Category Archives: Virtual Choir

A Moment of Grace (meeting Eric Whitacre)

In an earlier post I wrote about meeting composer and conductor, Eric Whitacre. This is about inner guidance that came to me that night.

As I sat in Alice Millar Chapel in Evanston two feet from him, I felt that familiar feeling of smallness, almost wanting to become invisible. I was afraid I would try to speak and fumble with the words, mumbling something inane. I feared not being…well, myself…meeting someone I greatly admired, a gifted musician, a public figure, a gorgeous guy. Normally I am very articulate and love meeting new people. In fact, that night I had met a number of local members of Virtual Choir (and their partners) for the first time. I even read a few of my VC inspired poems for them. But sometimes, unknowingly…all my insecurities get triggered. Have you ever felt this way?

This was my first solo outing after recovery from major surgery in December. It was a harsh winter to be out in, and I still felt vulnerable. I am grateful Elisabeth Smith, a Virtual Choir team member, urged me to not pass up this opportunity.


I have to say the whole evening was amazing in every regard, restoring my confidence. Several new poems were inspired by that night. Here is one, from my new book, Thrown Again into the Frazzle Machine: Poems of Grace, Hope, and Healing. (Thank you, Jonathan Cohen for generously sharing your great photos.) By the way, Eric is genuinely lovely and warm, insightful and funny, both in front a group and with each person who wanted to speak to him, a rare quality indeed.


Amidst the Buzz
Eric Whitacre at Alice Millar Chapel

“Do not make yourself small”
the silent voice said as I sat at the end of the pew

in the chapel where I’d never been…
and very close to you.

I had become smaller, to not be noticed perhaps,
familiar feeling I could not trust?

As an experiment I let go of
feeling intimidated.

I uncrossed my arms and breathed
air into my body as if blowing up an inflatable doll.

Could I become myself,
risk being at full strength,

no excuses to fall back on if I failed
in my clearly unstated mission?

Breathe, expand, feel energy flowing,
slowly aura grows, needing nothing.

Breathe and hold the space,
no questions to ask, only listening.

Receive what is offered, no control over anything,
feeling awareness of everything,

holding the space for what was to be, as if
every word spoken by anyone was wisdom passed down

for everyone, including and especially for me.
Give and receive, barriers and barricades demolished,

vulnerable and powerful,
the truth suddenly so obvious.

Margaret Dubay Mikus
© 2014

From Thrown Again into the Frazzle Machine: Poems of Grace, Hope, and Healing now available to pre-order. Thank you for your support!

Read more posts and poems inspired by Virtual Choir and Eric Whitacre

I Know That (song version)

May is my month, with my birthday, Mother’s Day and my wedding anniversary. As a 62nd birthday challenge I wanted to get something unstuck: post my first video on YouTube. I’ve had a channel since 2011 and I would almost do it, but pull back. Always some snag. How to do the recording on iMovie? How to load the video? It felt too personal or too exposed, or laryngitis, or not enough time, or the need to wear makeup, or whatever…. Over the last few years, partly through Eric Whitacre’s Virtual Choir, I became more confident of my ability to do tech stuff. I got a Blue Yeti microphone –which is the coolest– to record VC 3 and VC 4.


My office recording set up

I made the light that Jack Rowland recommended last year. I learned enough of iMovie to submit my video for the last Virtual Choir. Thank you also to Gene Waddle and Elisabeth Smith and “the team” for your encouragement and to the worldwide family that is Virtual Choir.

Thank you to Tom Prasada-Rao and Cary Cooper for their bravery in posting very personal and moving songs. And to Charlotte McDaniel who keeps on learning and posting her lovely video creations. You all inspired me to make the leap.

I’ve had some recent clarity about my job: to deliver the poems that come to me. At first it meant reading in person and in print, then on a CD, and now on video, where the words can reach someone and help to heal, inspire, comfort, give voice to an experience, encourage, support, connect with.

I am very excited to tell you: here is my first video, I Know That (song version). Originally published in my book, As Easy as Breathing, I wrote the poem in the middle of chemotherapy, when losing my hair was imminent, a very big deal. (I also sang this on my CD, Full Blooming.)

