Thanks to generous funding from Climate Fringe Scotland, we are able to hold a come-and-sing event! This will take place on Sunday 18th September, 2-4pm, in the Charteris Centre, Pleasance Edinburgh EH8 9RR. You don’t have to be a great singer, we just want people who are enthusiastic about climate campaigning and music!
Here’s a selection of the music we’ll be singing (subject to change): songs of warning, protest, solutions and hope. All music will be sent out in advance, with links to recordings so you can learn by singing along.
Email me if you’d be interested in performing this. For 2-part choir and piano, optional divisi to 4 parts. This is a somewhat dark and angry piece and might not be suitable for very young singers.
If you prefer a lower version, here’s the Dm score. (Email me for a recording of the Dm version.)
Complete lyrics (if you’re getting bored of the spoken bit, skip to about 1 minute in):
[SPOKEN] The Amazon has been called the lungs of the world. It has between 200 billion and 400 billion trees. Every day, about 10,000 acres are cut down. Every year, about a billion trees are lost. It’s estimated that the Amazon cannot possibly survive if it loses 25% of its trees. But it might be less than that. We don’t know where the tipping point is. When the lungs of the world stop breathing, will we blame it on the axe that cut down the last tree? Or the man who swung the axe? Or on the boss who gave the order? Or the people who bought their products and drove their profits? Or the laws that encouraged the corporations to make a profit at all costs? Or the governments that didn’t make any rules to stop them? [SUNG] All the rules say that it doesn’t really matter if the last tree dies All the rules say it’s OK to poison rivers if your profits rise When the fish are dead and the streams won’t flow The polluters shrug and say well, you know, It’s within the rules: do they take us all for fools? When the last drop of water’s gone and the crops and the harvest fail who’s to blame? When the last living tree is felled And we see that the forest’s gone Is the axe to blame? Or the man who wields the axe? Or the man who owns the land? Or the man who sold the tree? Or the man who bought the logs? But it’s all within the law that says it’s okay, profit’s good, chop the tree, sell the wood, plough the land, feed the cows, eat the steak, enjoy it now… All the rules say you can keep on taking water till the well runs dry All the rules say there’s a fine but you can pay it when your stocks get high If there’s profit made for a corporation Then the boss won’t care ’bout deforestation And we know they’re fools, but it’s not against the rules It’s in the rules… Under the North Sea there is an oil field And if the sale of drilling rights go through It’ll make a twenty billion dollar profit And about a billion tonnes of CO2 When the atmosphere traps the heat When the ice on the mountain melts Who’s to blame? When the water begins to rise When the cities begin to flood Is the sea to blame? Or the heat that melts the ice? Or the gas that traps the heat? Or the car that burned the fuel? Or the men who drilled the well? But it’s all within the law that says it’s okay, drill the well, get the oil, time to sell, just a little CO2, one degree or maybe two (three, four, five…) All the rules say you can keep on burning oil until the sky’s aflame All the rules say that the companies and governments are not to blame When the seas rise up and the buildings fall And an angry planet comes to call You can’t hide behind the rules We won’t care about the rules Who’s to blame? (x6) Are we to blame?
A new piece by Chris Hutchings, written to explain why we think singing can change the world. The third verse can be rewritten to suit whatever cause you are singing about; in the first version below, it is to be sung as part of a concert campaigning to make ecocide (ecological destruction) a crime. It’s for 2-part choir with piano, and is hopefully easy enough to be sung by most children’s choirs.
Just one voice can start the singing, Stories grow with ev’ry word, No-one is too small to matter: Raise your voice, you will be heard. So ev’ry day, we make a small advance, and the snowflakes build to make an avalanche… That’s why we sing about the change we want to see, And when we do, we hope that all will hear, And a melody that we all sing together can send our message loud and clear, We’ll sing it without fear.
When we join to sing together We add up to so much more. Ev’ryone can make a diff’rence, Raise your voice and let it soar. And if we fall, we know we’ll rise again, and a butterfly can start a hurricane, can start a hurricane… And so we sing about the world we want to see, And when we look, we see it waiting there, And the harmony that binds us all together will send our message through the air, We’ll sing it ev’rywhere.
Here and now we want to tell you Of a law to help the Earth, No more profits from destruction, Recognise what nature’s worth. We’ll start today, and build on what we have, and a ripple soon becomes a tidal wave… Today we sing to make the change we want to see, A fairer world to which we can aspire, And a song that we all join to sing together will blaze our message like a fire, We’ll sing it as a choir, we’ll sing it as a choir!
(The section in italics can be rewritten to suit your own cause or campaign.)
Suggested “neutral” version, or feel free to write your own:
With our music we can show you Human life in all its range; When a story sings within you, Hearts can grow, and minds can change. We’ll get on stage, and be a little brave, And a ripple soon becomes a tidal wave…
Love Soul Choir is an auditioned choir of 140 members and has been running since 2009. In 2019, I decided the make the choir paper-free. This ended up being the first step of what came to be known as our ‘Going Green’ initiative. Since its inception, Love Soul Choir has had an online members area where song content and additional tips can be accessed by members of the choir. This members only area has always featured the lyrics of songs that we were learning at any given time.
