Close your eyes and you can almost smell the pines.

You can feel the grooves of the ancient oak tree - its branches draped with thick Spanish moss. Leaves detach from branches and flutter gently in the cool wind. Inhale crisp air, and hear the chickadees sing.

Take another breath. Now, the aroma is salty, yet familiar. Listen to the waves collapse and glide past you, then back home to the sea. Gulls twist, soar, and dive, zooming just above blue water stretching for miles and miles.

You won’t find anything like this anywhere else in our solar system.

Breathe again, and this time hear the voices of the choir. Now here comes the piano. Now the trumpets and violins. Three hundred musicians united in spirit and sound.

You never left your seat. Not once. But somehow it feels as if you’re floating across the globe, exploring world wonders in need of protection.

The performance is called “Mosaic for Earth.”

Hosted by the Virginia Tech School of Performing Arts, the brand-new choral and orchestral show is planned for next spring in the Moss Arts Center.

“This project harnesses the power of music to celebrate nature and consider our responsibilities as stewards of the natural world,” said Dwight Bigler, “Mosaic for Earth” composer and director of choirs at Virginia Tech. “We’re thrilled to collaborate with members of the Virginia Tech and regional communities to produce a performance we hope proves inspirational.”

Performers will include members from the Virginia Tech PhilharmonicVirginia Tech ChoirsBlacksburg Master Chorale, and Blacksburg Children’s Chorale.

Bigler hopes the project will not only engage but motivate audiences to do their part in preserving the planet’s natural resources and habitable climate. The United Nations labeled a recent report on the effects of climate change a “code red for humanity.” Decreasing harmful emissions globally could reverse dangerous environmental trends, according to the report.

Ultimately, the School of Performing Arts hopes to reach communities around the world through the project.

But captivating global audiences requires support from fellow Hokies.

“We always record our concerts in the Moss Arts Center by using available concert-hall microphones,” said Bigler. “However, for this particular project, we hope to create an immersive recording with 360-degree video and audio. We believe doing so will provide future opportunities to increase the visibility and impact for ‘Mosaic for Earth.’”

Bigler hopes the immersive recording will not only allow more individuals to experience “Mosaic for Earth” but will also inspire other music groups to perform the songs for their communities. The recording would be available to stream online and eligible for entry in major industry festivals and contests.

Anyone interested in supporting the project can do so through Virginia Tech’s Jump, a crowdfunding program focused on aiding faculty, staff, and students.

“Mosaic for Earth” hopes to raise $8,000 to help cover recording costs and distribute the project internationally. The Jump campaign will run through Nov. 12.

Bigler said he’s grateful “Mosaic for Earth” has already received support from the School of Performing Arts, the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences, and the Blacksburg Master Chorale. 

Another point of pride involves the work of the 170 Virginia Tech students performing in the choir and orchestra, Bigler said. The performers showcase the impressive, multi-talented nature of the Virginia Tech student body, with more than 55 majors represented, such as music, aerospace, architecture, engineering, clinical neuroscience, psychology, computer science, criminology, data analytics, and meteorology.

Bigler said the recording company hopes to partner with Virginia Tech students majoring in music technology to provide mentorship in video and audio production.

“Mosaic for Earth” will also feature impressive visual projections designed by David Franusich, an artist, designer, and creative technologist who serves as multimedia designer in the Institute for Creativity, Arts, and Technology. Bigler composed the soprano solos for a Virginia Tech alumna, Danielle Talamantes, who sings at the Metropolitan Opera and in productions throughout the country.

Bigler said the initiative has already benefitted from collaboration across departments and colleges within the university. For text sources and outreach event planning, two key collaborators included Mary Denson Moore, a senior instructor in the Department of English, and Annie Pearce, a professor in the Myers-Lawson School of Construction. Both also sing in the Blacksburg Master Chorale.

Mathias Elmer, director of orchestral activities at Virginia Tech, will prepare the “Mosaic for Earth” orchestra.

In addition to the performance and recording, “Mosaic for Earth” will include community outreach events with panel discussions featuring experts in environmental science and justice.

When composing the project, Bigler drew from a variety of sources, including Appalachian poetry centered on environmental justice and religious texts celebrating the oceans, rivers, mountains, and animals of Earth and the stars above.

The composition features lyrics written by Terry Tempest Williams, Erik Reece, Jim Wayne Miller, N. Scott Momaday, W.S. Merwin, and Wilfred Owen. The production will also incorporate the artwork of Barbara Wolff.

Of course, nature itself serves as the core inspiration for the piece.

“Climate change and its impact on our way of life is one of the most urgent issues we’re facing today, even if it doesn’t always feel like it,” said Bigler. “I was moved and inspired by these works by environmental writers and the work of climate scientists. I wanted to set them to music because I know the power of music, and how it can help spark change. My hope is that this project can help to motivate individuals and communities to improve sustainable living habits.”

The performance is scheduled for April 3 at 7:30 p.m. in the Moss Arts Center. Visit the “Mosaic for Earth” Jump page before Nov. 12 to contribute to the campaign.

Written by Andrew Adkins