I did lose my hair, but not my eyebrows. And I was grateful for that. My aunt (in the song) had just died of breast cancer and my dear Grandma had also just passed away. I had recovered from surgery, then began chemo, with radiation to come, as was the standard of care then. I was trying to not get pulled down by the losses and to stay focused on healing.

So here goes: A New Beginning.

Thanks for being there! What creation have you been putting off? Go to it!

Inspired by and for Corax

Snow and Shadow MDMikus--Copyright 2014

Snow and Shadow– MDMikus, Copyright 2014

Virtual Choir (and Eric Whitacre) has inspired many poems. This is another. VC is a virtual community and a real one too. Many VC members have met in real life, but whether they meet or not they support and encourage each other. And that positive energy spills over into real life. We are all better for it. This poem was inspired by VC member, Corax, aka Jeff. I am grateful for the connection.


On Imperfection
For Corax

On the other side of darkness
the past looks far away,
and if I didn’t know better,
mostly forgotten.

Live in the now,
isn’t that what they say?
I agree mostly and also intend
to remember my lessons:

not to repeat same old mistakes,
not to let the unconscious pilot the course,
to remember to breathe,
to always be kind and

to forgive, every day forgive
imperfection. For here we learn
by being in form, subject to complex patterns
we cannot sense or anticipate.

If we were perfect—
which we are somewhere—
what would be the point of
choosing to go to Earth-school?

As long as we are here—
those numbered precious days,
those rare allotted minutes—
we have work to do.

Get on with it.

Margaret Dubay Mikus
© 2014

Star Shadow-- MDMikus, Copyright 2014

Star Shadow– MDMikus, Copyright 2014

To read all my Virtual Choir/ Eric Whitacre inspired poems

Evening with Eric Whitacre

Photo by Jonathan Cohon Copyright 2014

Elisabeth, Eric, me, and Lisa–Photo by Jonathan Cohon Copyright 2014

10:30 last night I drove back home in the snow from an incredible event with Eric Whitacre. So far exceeded any unconscious expectations I might have had, I was flying. It’s hard to pin down exactly why we were so thoroughly buzzed after. Everything lined up so perfectly it was one of those rare times when I felt in exactly the right place at exactly the right time, entirely content.

To recap: The latest snow—in one of the snowiest winters ever—held off for the drive in. I did not get turned around in Evanston, (which happens to me often). Easy parking in a covered lot a block away. Welcomed by new Virtual Choir friends, Elisabeth (and Jonathan), Darrell (and Penna), and Lisa at The Celtic Knot Pub in Evanston, where the food was good and the company was awesome!


Elisabeth, Lisa, Penna, Darrell and me–Photo by Jonathan Cohon Copyright 2014

At the urging of Darrell Polka, I read the most recent of my Eric Whitacre-Virtual Choir inspired poems to the group (see below). We then walked over to the Alice Millar Chapel at Northwestern University just as the snow was beginning to accumulate. Lovely dusting and reasonably warm (for these days). Beautiful space. Got to hear Eric rehearsing the Apollo Chorus singing his piece, Lux Aurumque, a conducting master class. Transcendent! He talked us through some of his creative process with such humor and warmth. Excellent questions asked in the Q & A with such thoughtful, vulnerable, insightful answers. We even all got to sing a few bars of a piece he is working on and then hear Lux Aurumque in entirety. Just soaked right into me!

Then the meet and greet (maybe as many as 700 of us). Eric is one of those rare people who can captivate an audience and also fully connect with individuals. He focused on each of us in turn, gracious and generous. Responsive, receiving, and…well, genuine. His energy and enthusiasm is just so contagious! I delivered the three poems to him, got a CD signed and photos taken (by Jonathan). Talked a minute or so and some whirlwind hugs. Floating…

When I first heard about Eric Whitacre coming nearby, I was recovering from major abdominal surgery and felt too vulnerable to go out on my own, certainly not drive and walk out in the slippery snow! Even though I wanted to meet my local Virtual Choir friends in real life, I didn’t plan on going. At some point, I decided to stop thinking about whether to go or not and just see if it all came together. Get out of my own way. I emailed for a ticket and that was good. Emailed the restaurant and they got back to me in an hour (yes, they had a gluten-free menu, very accommodating). And that was good. Parking was nearby. That was good. The weather was manageable and most of all I recovered. Walking the few minutes, even in snow was a piece of cake. That was good. Reassuring. As I said to Elisabeth, it all worked out. My job was to let it. Have you ever had that experience when you let go and allowed your life to come together?

