Heartrending a cappella covers are nothing new for Peter Hollens’ YouTube channel, which, at 1.4 million subscribers strong, features the 36-year-old Oregon native belting out full-scale productions with all sounds derived by human voices. But Hollens, who recently launched an ongoing Patreon campaign to help up the production quality and consistency of his releases, calls his latest video one of the most special yet.
The video, a cover of the folk song Homeward Bound featuring more than 300 high school choir students, was created in loving memory of a young member of the choir, Io Korol, who recently passed away. Hollens explains in a coda to the video that he asked his friend, the choral director Megan Perdue, if her students might be interested in appearing in the video with him — only to discover that Homeward Bound happened to be Korol’s favorite song.
“It ended up being a video that had so much more meaning, which is why this song and video is dedicated to her,” Hollens, near tears, explains. “Too many people spend life focusing on disappointment and fear and hate — especially this time of year. Just celebrate love and celebrate life and tell those around you that you love them.”
In addition to his powerful cover work, Hollens is also an advocate for the proliferation of online music — at a time when many artists and labels are waging a battle against YouTube. “I make a great six-figure living because of my amazing community online,” Hollens told NPR last week. “I’m able to do it because I believe that the future of music is one in which it goes hand-in-hand with technology.”
Grab some tissues and check out the video for Homeward Bound below: