First posted October 3, 2016, amended November 24, 2017
by Hugh Richards
It is a privilege of being a member of one of the larger choral societies that I get to sing in such great venue as Gloucester Cathedral and Tewkesbury Abbey. I love that sense of musical continuity that goes back centuries in such places, and it is easy to imagine that it will continue for centuries to come.
But will it? It is a mainstream opinion in institutions like the World Bank that we are currently headed for changes in the global climate system that will eventually result in coastal and port cities such as Gloucester being disrupted or abandoned due to flooding from the sea. No one can say precisely how long that would take to happen; perhaps the span of time since Handel’s ‘Messiah’ was written (274 years ago) or even shorter; certainly shorter than the age of the Cathedral.
Meanwhile, over a time span of the age of Britten’s ‘War Requiem’ (56 years – my own age), many more immediate tribulations would befall our world, with the global mean temperature likely to have increased by more than 4 °C in the absence of effective global action in the next decade or so. As one climate scientist has put it, “The difference between two and four degrees is human civilization.” Choral music is an aspect of human civilization I particularly appreciate, but not the only one!