“This is a crack ensemble, the like of which may not exist in our own city”


Eric Whitacre  |  little man in a hurry

A setting of the poem by e.e. cummings

e.e. cummings

Eric Whitacre has been called the “rock star” of American choral composers. His work has a freshness and complexity that appeals to dedicated choral singers across the country, and many of his projects have drawn the interest and appreciation of a much wider arts community.

His “virtual choir” project, for example, is an experimental combination of music and social media. He invites participants to submit a recording of themselves singing their part of a musical score, then combines them into a single performance. The Virtual Choir 2.0 project, released in the spring of 2011, featured 2,052 singers in 58 countries performing his work, Sleep. The project was widely covered, including by National Public Radio.

little man in a hurry also features a combinatorial approach, though on a much smaller scale. When Whitacre agreed to contribute a short composition as an auction item at its annual conference, Chorus America expanded on the idea. Why not ask its member choruses to collaborate on a national scale, commissioning a work that could receive individual première performances all across the country? The Providence Singers, being a Chorus America member (its executive director also serves on the Chorus America board), joined 36 other choruses in the project. The result is this weekend’s Rhode Island — and quite possibly New England — première.

little man in a hurry is the last in Whitacre’s setting of five e.e. cummings poems titled The City and the Sea. Other poems in that collection are i walked the boulevard, the moon is hiding in her hair, maggie and milly and molly and may, and as is the sea marvelous. The piano accompaniment for little man is suitably frenetic and includes a rapid, percussive effect from cluster chords that Whitacre calls “oven-mitt playing.”

The Providence Singers last performed music of Eric Whitacre in June 2011 — one of his best-known pieces, Leonardo Dreams of His Flying Machine.

More:  Whitacre home  |  Ted Talk


little man
(in a hurry
full of an
important worry)
halt stop forget relax


(little child
who have tried
who have failed
who have cried)
lie bravely down


big rain
big snow
big sun
big moon


From No Thanks (1935)

e.e. cummings

Edward Estlin Cummings (1894-1962) was among the best-known American poets of the 20th century. Famous for his unconventional typography, seemingly random word order, striking imagery, and sudden turns of thought, cummings covered a wide range. His anti-war poetry reflected the three and a half months he spent in a concentration camp as a French prisoner of war. He wrote in the vernacular of Prohibition-era Chicago gangsters, explored a Unitarian spirituality, produced love poetry with a uniquely straightforward eroticism, and frequented Paris with Gertrude Stein and other Lost Generation luminaries. He was also a novelist, painter, playwright, essayist, and, for three years, a portrait artist for Vanity Fair. His poetry lends itself well to music and is frequently set by choral composers.