a moment. Sleep brings about moments like that. I don't think I can even listen to it without getting emotional. The text itself says so much to so many people. Thank you so much for writing such an inspiring piece of music!

  • Shadrock

    For several months my musical diet has consisted almost entirely of metal and punk. So when I heard this, entirely out of the blue, on NPR it came as a surprise to feel the what I could only describe as a religious experience. I simply cannot express what it was like to hear this piece: to feel this peace. Thank you so much.

  • cathy

    My son's a cappella group, the Vanderbilt Melodores, sang this song on their first CD. I was so enthralled with and haunted by it I asked my son about the song. And that is when I first heard about your music. I looked up your website and found the lyrics and your story about how it came to be. I would like to thank you for bringing this to fruition. I have lost both of my parents and some I have loved deeply and it moves me to tears – in a good way. I listen to it every day, at least twice on the way to work and on the way home. You are a master bard and a musical genius.

  • Thembinkosi

    When I heard "Sleep" for the first time, I was blown away. It was like you can actually visualize the song itself and as for me, in every choral song that gives you that "goosebump" feeling, I could actually picture it. When I started to sing in the choirs that I had participated, and took Music as a subject at school, in my experience, I realized that this is me, this is what I want to do in my future. At first I didn't realize that I have "Perfect Pitch", as told by my ex-conductor, music teacher, and a musical mentor,father and friend, Mr. William Silk, who touched every choir lives in his experience, and I suprise him every moment, especially my special gift. In my experience in music, I had recently composed pieces for choir, and listening to your songs had been my inspiration in my life.

    A group of friends and I have recently started a vocal ensemble called "Tuksa Inominata" which we're trying to figure what it means…LOL! And like I said, 'I was blown away with this song…' and so as the group, and we're singing it as part of our repetoir this year.

    Your songs, in my point of view are the best in this world and a 'No.1' inspiration to me, and that is why I want to study and join a university choir next year.

    So, to you Mr. Whitacre, I, and on behalf of the members of Tuksa Inominata, we would like to say Thank you for your inspiration.

    Thembinkosi Khumalo (SOUTH AFRICA)

  • Bill Hammer

    Where can I get the sheet music for (SATB) for the song Sleep?

  • Pingback: Don’t set Frost

    • Dan DePriest

      Quite a complement for Eric here: ” If ole Eric can’t get permission to set Frost no one can.”

  • http://avran.net Avran

    The flap over the Robert Frost poem was not a "tragic mistake" . The way it is – Sleep – is the way it was always meant to be.

  • http://www.davidbeardmusic.com David Beard

    Beautiful performance last night on UK's Classical Brit Awards – Thank you Eric – you are a true artist.

  • Rhett

    The first time I heard an Eric Whitacre song was my senior year of high school. Our school hosted a choir festival. A new school in the area had attended and while they sang all of their songs, I kept thinking that they were a terrible choir. Their last song was “Lux Arumque”. The moment they started, everyone around me melted away. I was very focused on the choir and I was so deep into the neo-classicism of the harmonic movement and the romanticism of the melody, being lush and flowing, that I was drifted off to sleep. I woke up nearing the end and I immediately heard the harmonies of the final few bars. The soprano holding the F# nearly melted me and I immediately fell in love. I then discovered “Sleep”. I felt as though it was the greatest piece of music ever written in my lifetime. I continue to and will always love your music Mr. Whitacre. Bravo!

  • Martin Oellrich

    My first experience with an Eric Whitacre piece (“Sleep”) was just a few days back when my mom mailed me a YouTube link she had found. A young and musical guy sang 32 tracks of it by himself, forming his own virtual choir. He did a real good job, but the video didn’t quite hook me. The sound characteristic of one and the same voice just isn’t as vibrant as a full choir.
    But the piece he sang amazed me. I’ve always been into lush musical settings and so I started researching on it. I found lots of excellent recordings in YouTube, with photo stills or moving choir video or even karaoke style notes. Wow! I heard through some 10 versions. I sang with the notes and felt immediately at home in this music.
    But what absolutely – und unexpectedly – washed me away was the recording on Eric’s homepage where he conducts the Extravaganza Concert in 2009. I really had to dry up some tears after that. I’m sure used to a lot of brilliant choir music, yet this piece did something new with me.
    All I can write is: Thank You, Eric! Please give the world more of your skill.

