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A distant choir singing in harmony to accompany a scene, often a capella. This is not rhythmic like Ominous Latin Chanting; usually you won't hear any words because they're only singing vowel tones. The effect is general otherworldliness, and the tone can range from consoling to chilling.

This is related to the One-Woman Wail, which it sometimes accompanies. See also: Creepy Children Singing, where creepy songs and nursery rhymes are played in the background to add tension and fear to a scene.

Examples of Ethereal Choir include:


Anime & Manga

  • One of the main themes of Ghost in the Shell is a slightly dischordant choir singing a capella.
  • Bleach uses this with a weird electronic effect in a lot of scenes.


Theater

  • Used for surreal effect in the overture to Willy Russell's stage musical Blood Brothers.
  • Ravel's Daphnis and Chloe has its wordless chorus sing unaccompanied during a blackout between scenes.
  • The scene in the musical Brigadoon where Mr. Lundie talks about hearing voices from the outside world.


Film

  • The approach to Cloud City in Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back.
  • An absolutely epic one when the ents march to trash Isengard in the Two Towers from Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings.
    • A part of the theme "Nature's Reclamation" used several times over the course of the movies, and is essentially this. It sounds when Theoden resolves to ride out against the Uruk Hai at Helm's Deep, and again in Return of the King when the Eagles dive out of the sky to attack the Nazgul.
  • Parodied during Ted and Elaine's big kiss scene at the end of Airplane!, where the choir goes horribly out of tune .
  • Used fairly heavily in Coraline's soundtrack, to great atmospheric effect.
  • An ethereal little melody is featured repeatedly on The Prince of Egypt soundtrack to great effect.
  • The Ark theme from Raiders of the Lost Ark.
  • In 1951's A Christmas Carol, Scrooge hears the wailing of Marley's fellow doomed spirits at the end of the latter's visit, and again later when taken to his own grave.
  • In Kingdom of Heaven, after Baldwin dies, a choir starts singing as Jerusalem mourns.
  • In 2001: A Space Odyssey, G. Ligeti's 'Requiem' is used with the apelike proto-humans (and later the less ape-like humans) encountering the uncomprehensible.
  • In The Presidents Analyst, the title character starts to crack up - he sees men in black suits and sunglasses ostensibly out to get him everywhere, punctuated with an alarming piece of vocalese.
  • The 2009 Star Trek film employs one, singing a variation of the main theme amidst the dramatic silence of space when the Narada is finally being broken up and consumed by the combination of a black hole and the weapons of the Enterprise.
  • Titanic used heavily synthesized vocals to make a chorus during the sinking.


Live Action TV

  • One of the pieces of stock background music in Monty Python and The Holy Grail.
  • Used at various points throughout the Murray Gold scores for Doctor Who. Generally acting as a musical personification of Time, although this sometimes ends up as a One-Woman Wail. For the Daleks it becomes Ominous Latin Chanting. Notable at the end of "Gridlock", when the population of New Earth sings an acapella version of Abide with Me.
  • On Glee, the beginning or end of a scene or something dramatic happening is accompanied by a "doo ba doo ba doo ba doo" or "doooo-BOP"
  • Part of the theme song in Power Rangers Zeo.


Music

  • A staple of Danny Elfman's work.
  • Holst's Planets ends with an Ethereal Choir whose voices slowly fade away after the orchestra stops playing.
  • The opening verse to The Rolling Stones' "You Can't Always Get What You Want" is sang like this.
  • Frequently featured in Nox Arcana's work.
  • Immediate Music's Requiem Rave fuses fast electronic beats with a mostly female choir singing vowel tones.
  • "Lady in Black" by Bad Boys Blue uses this.
  • "Welcome to my Realm" by Fireaxe is sung by the devil, and uses an ethereal choir provided by the screams of the damned.


Tabletop RPGs

  • Warhammer 40000 has the choir of the astronomican that psykers and the occasional pious Space Marine can hear.


Video Games


Web Comics

  • Ursula Vernon's Digger marks the appearance of ghosts with the sound of an ethereal choir. Because, as the author points out, "there is no feasible onomatopoeia for this," the sound is represented by the Unsound Effect of "sounds of distant ethereal chanting!" and variants.


Web Original


Western Animation

  • Parodied in a later episode of Johnny Bravo. The choir accompanies the appearance of a large ad that happens to be about the very thing Johnny needed the most in that particular scene. The camera then pans to slightly, revealing an actual church choir.
  • "Inner Sanctum/The Nesting Grounds" from Disney's Dinosaur.
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