I am lucky that the demographic of my choir is very ‘tech-ready’ which meant that when I announced that we were becoming paper-free, it was a reasonably easy thing for members to adopt. To be fair, most were already accessing the content online as opposed to printing lyrics anyway – it was now more of an official request.
For those singers who weren’t quite as au-fait with the technology, I created a safe space where they were encouraged to find a way to make it work. It was more about managing change than it was a resistance to the cause. Peers supported those that found it a little tricky but this really was the minority. Most members totally understood the reasons behind the change and fully adopted it. It now means we have no paper, and no plastic folders full of lyrics either.
The paper-free angle is not just for members of the choir; as a choir leader, I believe it’s important to lead the way and I have adopted a paper-free approach to the whole way that I run the choir. I ensure everything I need to do remains digital.
This first step was so well received that in 2020, I developed our ‘Going Green’ initiative. As a leader of a community, I think it’s vital that I educate and encourage my members to become aware about the impact of the climate emergency. Each month (from January 2020), for each member of the choir, I donate £2 to the Trillion Trees project. Trillion Trees is a joint venture between BirdLife International, Wildlife Conservation Society & WWF. These organisations came together to urgently speed up and scale up the positive power of forests, helping protect and restore forests to achieve one trillion trees by 2050, for the benefit of people, nature and a stable climate.
Each month, I update my choir members with the amount we have given and in this email I include a small tip or a bit of information about a specific topic. So far we have covered diet, plastic water bottles & renewable energy. This small piece of education goes a long way – members of the choir don’t use plastic water bottles anymore and I know a few members (off the back of an email) have changed their home energy provider to a more renewable provider. For me, small changes individually make a bigger impact collectively.
On 24th June 2021 Music Declares Emergency presented Choirs Addressing Climate Change, a panel for choir leaders and participants discussing issues around the Climate Emergency & plans for COP. Panelists: Aubrey Meyer – Climate campaigner & musician; Ben See – Choir Leader and Composer; Chris Hutchings – Composer & Founder #ChoirsForClimate; Naala – Vocal Artist; Naveen Arles – Vocal Leader; Nina Vinther – Singer & Environmental Campaigner. Watch the recording below or click here to watch on YouTube.
Mass for the Endangered is a hymn for the voiceless and the discounted, a requiem for the not-yet-gone. Using original text by writer, visual artist, and musician, Nathaniel Bellows, in combination with the traditional Latin, Mass for the Endangered embodies a prayer for endangered animals and the environments in which they live. Written for SATB choir and twelve instruments, the five-movement piece appeals for parity, compassion, and protection, from a mindset — a malignance or apathy — that threatens to destroy the planet we all are meant to share. — Sarah Kirkland Snider
Movements I. Kyrie II. Gloria III. Alleluia IV. Credo (on a ground by Caroline Shaw) V. Sanctus/Benedictus VI. Agnus Dei
The piece is for SATB choir accompanied by chamber orchestra (fl, ob, cl, bn, perc, hp, pf, 2vn, va, vc, db). Total duration 44 minutes. This is a challenging piece, but should be approachable for an amateur choir of good readers, as well as for professional choirs.
“They Can’t Put It Back” is a suite of three pieces for unaccompanied female voices (SSAA with occasional 2-part divisi) by Mary Simmons, an American composer. Skip ahead to 8 mins in the video below to hear the entire trilogy:
The piece is about environmental degradation in the Appalachian region. The trilogy features poems by three Appalachian poets: Muriel Miller Dressler, Sarah Cornet-Hagen, and Billy Edd Wheeler.
“The Appalachian region is home to one of the oldest and most biologically diverse mountain systems on the continent. Tragically, mountaintop removal mining has already destroyed more than 500 mountains encompassing more than 1 million acres of Central and Southern Appalachia. After the coal companies blast apart the mountaintops, they dump the rubble into neighboring valleys, where lie the headwaters of streams and rivers, like the Kanawha, Clinch, and Big Sandy. The exposed rock leaches heavy metals and other toxins that pose enormous health threats to the region’s plants and animals — and people.” – Appalachian Voices
To order a full score ($2 per copy of each movement or $6 per copy for all three), please contact Mary directly by email. As of May 2021, Mary has permission to release the second and third movements, but is still pursuing text permission to publish the first movement.
“Let Them Not Say” is for SSAATTBB choir, quite tricky, high ranges needed. Words by Jane Hirshfield can be found here, or below: all rights to the words are reserved, but the music is available for performance under a Creative Commons license and the words can be used as part of that. Click here to see a virtual choir video of the piece, created by the Piedmont Singers. The pitch of each phrase for the top soprano line is dictated by the global average temperature in each year since 1979, the year I was born.
