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For choir, horn, and string ensemble.

‘There Will Come Soft Rains’ by Sara Teasdale imagines a time when mankind has perished though war. The poem uses evocative, gentle images of nature — swallows circling, frogs singing in pools, wild plum trees in bloom — where worldly struggles pale into insignificance and nature reclaims the earth.

My setting of the text, scored for choir, horns, and string ensemble, seeks to create a sound world that captures that serene, idealistic, reverent depiction of the beauty of nature, whilst placing it in conflict with the undertones of tragedy and struggle that pervade throughout. This is particularly notable in the use of modern horns to produce non-tempered natural harmonics — setting just-intoned pitches and overtones in conflict with the equal tempered ensemble.

The piece opens on a misty soundscape: warm, close dissonances in the strings blurring with resonant harmonics in just-intoned horns. The voices enter onto this 'shimmering sound’, entirely exposed, ruminating on the close major and minor seconds that pervade the opening. The opening lines are sung softly and simply, like the reciting of something sacred. The bringing out of the sibilance of ’s’ sounds in the text are joined by the shimmer of the flautando strings and beating of close overtones in the horns.

The motivic progression evolves organically through the second stanza, before taking a change of mood in the third, acknowledging the introduction of war imagery in the poem. The buzz of stopped horns, the agitated, sporadic outbursts in the strings, and the aggressive dissonances on the singing of ‘fence wire’ all accentuate this growing tension and urgency.

The first time we hear “And no one will know” (of the war), the line is overruled by the lower voices reviving fragments of earlier text, rhyming couplets now thrown closer together: natural imagery takes over — we do not know what “no one will know”, for the answer is lost in the soft rains and overgrown trees in bloom.

On a sudden moment of clarity, where voices close to a hum, we finally hear the completion of the line, “And no one will know of the war”. The setting does not depart from established soundscape; is it with the same simplicity and serene detachment as the very opening “There will come soft rains”. A surging climax dissipates as suddenly as it appears, and we are left with a solo soprano singing the most stark and devastating of lines: “Not one would mind, neither bird nor tree | If mankind perished utterly”. The other voices are subdued — already silenced, perhaps — but they open out for one wordless, cry, on the climax of ‘perished’.

The sopranos then ascend and dissolve into long melismas, whilst the rest of the choir sing in unison of Spring herself “scarcely knowing that we were gone”. Strings fade into nothing, the horns return to variations on the opening just-intoned second, cool and dispassionate as the voices echo the final line, until they too are gone — fading to silence from a unison G.

This work is therefore as the poem: an elegy on peace after war, rebirth after death, and the simultaneous tragedy of a bleak future of human struggle versus the comfort that the world and its beauty will recover from horrific events, and continue to flourish long after we are gone.

© 2017 Lara Weaver


Horn 1: James Liley

Horn 2: Elizabeth Nightingale

Sopranos: Carys Brown, Isabelle Tett

Altos: Joanna Ward, Natalie Jobbins

Tenors: Edan Umbragar, Louis Watkins

Basses: Matthew Gibson, Trojan Nakade

Violin 1: James Jones

Violin 2: Anahita Falaki

Viola: Seleni Sewart

Cello: Laura van der Heijden

Cello 2: Kai Konishi-Dukes

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There will come soft rains

There will come soft rains and the smell of the ground,
And swallows circling with their shimmering sound;

And frogs in the pools singing at night,
And wild plum trees in tremulous white;

Robins will wear their feathery fire,
Whistling their whims on a low fence-wire;

And not one will know of the war, not one
Will care at last when it is done.

Not one would mind, neither bird nor tree,
If mankind perished utterly;

And Spring herself, when she woke at dawn
Would scarcely know that we were gone.

Sara Teasdale


Any enquiries for scores or commissions can be addressed by contacting Lara directly via the contact form below.


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