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Eric Whitacre: "When David Heard" performed by BYU Singers

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Published on Oct 26, 2011

I absolutely LOVE this recording of this song. And Eric Whitacre is a freakin' GENIUS!!!

"When David Heard" is a beautiful and agonizing musical representation of David's pain and bereavement upon hearing about the killing of his son, Absalom.

Text is from II Samuel 18:33

When David heard that Absalom was slain, he went up into his chamber over the gate and wept, and thus he said, "My son, my son, O Absalom my son, would God I had died for thee! O Absalom, my son, my son!"

When David Heard was premiered by the BYU Singers in March of 1999 and was recorded in the Museum of Art on the BYU Campus. It appears on the Singer's CD: Eric Whitacre: The Complete A Cappella Works, 1991-2001.

Commissioned for the Singers by the Barlow Endowment for the Arts, Eric was partly inspired by news that the choir director's 19 year old son was killed in a car accident. Eric wrote: "Setting this text was such a lonely experience...I wrote maybe 200 pages of sketches, trying to find the perfect balance between sound and silence...and by the time I finished a year later I was profoundly changed." When David Heard is dedicated "with love and silence" to the choir's conductor, Dr. Ronald Staheli.

  • Category

  • License

    • Standard YouTube License
  • Song

  • Artist

    • Unknown Artist
  • Album

    • Songs of the Soul
  • Licensed by

    • NaxosofAmerica (on behalf of Tantara Records), and 2 Music Rights Societies

Comments • 276

Jibbacraft Teamplays
A few thoughts: 1) if you're reading this before you listen, be forewarned. You cannot listen to this and walk away the same person you were before. You will be changed. In my opinion, for the better, but changed. 2) this particular recording has a profound back story. Dr. Ronald Staheli is the conductor of the BYU Singers, Brigham Young University's top chamber choir and one of the premiere collegiate choirs in the world right now. He is a long time friend of Eric Whitacre. Long before When David Heard, Eric has sent many of his non-commissioned pieces to Dr. Staheli to premier and set the standard with the BYU Singers. According to Eric, he finds Dr. Staheli's most profound musical work in his silence, how he is able to turn rests into musical moments, not just pauses between music. In a tragic accident Dr. Staheli lost his son and and subsequently, he commissioned Eric to write a piece for him. Whitacre's composition exceeded his normal genius and entered the realm of divinely inspired for, says he, he is still discovering elements of connectivity in the piece to the circumstances that he did not know were there during its writing. Here, in this recording we have the culmination of Dr. Staheli's loss, arguably Whitacre's greatest compositional achievement, and Dr. Staheli's courageous commitment to its performance after many tear filled rehearsals. If you ever wanted to taste how profound a means of communication can be, this is the piece and the recording for it. 
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2dicone
At 9:47 when the choir does that brief pause and then burst into this grand display of agony and grief...my God moves me to tears every time. Eric Whitacre will go down in history as one of the great composers of all time.
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Alyx Lunceford
I love this piece so much! I feel it is one of the most perfect rendering of the emotion that a parent feels at the loss of a child, The wailing, the deep seated pain, the soul rending outbursts of uncontrolled emotion. This captures the complete anguish David felt.  I sit here listening to this piece with my 2 year old son on my lap...it puts a whole different feel to it to put myself in David's place. "Would God I had died for thee"...yep that sums up just about any parent's feelings No better composer than Eric Whitacre and no better choir to perform his discordant, close bound harmonies than the BYU singers. Their vocal control is quite possibly the best in the Collegiate  world.
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Marissa Quesada
The high C at 10:06 gives me huge goosebumps. It emphasizes the agony and tension and literally screams emotion. Definitely one of my favorite moments in the whole song. 
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Foo Tien pauh
I first heard this when driving to work on classical radio. I had to stop and wipe the tears from my eyes. Certainly made me think about those in my life and other peoples who have passed away. Beautiful. 
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mesaman
An alumni of the UofU, I am conditioned to ignore and berate BYU at every opportunity, but when I hear and watch the BYU choral department's perfection of Whitacre's creativity, like this, I am a "Y" supporter at a deep level of conviction.
Jesse Richter
The first piece of music that has brought me to tears
loeschaw1
And as much as it was painful for David to lose his son, as it would be for any parent, he lost a son who rebelled against him, tried to kill him, and did not appear to have faith.  To lose a son on those kinds of terms, knowing that he rebelled against him and his God, would be the ultimate pain.   Incredible job of portraying that deep sorrow in this song. 
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Lauren Barrett
For just one paragraph of lyrics I have never been so astounded by the beauty and gut wrenching emotion of a piece before. This is so beautiful.
Nicole Kyzer
My best friend Caleb died today. I dont think you could get any closer to describing anguish/sadness as well as this piece does. You will sorely be missed buddy. Rest in peace.
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