If you are performing this piece, a programme note is provided below:
“Let Them Not Say”, setting a text by California-based poet Jane Hirshfield, looks at what future generations will think of our failure to tackle global warming earlier, or more effectively, than we are currently doing. Our current actions are basically a game of ‘chicken’ with global climate breakdown – nobody wants to be the first to take the full, costly, drastic action required to have a decent chance of solving the issue, so countries and companies make at best a half-hearted token effort, doing “not-enough” despite all the evidence, or even burning fossil fuels in quantities sufficient to take us over dangerous thresholds, with full knowledge of the damage it is doing, and the consequences for future generations, which are already being suffered by the poorest in the Global South.
Musically, the setting is dark and tense throughout, modulating with the use of augmented chords at the end of each verse and very seldom settling in one key. The soprano line constantly, slowly rises throughout the piece – and if you think this is symbolic of global warming, you would be right. The average pitch of each soprano phrase is dictated by the temperature since 1979, the year of the composer’s birth, and you can hear a stretch of several years when the temperature was almost constant coinciding, helpfully, with the words “we did nothing”, before the slow but inexorable rise begins again. The average temperature today is almost a degree warmer than it was in 1979, and many places have seen a much bigger rise locally, from comfortable to almost unbearable; the sopranos are given the thankless task of reflecting this, and by the end, the other singers are also wrenched up to near the limits of their vocal ranges.
The piece was recorded by the Piedmont Singers for a video released on Earth Day 2021, and was also performed by Ember Choral Arts in New York and New Jersey in May 2022, and by Kantos Choir in Manchester, UK, in June 2022. “Let Them Not Say” is part of a project called #ChoirsForClimate, releasing music and resources that choirs and singers can use for fighting against climate change, by fundraising or campaigning – see www.choirsforclimate.com for details. Many of the pieces there are released under Creative Commons licenses, including this one, and I thank Jane Hirshfield for her very kind permission to use her incredibly powerful text for it. The poem is from Jane’s collection Ledger, published by Bloodaxe Books and available from all good bookstores.
Send Lazarus – words by David Ervin, music by Chris Hutchings
Free for fundraising or other non-commercial use (including church services). For any commercial use (ticketed concerts or CD recordings, etc.), please contact Chris Hutchings for permission.
This is an SATB choir piece in the style of a spiritual (also available a tone lower for ATBarB). It’s fairly easy, with no divisi, and low ranges. There are some key changes but they are carefully voiced so as not to be overly difficult. Based on the story of the rich man and poor man in the gospel of Luke, reworked by David Ervin into a climate change parable.
If you’re performing this piece, please let us know! Tag me in a tweet (@hutchingsmusic), or send an email (link above).
If you’d like a version in a higher key, send an email and I’d be happy to arrange this. Piano or organ reduction available on request.
Oh God, send Lazarus To cool my burning tongue. Oh God send Lazarus I’ve lived too large too long. Send Lazarus Although I’ve scorned him All along…
Oh God, send Lazarus ‘Cross chasm dark and wide Oh God Send Lazarus, To ev’ry heart confide Send Lazarus To set their fateful ways aside.
But why, my friend, should they hear, Lazarus’s song? Oh why, my friend, when they’ve heard Crying for so long? Crying for so long?
They’ve heard… Moses and the prophets Ocean level’s rising And warming by the day Moses and the Prophets Flooding and tsunamis And coral reef decay Moses and the prophets Melting of the tundra Pandemic and disease Moses and the prophets fires ever burning White smoke upon the breeze And no one ever, really sees.
Moses and the prophets Hurricane destruction, With loss of human life. Moses and the Prophets, Coastal devastation, And relocation strife. Moses and the prophets Weather out of season, Drought, polluted air. Moses and the prophets Habitat depletion, Extinction and despair. And no one ever seems to care…
Oh God, send Lazarus To cool my burning tongue. Oh God, send Lazarus I’ve lived too large too long. Send Lazarus Although I’ve scorned him All along.
The origin of the words is from the Bible excerpt below:
Luke 16:19-31 New International Version (NIV): The Rich Man and Lazarus
There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and lived in luxury every day. At his gate was laid a beggar named Lazarus, covered with sores and longing to eat what fell from the rich man’s table. Even the dogs came and licked his sores. The time came when the beggar died and the angels carried him to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried. In Hades, where he was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus by his side. So he called to him, ‘Father Abraham, have pity on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in agony in this fire.’ But Abraham replied, ‘Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, while Lazarus received bad things, but now he is comforted here and you are in agony. And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been set in place, so that those who want to go from here to you cannot, nor can anyone cross over from there to us.’ He answered, ‘Then I beg you, father, send Lazarus to my family, for I have five brothers. Let him warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment.’ Abraham replied, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them listen to them.’ ‘No, father Abraham,’ he said, ‘but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.’ He said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.’”
In the story “Moses and the prophets” represents all of the warnings of scripture as a whole. I have reinterpreted it as the warnings of science. – David Erwin