  • Jim

    Heard the symphonic band version a few days ago and have been researching and listening since. When first I heard it I almost leaped up out of my seat and burst into tears on indescribable emotion. My 8 year old son was asking me what was the matter! What a joy to have discovered this! What took me so long!
    Thanks for sharing it with us.

  • Humberto Benedetti

    Only Frost’s poem lost a fabulous opportunity to become REALLY FAMOUS.

  • Rachael

    I first heard this song my sophmore year in high school…the wind ensemble played it. It was definately one of my favorite pieces to play. But then my director showed us the choral version….needless to say it was on my iPod as soon as I got home. It makes me cry listening to it. Now a senior in high school, I have to analyze “Stopping by the Woods on a Snowy Evening” by Frost…and I keep reading it to the tune of “Sleep” :)

  • Steven Stillwell

    I stumbled upon Mr. Whitacre a couple days ago, and I’m so glad I did. I’ve never seen or heard anything so amazing as the virtual choir performance of Sleep. I’m trying to get our choir director to have us perform Sleep next quarter, but he think’s it is too difficult. If you are reading this Mr. Whitacre, please come to Sinclair Community College in Dayton, Ohio and make him agree to do this piece!

  • Jennifer Picard

    What I love most about Sleep- The inner voices. One of my favorite ways to relax is to look at the score and sometimes play along on my viola. I’ll never forget when I heard the inner voices for the first time- I was astonished. The most delightfully unexpected things happen- there, in the quiet voices that are ever so subtle- a hauntingly beautiful reverie awaits. Anticipation, tension, release… it’s all there, and it’s incredibly beautiful, like nothing I have ever heard before.

  • Bryce Culver

    Mr. Whitacre,
    I might be a simple 10th Grader but this composition truly has touched me in a way no other piece has. It simply takes me out of this world. Every day as I work I listen to this work of art and melt away in its complex harmonies and passages. The climax from 3:04 to 3:45 honestly is the most moving passage of music I have ever heard. The first time I heard that passage, I had a complete out of body experience that left me nearly breathless afterwards. I want to personally thank you for making each day a little better for me with your choral masterpieces and I look forward to your upcoming work!

  • http://www.kfsbrasschamber.com Ken Friedrich

    Having heard the choral version and now the band version of this chart, I am curious. How many versions of this piece are out there and for how many ensembles. More importantly, how many are Mr. Whitacre’s arrangements and how many are someone else’s with or without Mr. Whitacre’s blessing? As a fellow composer, I take it personally when I see a writer’s work used and I know no permission has been sought, either by the arranger himself or the blatant carefree attitude of the performers. Without blowing any whistles I can name at least four chamber ensembles that have performed a version of this work and none have claimed that they had permission of the composer to arrange or perform it.

  • Nate

    Does anyone know how many parts this goes up to? It sounds more than SATB, almost SSAATTBB. I’m trying to find out so my Choir can do this. If anyone can tell me, I’d be VERY happy and grateful.

    • http://ericwhitacre.com Eric

      It splits into 8 parts, Nate.

  • http://www.facebook.com/mysilverwings Matthew Alan Canales

    Was givin the prevlidge to perfom this piece with the Victoria College Concert Band Spring 2008. Eric Whitacre has and will always be inspirational essence when it comes to my symphonic compositions. Still an unpublished composer and find it nerving for my work to be heard. Whitacre has givin me the courage to post and enter one the recordings into an composition contest. The recording in an mp3 of an converted mdi file. http://www.composition-contest.com/player2.php?num=6429&mp3=0&midi=1

  • Gretta

    The first time I heard Sleep was from my dad and once he showed me I could not stop listening to it. I laid my head down and closed my eyes picturing the words & music painting a picture (I pictured angels singing in heaven to a child to help him fall asleep). I just want to listen to it forever and ever. Eric has made the music interact with the words. It speaks emotion and desire. I am a Sophmore in high school, and I really want to sing this song with my choir! I want a challenge:). Eric Whitacre has made me want to continue my life with music. My dream is to become a choir director and share music with other students. It was interesting to see that the words used for Sleep was from a poem. Simply amazing!

  • Haley

    Sleep has been one of my all time favorite pieces since the marching band I preformed in, Sound of Sun Prairie, had used it as our ballad in 2010. This year, it was chosen as a piece for us to sing my senior year of choir. Being able to relive this phenomenal piece of music was a complete blessing. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jKdOs1AvPK0 , the last performance of this show.

  • Amanda Rivas

    I first heard sleep this year in my honors level music class. I’m a sophomore at the moment and the first time I heard the minor seconds, chills ran down my spine. Sometimes when we sing this piece in class, I feel tears running down my cheeks from the sheer beauty of this piece. We are preparing to sing this piece at our spring concert this year. I was hoping we could sing it at NYSSMA majors but it’s not a level 6 for reasons I don’t get. Because of this piece and your ability to put such simple notes and rhythms together to make pure ecstasy for us and the audience, I am preparing to pursue a music career in college.

    Thank you, Eric Whitacre, for truly inspiring me and giving me a reason to wake up in the morning. That reason is music.

  • Billy

    One of the THE most beautiful pieces I have ever heard in my life! I’ve listened to it so many times, and yet it still touches the deepest part of me.

  • http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RGJ4ggEuSf0 Tyler

    Everytime I listen to this song, I get goosebumps. Everytime. The choir I am in, the Goddard High School Madrigals, sang this in Memphis at a competition and we took first! You and your music have been such an inspiration to us all, and anytime we get the chance to sing any of your works, we all get so thrilled. I can firmly say that I speak for the entirety of the Madrigals when I say that you have created the best music that we have sung thus far.

  • Lisa Hartley

    As a choir director the first time I heard this piece was at All-State Choir in 2004. This year in April my mother passed away she was in hospice for 6 weeks. My siblings and I were with her when she died. I was listening to Sleep this morning for the first time in several years. I was moved the first time I heard it but this morning in such a different way.
    It describes so well the end of her life I wish I had shared it with mother during her final days.
    She spoke of watching a movie of her life and hearing a choir. “Sleep” brings me into those final moments we shared with her. Her death was so very peaceful. As I go through the grieving process I’m so very thankful to have found “Sleep” again. Your beautiful music touches so many, thank-you.

  • http://buband.org Justin

    Sleep, will be our ballad for our marching band competition show!

  • Tommy

    Wow, I’m on of the many lucky high school students that gets to sing with the Vancouver Chamber Choir under your direction! I honestly can not wait. I have listen, sung, and loved you music for as long as I’ve been in choir, and to get to sing under you is the greatest privilege to date!

    Thank you for writing such beautiful and inspiring music.

    -Tommy Vo

  • JJ Curry

    My college wind ensemble was working up the transcription of this piece for a concert when my mother-in-law tragically lost her battle with a serious illness she’d been fighting for years. There are no words to express the depth of that kind of loss, just as there are no words to express how much the comfort this piece brought me. The first few times I played this piece after her death, I couldn’t compose myself, but not out of sadness. Instead, it was from a piece of mind so moving it could only be expressed through the melodies on that page of music. Her eternal slumber was hard on our family, but she is no longer suffering. This music helped me remember this on my darkest of days.

    Thank you. Thank you for writing such beautiful music that transcends logic and understanding. It is because of this piece that I learned how to reach beyond the notes on the page for the first time in my musical career. It was the first time I learned to reach deeper, down into a place where true music is created and shared: the heart.

    I’ve long since graduated college and begun my own teaching career as a band director. It is this very lesson I learned in college that I try to instill in my own band students every day.

    Good music…. it’s the gift that keeps on giving.

  • Don

    How many part harmony is this piece written in?

    • John

      Four, but at some points all of the voice parts split and it moves to 8 part harmony.

  • Robert Dumas

    A favorite of mine, having performed it a cappella before, I see on the JW Pepper website that it is listed under the category of pieces WITH band accompaniment. Is this an error? I see the SATB octavo listed and I see the band set listed, but I don’t see a “combo-version.” Has JWP simply misplaced this in their database? Any insight?

  • nuista

    People making foolish decisions for what possible reason?
    So few people know Frost’s poetry these days, in another 40 years he will likely slip further away.

    A shame, but the end result is ethereally beautiful

  • Brian Gruenewald

    This is, by far, my favorite piece you’ve ever done, Eric. You may call me obsessed when I tell you that I listen to this piece every night before I got to bed. It calms me down. It’s phenomenal!

    • Ryan Shaffer

      That’s how it’s been for me with “When David Heard.”

  • Brian Baumgarn

    Whatever Eric’s logistical troubles with the use of Frost’s words was years ago, the end here is so magnificent on its own. I would have loved to hear it to Frost’s words as one who sang “Choose Something Like a Star” when young and was so moved by that. I had an acquaintance listen to Sleep on my MP3 player and all she could say was, “My God!” I feel the same everytime I listen to his music.

  • DesertDweller79

    Ah, I remember hearing the piece at the 2001 Convention. I thought your setting of the Frost poem was tremendous. I loved it, Eric. Imagine my surprise to run across “Sleep” at some later date and realize the text was entirely different. What a beautiful piece. How sad that it couldn’t continue in the original version. I hope someone has a recording of that ACDA performance.

    Still, the new text is very good and the piece remains quite beautiful.

  • Brian Baumgarn

    As I listen and reread about this music, I am even more amazed at Charles Silvestri. What a combination of word and music. What a way to start my day, listening to some of Eric’s music.

  • Brian Baumgarn

    A close friend lost his battle with cancer last Friday afternoon. I attended his funeral this morning. I sat in the church parking lot and listened to “Sleep” on the mp3 player as a meditation for my friend. It fit with everything that was sung or spoken at his funeral service. My friend never gave up his battle with the cancer. What he did was surrender to the grace of his God and “to sleep.”

  • Sophie

    We are dancing to this song in dance, and I can’t wait for performance. It has been so surreal dancing to this beautiful piece. At first I was doubtful my teachers could create choreography beautiful enough to fit the piece, yet they amaze me with their talent yet again. The only problem is that I find myself drifting off with the words during rehearsal!

  • Evan

    Listened to the Virtual Choir version in my Music Theory class. The teacher only wanted to show us who Eric Whitacre was because he is the Mozart of today. I have since started listening to each of his songs and began writing my own chorals. Not going so well trying to make all the “smoosh” chords as my mom calls them, but I’ll get there. Can’t wait to participate in VC5

  • cheyenne

    I go to Charles A. Silvestri middle school. The school has such a great music program, and because of that, the namesake’ s nephew (Charles Anthony (Tony) Silvestri came out and told us this story. He said the words weren’t just words, and that his wife and child(ren?) Had a big part in it. He had us do the same thing he did for Frost’ s poem, except we did a Halloween version of Hinkle twinkle little star. I hope to soon be in a virtual choir, although I am soon to be 13.

  • AsleepNoMore

    I performed this piece with my high school choir back in 2002/2003. We won second place in an international competition in NYC with this piece. It is by far one of my favorite songs to date; nothing surpasses its hauntingly beautiful composure, and equally compelling lyrics. I revisited the song in 2009, when I performed it as a solo a cappella at my grandmother’s memorial service. Still helps me to fall asleep when I listen to it on my iPod to this day….

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  • Leah

    Absolutely Beautiful. My marching band played this as our ballad in our 2011 show…. and I must say that that year was one of the best and one of my favourite show. Brings back so many memories. Thank you to my band director, Mr. Harper, who introduced us to such moving and inspirational musical pieces. This will forever be with me.

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  • Sara

    Como posso conseguir a partitura do sleep

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  • Sanne

    I’m a music student of the Conservatorium of Amsterdam and i really would like to perform this song with the schoolchoir. Does somebody know where i can get the sheet music of does anybody have it for me?
    Thanks in advance!

    • http://www.musicprods.co.uk Esther

      Hi there! The score for Sleep is available on musicroom.com and halleonard.com. I hope your choir enjoys performing it!

    • Esther

      Hi there! The score for Sleep is available on musicroom.com and jwpepper.com
      I hope your choir enjoys performing it!

    • http://www.musicprods.co.uk Esther

      Hi there! The score for Sleep is available on musicroom.com and jwpepper.com
      I hope your choir enjoys performing it!