Raising a Voice, using choral singing to challenge climate culture thinking

Principal Investigator: Toby Young
Research Team: Prof James Longhurst; Dr Alix Dietzel; Dr Maia Mackney
Project DatesSeptember 2021 – September 2022

Supported by the Natural Environment Research Council

Project Aims

Raise a Voice is an innovative music-based project that uses choral singing to challenge how we think about climate culture. The project will centre around a new 25-minute choral composition for adult and youth choirs to perform together, that celebrates ways that humankind benefits from the natural world whilst challenging listeners with the reality of what we risk losing from climate change. Songs from the songbook will be written in collaboration with environmental researchers and policy makers, and highlight multiple aspects of the climate emergency, with accompanying material such as programme notes and pre- concert talks acting as a catalyst for discussion and education. By focussing on the accessible practice of choral singing as a means of drawing together communities, this project seeks to foster dialogues around climate change, sustainability, and climate justice that: i) cross boundaries of age, gender and ethnicity; ii) challenge the assumptions we make about which voices to listen to on climate change; iii) help unite communities in solidarity around this topic, and; iv) emotionally engage both performers and audiences to think about what we stand to gain through positive eco-action. 

Project Context

Bristol is known for environmental activism and championing of the natural world, but as recent research shows it can be exclusionary with how it engages young and socially diverse voices in climate discussion. This project focus on choral music’s potential for engaging marginalised groups in these conversations, bringing together adult and youth choirs from multiple areas of Bristol and facilitating pathways for their engagement with climate research. Group singing has been shown to be a highly effective framework for the induction of new ideas and beliefs through: i) the singing of music and lyrics, ii) discussions during the learning process, and iii) informal conversations in rehearsal breaks. By developing a partnership between Bristol-based climate researchers and local community choirs, this project aims to capitalise on choral music’s ability to facilitate the encountering, embodying, and sharing of complex scientific and emotional ideas, and provide a platform for further communication with wider audiences around the country.