In January 2019, the Maine Science Festival (MSF) commissioned Lucas Richman to craft a new musical work to serve as a catalyst for public awareness and community discussion regarding climate change in the Gulf of Maine and its destructive impact on the Eastern Seaboard of the United States. The Warming Sea, for women’s chorus, children’s chorus and orchestra, is the result of a rich collaboration between the scientific and artistic communities of Maine.
The fact is that the Gulf of Maine is warming faster than 99% of all the world’s oceans so Kate Dickerson, MSF Founder and Director, arranged a series of discussions between Mr. Richman, numerous scientists and town managers by which he might learn about their work as they focus on the ravages of climate change upon the environment. Multiple outreach visits were also made to middle school classes for the purposes of discussing climate science and the process of composing a new symphonic work. The prevailing message gleaned from these visits was that the students wished the piece might inspire hope for their generation and future generations. This understanding became the basis for the message sung by the children as an anthem in the final moments of the work: “Hope begins with Truth.”
In the work, the women’s chorus takes on the role of the mythological Sirens, luring unwitting sailors to their deaths on the rocks. In the context of The Warming Sea however, the Sirens sing as climate change deniers whose alluring messages of complacency ensure an ultimate doom to those who listen. The Sirens sing these words in Greek, the language of the myth’s origin, and, with a contrary polarization of the “Truth,” their melody is the direct pitch inversion of the children’s anthem.
The central section of the work is two hundred measures in length in recognition of the State of Maine’s Bicentennial celebration (2020). Every bar in this section represents a year of temperature variance in the Gulf of Maine (1820-2019) with the variances informing each measure’s pitch center. Certain historic events are illustrated musically in this progressive march of the years, including the introduction of the foghorn in 1859, 1938’s first peer-reviewed research paper on climate change and, as the music builds in volume and rhythmic speed, the advent of the present millennium. Blasting forward into 2020, all the musical elements come to a full collision of forces as clanging harbor bells foreshadow the children’s appeal for hope. Both choruses join together for the final message, peering into the future with uncertainty as the work concludes upon the same unresolved chord with which the piece begins.
The concluding anthem, “Hope Begins With Truth” for children’s chorus, women’s chorus and orchestra, charges today’s global population with the responsibility of enacting change based upon the undeniable truths presented in climate science in order for there to be hope for generations to come.
The world premiere (originally scheduled for March 23, 2020 but postponed due to the pandemic) took place on March 19, 2022.