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Ethereal Choir
A distant choir singing in harmony to accompany a scene, often A Cappella. 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:

    open/close all folders 

     Anime & Manga 
  • One of the main themes of Ghost in the Shell is a slightly dischordant choir singing a cappella.
  • Bleach uses this with a weird electronic effect in a lot of scenes.
  • Used frequently in Last Exile to convey an idea of expansion/flight.
  • Used in .hack//SIGN once Aura awakens.
  • Neon Genesis Evangelion's opening "Cruel Angels Thesis" uses this in its iconic intro.
  • In Sailor Moon Crystal, a mixed-gender choir wordlessly sets the mood during dramatic or heroic scenes, ominous during villainous activity, grandiose and sweeping during Sailor Moon's transformation and attack sequences.

    Film 
  • The approach to Cloud City in Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back.
  • When Yoda Fights Dooku in Star Wars 2 for about 20 seconds (ominous). 1:30-1:52
  • 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 Théoden 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 Nazgûl.
  • 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.
  • A good chunk of the soundtrack in Kingdom of Heaven, befitting its medieval setting. Notably after Baldwin dies, a choir starts singing "Vide Cor Meum" 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 President's 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.
  • In the original Invaders From Mars, a spooky choir sound accompanies the sandy ground abruptly swallowing people up - and heard in-movie by the characters.
  • Jake hears one when he "sees the light" in The Blues Brothers. Likewise, Cab hears the same choir when he has his epiphany in the sequel.
  • One of the pieces of stock background music in Monty Python and the Holy Grail.
  • The Wolfman (2010). This is Danny Elfman we're talking about, but it's not used as much as an effect compared to his other scores and is only used in a few scenes.

     Live Action TV 
  • 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 A Cappella 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.
  • In Teen Wolf, season 1 episode 10, Co Captain, near the end, the background music of "Lose Your Soul" by Dead Man's Bones ft. the Silverlake Conservatory of Music Children's Choir is heard as various characters interact, all in a creepy, chilling way. The music's sinister tones fits the scenes well.

    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.
  • Emilie Autumn uses this in the background track to "Goodnight Sweet Ladies". They are meant to be the girls in The Asylum for Wayward Victorian Girls who committed mass suicide.
  • Solarstone's "The Last Defeat, Part 1" and "The Last Defeat, Part 2" both feature ethereal chanting at their climaxes, along with One-Woman Wail in the latter.
  • The Agonist make occasional use of this, most notably one song (an a capella cover of Swan Lake) which is nothing but Ethereal Choir.
  • The fade-out of the Blue Öyster Cult's Golden Age Of Leather, which is sung by a boys' choir (who incidentally provided the same ethereal singing a year or so earlier, on Van Morrison's Snow In San Anselmo)

    Pinball 
  • Used as part of the soundtrack in ''Avatar'

     Tabletop RP Gs 
  • Warhammer 40,000 has the choir of the astronomican that psykers and the occasional pious Space Marine can hear.

    Theater 
  • Dreamgirls has a reoccurring chorus that chants "Showbiz, it's just showbiz" often to demonstrate that something behind the scenes has happend, such as Jimmy Early getting fired, and when the Dreams get their own act as part of Curtis' plan to drop Jimmy from the label.
  • Used for surreal effect in the overture to Willy Russell's stage musical Blood Brothers.
  • Ravel's ballet music for Daphnis and Chloe features a wordless chorus which has an extended A Cappella bit in between the first two scenes (though this can be replaced with instruments if no chorus is available).
  • The scene in the musical Brigadoon where Mr. Lundie talks about hearing voices from the outside world has an A Cappella choir humming in the background.
  • "Whisper" from Cirque du Soleil's Amaluna, used during the Manipulation scene, has New Age-style chanting.
  • On A Clear Day You Can See Forever has an offstage chorus calling, "Ah, Melinda!" as Daisy describes herself as Melinda boarding the doomed ship Trelawney.
  • The Nutcracker has an invisible women's or children's choir singing wordlessly in "Waltz of the Snowflakes."

     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!", which gradually becomes more surly as the conversation with the ghosts becomes less and less auspicious.

     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.

The Elevator from IpanemaScore and Music TropesEverything Is an Instrument

alternative title(s): Ethereal Chorus
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