Here are the poems, part of the ongoing collection inspired by Eric Whitacre and Virtual Choir.


Eric Whitacre: Godzilla Eats Las Vegas
(with Elvises)

There is music
takes itself so serious
and then

there is music
without a serious bone
that can sink in

to the dark places
and lighten
lift out of

and up
soaring without risk
of falling back.

Margaret Dubay Mikus
© 2013


Cracked Open After Louise Penny

While listening to Arvo Pärt Cantus in memoriam Benjamin Britten,
Proms, 2010 on YouTube—posted by Eric Whitacre on Facebook

Not about fixing
the irreparably broken
but creating

the newborn form
to take its place
in memoriam,

to allow, not push or defend
deliberate shoots that spring up
through soil

even if not particularly fertile,
and shoots can grow
into something novel

and bloom someday
into something as yet
merely envisioned…

To take the risk
as if…

Margaret Dubay Mikus
© 2013


Subset of Virtual Choir

spend precious hours
on a seasonal short song

to sing into a camera and send?
Naked it feels
to risk a public

of being less than…

The charismatic man
behind the tune
calling for the tribe,

offering a vision,
a chance to gather
even in competition

some, not all, will win. Why?
To open the door and get inside,
sync with the rhythm,

learn music from intent repetition
and deliver the song
to the green dot and beyond.

Why, again why?
Because to live
is to risk, is to stretch

is to grow, is to know
possibility of
contentment within

even virtual achievement.
To be connected,
not alone, to belong

through trials, through song
Innate in the genes, to be together,
though apparently separate.

For the inspiration,
follow the inclination,
why do anything,

hit a ball with a bat,
throw or jump or run,
pull a bow across strings,

stroke a key or blow into a tube,
riff on a guitar or beat a drum
is to express being…human

being with virtual friends.

Margaret Dubay Mikus
© 2013

You may also like previous posts with poems inspired by Eric Whitacre and Virtual Choir

All Together: Virtual Choir 4

One of the fun things about Virtual Choir 4: Fly to Paradise (by Eric Whitacre) was finding myself in the crowd of 5905 singers after the video came out in July. Last year, for VC 3 I was not able to see myself, which was fine, the music swept me away anyway. But this year, naturally I wondered if I would be there. I had submitted 3 videos (alto 2, tenor 1, tenor 2). Would that increase my chances? (Note: best to watch the HD version of the video if you can, full screen. Crank up the sound…just sayin’.)

I was lucky this time. I was in a relatively prominent place and found one of my videos, with even a smile while singing. Elisabeth Maria Smith, a VC4 member from Chicago, did an amazing thing: put together an album of over 800 screen shots to help singers find themselves. Thank you Elisabeth for sending me the HD version of the screen shot below. Each time I listen and watch Fly to Paradise, I am greatly moved and proud of us, and see different things in the graphics. It took a huge number of people to make this happen (the credits are longer than the song!).

I knew the video had an impact on me, but I had not anticipated the emotional effect of searching through all the faces (from 101 countries!). No sound to “distract” me. Looking intently at each face in the screen shots. Just the power of all of us together, from all over, connected in some profound and transforming way. Thank you Elisabeth! Of course a poem came from all this.

Virtual Choir 4: Fly to Paradise

From Virtual Choir 4: Fly to Paradise                Under the soloist, I am in the 2nd row down, 2nd from the right


Virtual Choir 4
(watching screen shots by Elisabeth)

To be seen,
to be seen singing,

to allow
sounds to emerge

and release,
to take the step

driven to connect
or belong or create

a tiny piece of beauty,

To open heart
and mouth,

let energy go forth
melding with others

in the same quest,

To strive and persist,
to learn and teach,

to wait for the outcome,

To join without boundaries,
to encourage, to support,

to accept grace and be

To demonstrate flight,
each a feather on a wing,

at least a little bit…

Margaret Dubay Mikus
© 2013

You may be interested in other recent Virtual Choir posts
A Portrait of Eric Whitacre
Virtual Choir 4: Bliss