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Ethereal Choir

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For added atmosphere, play this music while reading on.

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. Compare Cherubic Choir, which uses children's voices for a similar, if more lighthearted, effect. See also: Creepy Children Singing, where creepy songs and nursery rhymes are played in the background to add tension and fear to a scene.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • One of the main themes of Ghost in the Shell is a slightly discordant 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.
  • Tenchi Muyo! uses this for Tsunami's appearances. The song title is something of a spoiler, though: "Saint Sasami".

    Audio Plays 
  • The Sandman (2020): The chapter adapting "Thermidor" has Orpheus first singing in Greek before being joined by a chorus of the other beheaded people in the background. The sight and sound are so chilling it freaks out Johanna's captors, allowing her to escape.

    Film — Animation 

    Film — Live-Action 
  • In Armageddon (1998), this is the asteroid's leitmotif and can be heard just about any time it's seen from space.
  • The approach to Cloud City in Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back.
  • When Yoda Fights Dooku in Attack of the Clones for about 20 seconds (ominous).
  • Blown Away opens with "Prince's Day", a wail-like song by a soprano boy with an ethereal choir in the background.
  • Peter Jackson's The Lord of the Rings:
    • An absolutely epic one when the ents march to trash Isengard in The Two Towers.
    • 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 The Return of the King when the Eagles dive out of the sky to attack the Nazgûl.
  • The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey: A choir sung in Quenya (one of the two Elvish languages created by J. R. R. Tolkien) is briefly heard when Thranduil pays homage to Thrór.
    [Nin]quë silë misë nár (A white fire shines within her)
    Nóna sil[më] anda[né] (The light of a star, born long ago)
  • Parodied during Ted and Elaine's big kiss scene at the end of Airplane!, where the choir goes horribly out of tune.
  • 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 incomprehensible.
  • 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.
  • Star Trek
    • Star Trek (2009): Has 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.
    • Heard in Star Trek Beyond to accompany the grandeur of Starbase Yorktown.
  • Titanic (1997) 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.
  • The Blues Brothers: Jake hears a disembodied choir when he "sees the light".
  • Blues Brothers 2000: 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.
  • Much of the score to Jacob's Ladder incorporates this, in addition to a crossover between Buddhist chanting and a muezzin's call to prayer.

    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 Hebrew Chanting. Notable at the end of "Gridlock", when the population of New Earth sings an A Cappella version of Abide with Me.
  • House of the Dragon: Several of young Rhaneyra's themes have Daenerys' "aaah-aaah" choir.
  • 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"
  • The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power makes use of it in several scores.
    • "A plea to the rocks" sounds melancholic in the beginning before moving to Disa's One-Woman Wail.
    • "True Creation Requires Sacrifice" choir in the beginning reflects Galadriel's broken heart.
  • Part of the theme song in Power Rangers Zeo.
    Zee-o goooo, Zeee-oooo!
  • Star Trek: Picard: In "Absolute Candor", when the Qowat Milat, a monastic order, is first introduced, we briefly hear a choir. It's part of the track called "Happier Times".
  • 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.

  • A staple of Danny Elfman's work.
  • Gustav Holst's Planets ends with the composition "Neptune", where 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" from Let It Bleed is sung 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 The Golden Age Of Leather from Spectres, 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)
  • Björk: Beautifully done in a piece like "Sonnets/Unrealities XI" and "Pleasure Is All Mine" and BREATHTAKINGLY done in "Who Is It (Choir Mix)", all from Music/{{Medulla}.
  • Theme From Flood" from Flood by They Might Be Giants also starts off with a male and female choir singing the "theme" song" of the album.
  • "The Valleys" by Electrelane from the album "The Power Out" is sang by a male and female choir to the lyrics of a poem by Siegfried Sassoon.
  • "I Robot", "Breakdown" and "Total Eclipse" from The Alan Parsons Project I, Robot are accompanied by heavenly chanting.
  • For your consideration: Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky's Hymn of the Cherubim.
  • Tribal choir sounds are used in some progressive trance songs to great effect, namely Prelude by Above & Beyond, Kuaga by Pierce Fulton and Napier by Rolo Green.
  • Used frequently by Nigel Stanford. Example.
  • The first ballad of Clamavi de Profundis's Chieftain saga, "Strong", has two segments: the lament of the women who sang their farewells to their loved ones, and the Latin chant sung by the monks as the Vikings arrive to plunder their monastery. Both serve as a contrast to the Vikings' powerful battle cries.

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

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

  • Dreamgirls has a reoccurring chorus that chants "Showbiz, it's just showbiz" often to demonstrate that something behind the scenes has happened, 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 that 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.
  • Cirque du Soleil:
  • 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."
  • The title character in Iolanthe revealing her identity to her mortal husband is accompanied by a chorus of other fairies singing "Aiaiah! Willaloo!" in the eeriest manner possible.
  • In Puccini's operatic version of The Girl of the Golden West, a distant male chorus hums along to Minnie's Leitmotif at the end of the first act as Johnson tells her that she has the face of an angel.
  • In Ralph Vaughan Williams's version of The Pilgrim's Progress, the anguished wordless harmonies of a Chorus of Doleful Creatures accompany the scene with Apollyon. (Apollyon's voice is amplified through a megaphone to be heard over them.)

    Video Games 

  • 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 
  • Broken Saints: In a number of pieces. Some of the pieces are original music, some are classical works, some alternate with Ominous Latin Chanting, and one of them does include a One-Woman Wail.
  • The World of Playboy channel on YouTube interviewed nine women who were getting their nipples pierced on Melrose Avenue. An all-female chorus starts in as the subjects lie supine on the table, and underscores both the moment of perforation, and the subsequent cool-down. The chorus tends to sing pianissimo for those women that take it well, and fortissimo for those women that yowl.
  • RPC Authority, Log 187 describes a choir of angels announcing the arrival of RPC-919, a space toast which tastes disappointedly average.

    Web Video 
  • CGP Grey: In "Grey Grades the State Flags", the first ten out of eleven state flags Grey grades are dominated by blue backgrounds (the exception is California's, which he fails for writing out the state's name on the flag and having a bear that looks scared on it) and all but two of them are consigned to F-tier for egregious violations of good flag designnote . In despondency he calls out whether anyone made a flag that wasn't blue. Cue the choir as New Mexico's flag of the Zia people's sun colored red on gold background (a nod to the state's Spanish heritage) steps up, which Grey finds enchanting and it becomes one of only four flags he rates as S-tier.

    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.
  • The Dazzlings' leitmotif in My Little Pony: Equestria Girls – Rainbow Rocks. They even weaponize it during their final battle with the Rainbooms.
  • The SpongeBob B.C. special has this during an Overly-Long Gag where SpongeGar is coming to a realization, using quick cuts to him, the fire and some flowers while we hear a choir. This is lampshaded when the scene briefly cuts to a live-action barbershop quartet harmonizing.
  • An episode of Animaniacs illuminates the local candy store with heavenly rays and an Ethereal Choir when the Warner Brothers (and the Warner Sister) set eyes on it. Immediately lampshaded by Yakko:
    Yakko: Someday I'm gonna find those singers...
  • In the classic Disney short, "The Old Mill", the howling wind that can be heard just before the big storm begins (and at one point, during the storm) is portrayed as being this.
  • Happens in almost every episode of Phineas and Ferb whenever Phineas says "I know what we're gonna do today".
  • In the French cartoon Clémentine, every time the Guardian Angel of the main character appears to save her from the Big Bad, a serene angelic choir sounds in the background.

Alternative Title(s): Ethereal Chorus


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