Let Them Not Say
Christopher Hutchings



For SSAATTBB choir (minimum 8 singers, but could also be performed by a larger choir)

"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 (watch at, and was also performed by Ember Choral Arts in New York and New Jersey in May 2022, with the UK premiere being given by Kantos in Manchester 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 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.

Instrumentation Genre Vocal
Tag choir
Collaboration details Jane Hirshfield - poet
Duration 5 minutes

Performances of this work

Date Venue Performer Link
Kantos Chamber Choir - In Beauty May I Walk
Stoller Hall, Chetham's School of Music, Manchester, England, UK Book tickets here

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