How can hundreds of talented musicians celebrate the planet and encourage action to protect it?

Dwight Bigler has the answer.

The director of choirs at Virginia Tech will conduct the premiere of “Mosaic for Earth” on April 3. Featuring 250 musicians from Virginia Tech and across the region, the performance is set for 7 p.m. in the Moss Arts Center.

Tickets and more event information can be found here.

The performance is highly collaborative, featuring a true mosaic of performers from across the country, telling stories from all walks of life throughout history with an emphasis on protecting the planet.

“We are a human family,” said Bigler, “and we have to address planetary issues together.”

Hosted by the Virginia Tech School of Performing Arts, the choral and orchestral show will be performed by members of the Virginia Tech Philharmonic, Virginia Tech Choirs, the Blacksburg Master Chorale, and the Blacksburg Children’s Chorale.

Rehearsals started separately within each music organization and incrementally merged.

“I’m thankful to be able to work with so many people who share the love of singing,” Bigler said. 

Bigler began rehearsing with the choirs last fall with the help of Jeb Sturgill, an adjunct faculty member in the School of Performing Arts and the choir teacher at Auburn High School.

Mathias Elmer, director of the Virginia Tech Philharmonic, began preparing the orchestra with rehearsals starting in late February. 

Upon arriving at the Moss Arts Center on the evening of the performance, the audience can engage with lobby exhibits featuring the sustainability research of Virginia Tech faculty members. The exhibits were organized by Annie Pearce, an associate professor in the Myers-Lawson School of Construction and director of the BioBuild Program

In addition, the full-color program book — a work of art itself — will include pages of additional conservation and sustainability resources that Bigler and Pearce have compiled to complement the performance.

The concert will include three large screens surrounding the orchestra and choirs to provide an immersive visual component. Designed by David Franusich, a multimedia designer in the Institute for Creativity, Arts, and Technology at Virginia Tech, the visual arts projections will feature videos and photographs of world wonders as well as the psalm imagery of New York City artist Barbara Wolff.

The movie soundtrack-esque piece is organized with adapted psalms celebrating nature interspersed with movements that provide glimpses into the human impact on these natural areas. 

“I want ‘Mosaic for Earth’ to connect with people of all backgrounds because if we are to adequately respond to climate change, it will take all of us working together,” said Bigler. “Between the celebratory psalm pillars will be modern texts that dig into humanity’s impact on the environment. The contrast creates a dramatic flow and sends a message: Here’s the beauty of our world, and here’s how we’re destroying it.”

Bigler took inspiration from author Terry Tempest Williams, who opens her book “Finding Beauty in a Broken World” with a focus on mosaics. 

“A mosaic is a beautiful work of art, built from broken pieces,” Bigler said. “I knew this piece needed to be named ‘Mosaic for Earth’ because in many ways, musically, it is a mosaic. It includes a range of harmonic languages throughout the 14 movements, and these harmonies and melodies combine with the human voice, the visual arts, and literature in a way that I hope creates an inspiring work of art that directly connects with audiences.”

Bigler, who’s originally from Idaho, found inspiration for “Mosaic for Earth” when he moved to Blacksburg a dozen years ago. “I’ve experienced 12 years of conversations with key people as I learned about the history of this region,” he said. While writing the piece on sabbatical in the Appalachians of North Georgia, Bigler continued to be inspired by nature.

Bigler credits Mary Denson Moore, a senior instructor in the Department of English, for introducing him to the works of Williams, artist Barbara Wolff, and author Erik Reece, whose text has been incorporated into the “Mosaic for Earth” libretto. Reece, who writes about environmental justice particularly in the Appalachian region, will present a complementary reading on April 4, sponsored by the Department of English.

As for the future of “Mosaic for Earth” beyond the premiere, Bigler hopes to reach audiences around the world. The symphony will be immersively recorded to create an audio and video multi-camera album, enabled in large part by a previous crowdfunding campaign

Bigler hopes for future performances at prominent venues around the country. He also expects the album to provide recognition to the hundreds of people who helped bring this work to life. 

“For ‘Mosaic for Earth,’ this is not the end, but just the beginning,” Bigler said. “Collaboration opens the door to so many possibilities.”

Above all, Bigler wants the piece to resonate with audiences and inspire action.

“The ultimate goal of this piece is to connect to the emotions of individuals, engage communities, and remind everyone to be better stewards of our world,” said Bigler. “My hope is this piece will encourage people to act.”

Written by Ian Gammarino, a graduate student in the College of Natural Resources and Environment