I read somewhere recently that music flowed from Franz Schubert’s pen as naturally as rain falls from the clouds. Such a fitting analogy. Not just because he was one of the most prolific composers in history, but also because he used rain and water so often in his lieder (poetry written by others that he set to music). He’s not the only one, of course. Claude Debussy created many works about rain, water and the ocean. Czech composer Bedrich Smetana found his inspiration to compose The Moldau by following the course of the river from its birth out of a spring in the mountains, babbling through the countryside and eventually cutting a wide swath through Prague as the Vltava. The sound of raindrops plopping and forming rivulets, streams flowing and rivers raging have inspired many composers and songwriters throughout history.
Lucky us, because right now the State of Jefferson could use a little more rain (okay, a lot more rain), even though as I write this (on the 4th of March), the entire listening area has been suffering from a week long downpour that seems as if it’s never going to let up. But Lake Shasta still looks pretty empty to me, and both of our listening area’s ski resorts (Mt Shasta and Mt Ashland) have had to help their season pass holders find alternate ways to get some life out of their passes because this year’s been a total bust. And you may have heard that the governor of California declared a statewide drought emergency, in the middle of winter. This means that many farmers in the listening area are set to receive zero water allocations this year. That could spell disaster for the region’s crops.
There’s always a chance that by the time you read this, around the first week of April, that the State of Jefferson’s thirst may be quenched. Perhaps that rain never let up. There’s a distinct possibility that you could be reading this as you kick back on the relaxing ride up the chairlift to the slopes, and that down at lower elevations, my husband has carved an ark out of the giant Spruce in my front yard, and has been rowing me back and forth to work every day for the past 3 weeks. There’s always that chance. Now right about now you might be thinking, I coulda sworn this column was supposed to be about music. And you’d be right. I swear, I’m getting to it. Just humor me for one more paragraph.
I thought that perhaps Mother Nature just needs a little boost. That maybe we could all get together and focus on encouraging a bit more rain to fall this spring, to bring us the inches of precipitation we could all benefit from. Whether you’re a fan of playing on the slopes, playing on the river, or a locavore who prefers eating vegetables and fruits grown in the State of Jefferson instead of a hothouse in Mexico, I think we can all agree that focusing on a bit more rain couldn’t really hurt right now (unless you live in a flood zone).
It’s with that thought in mind that I offer up to you some songs inspired by rain and it’s byproduct (streams and rivers, floods and oceans) to meditate upon, with thoughts of quenching the thirst of the ground we depend upon to bring us nutrition, recreation and beautiful greenery for appreciation during the next year. Join me, if you will, in a musical raindance.
Classical fans, if you’re starving for some great classical music with water themes, feast on this:
Bedrich Smetana - Vltava from Ma Vlast
Edvard Grieg - Spring Rain (from 6 Songs for Voice & Piano)
Frederic Chopin - Raindrop Prelude, Op. 28 No. 15
Claude Debussy - Gardens In The Rain
Franz Schubert - Danksagung an den Bach (Giving Thanks to the Brook)
Gerald Finzi - Clear & Gentle Stream
Johannes Brahms - Violin Sonata No. 1, The Rain Sonata
Duke Ellington The River Suite
Maurice Ravel - Jeaux d’eaux (Water Games)
Claude Debussy - Reflets dans l’eau (Reflections In Water)
George Frederic Handel - Water Music
Leo Brouwer - Cuban Landscape with Rain
Ronald Binge - The Watermill
Franz Schubert - Am Strome (By The Stream)
Claude Debussy - Le Jet D’Eau (The Water Fountain)
For those who normally tune in to the Rhythm & News Service, you might find this selection of songs as satisfying as a tall glass of water on a hot summer day:
Buddy Guy with Bonnie Raitt - Feels Like Rain
Regina Spektor - Raindrops
Martin Sexton - Fall Like Rain
Led Zeppelin - The Rain Song
Old Time Machine - Pouring Rain
The Rescues - Can’t Stand The Rain
Trevor Hall - Good Rain
The Decemberists - Raincoat Song
Hugh Laurie - Didn’t It Rain
Sting - After The Rain Has Fallen
Coldplay - Rainy Day
XTC - Ballet For A Rainy Day
Leftover Salmon - Light Behind The Rain
The Beatles - Rain
Seal - I Can’t Stand The Rain
If this has whetted your appetite for more, please tune in to JPR on Friday, April 4th for a special day dedicated musically to H2O on Jefferson Public Radio. I’ll shower listeners with many of the pieces from the Classical list during Siskiyou Music Hall on the Classics & News Service. The same day, Paul Gerardi will sprinkle selections from the Rhythm list into the morning section of Open Air on the Rhythm & News Service.
Valerie Ing is the Northern California Program Coordinator for JPR, and can be heard weekday afternoons hosting Siskiyou Music Hall on the Classics & News Service from our Redding, California studios. Although Valerie has been the host of a classical music program for over a decade, her musical taste extends far beyond the genre. She’s always got a song in her head, and can often be found singing along to new wave hits from the ’80s, or belting out jazz standards.