• Rachel Portman
  • The Water Diviner's Tale (2007)

  • Chester Music Ltd (World)
  • 2.2(ca)2(bcl)2(cbn)/4131/2perc.timp/pf/str
  • Youth choir
  • soprano, mezzo-soprano, tenor, baritone, bass
  • 54 min

Programme Note

A 60 minute dramatic choral work for children’s chorus, youth choir*, five professional soloists, orchestra and narrator.
*This can be an all ages choir if preferred.

A chance for children and amateur choirs to come and sing with professionals in an inspiring and moving work which explores what is happening to our world as a result of climate change. A group of 25–40 children enact the story through song with the help of 5 soloists and a narrator (spoken), supported by youth chorus and orchestra.

If required, we can provide an experienced team of vocal musical coaches for the 40 children. The children themselves can make their own costumes.


The sounds of a terrible storm filter through into the auditorium. Everyone is sheltering from a massive natural disaster outside. Forty Lost Children enter, weaving through the audience. They sing of the storm that has taken away their homes and families, flooding the city, sending cars and trees flying through the sky.

The Water Diviner, a tall man carrying a staff, enters the auditorium and walks among the Lost Children. He tells them that their individual cries for help will never be heard, that their individual voices will always be lost in the crowd. He tells them to gather together, so their parents can find them.

Encouraged, the Lost Children gather around, asking the Water Diviner to answer their questions: why is all this happening? The Water Diviner is caught off-guard by the children’s questioning. He searches for an answer before admitting: ‘Because I have failed’.

Now it is the children’s turn to be surprised. They were looking for answers, now they are confused. The Water Diviner, frustrated and agitated, continues with a list of human habits and behaviours which have brought on this disaster. Then, realising his duty to these lost children the Water Diviner speaks more warmly, explaining that he is a man who follows the stories of water around the world, and that he has been telling these stories to the leaders of people, to warn them about the danger of a world out of balance. But the leaders have not listened, and now he fears it is too late.

The children tell the Water Diviner that they will listen to his stories. An idea strikes him and, waving his staff, he puts them into a deep sleep before calling forth the Weather Forecaster, a goddess of weather prophecy. She taunts the Water Diviner, telling him he is too late to change the future with his stories. To prove her point, she sings her ‘Elegy for all that shall be Lost’. She finishes by warning him that if nothing changes, the children before him will also be lost. With such high stakes the Water Diviner knows he must try again.

Re-animating the Lost Children, he begins his tale… He tells the story of a young boy who once lived on a beautiful world. One day, however, this young boy heard another song beneath the ‘Song of Natural Harmony’. It was the ‘Song of the Promises of Fossil Fuel’. The adult ensemble—representing Oil, Coal and Gas—sing of the amazing benefits they can bring if they are released. The boy’s ability to hear the song of fuel attracts Scientists and Businessmen, who sing about how they could harness fuel’s promises. They make the promises of oil, coal and gas come true and for those who can afford it life becomes brighter, faster and longer. Everyone sings the ‘Song of Consumption’, a mechanised echo of the earlier ‘Song of Natural Harmony’.

In time, however, the boy begins to hear other voices—the stories of water, which get louder and louder, and stranger and stranger, until he decides to follow them. He travels to the North and hears about melting glaciers and ice shelves falling into the sea. Then he travels East and hears about rising sea levels. Next he travels South and hears about drought.

One of the children confronts the Water Diviner. This boy in the story was actually the Water Diviner, wasn’t it? And the world that lost its harmony is the children’s world. The Water Diviner admits this is true. The child asks him if he still thinks it is too late to change the future. The Water Diviner says ‘yes’. The Lost Children say ‘No!’ Reminding him how he once told them ‘one voice in the crowd will always be lost’, they say they will help him tell his stories.

The Water Diviner sees a glimmer of hope. He calls forth the Weather Forecaster again and asks her to sing her ‘Elegy for all that shall be lost’. She sings the introduction, but when she comes to the list of what we will lose, she can find no words…The promise the children have made to tell the Water Diviner’s stories have changed the future. The children take over the Forecaster’s song, changing the previous list of all that shall be lost to all that can be done to turnaround climate change – wind power, solar panels, alternative fuels.

The Water Diviner accepts the children’s offer of help, but asks where to begin? The children tell him with promises made here, now, in this auditorium. The Water Diviner takes tells the children they are not lost anymore. It was their parents who were lost. Go and find them, he says, and tell them the stories of water. The Water Diviner leaves the auditorium as the Lost Children sing their ‘Song of Promises’.

Rachel Portman – Composer
“This is a piece for our time. The music gives an emotional voice to the science behind climate change while seeking to inspire both performers and the audience to question our relationship with the earth.”

Owen Sheers – Librettist
The Water Diviner’s Tale is an attempt to evoke the emotional questions and human dilemmas surrounding one of the most vital challenge of our age — carbon induced climate change. The children involved, while learning through rehearsal and performance, come to embody an idea of ‘Promise’ in both senses of the word: as making a pledge and presenting themselves as the hopeful solution. This is a crucial piece of musical performance which deserves, and more importantly, needs to be heard now. That it is told through the voices of the children who will inherit the mistakes of their parents makes the piece particularly powerful.”

Denni Sayers – Director of Original Production
The Water Diviner’s Tale gives its young cast the opportunity to learn whilst having great fun. They develop their music, acting and dancing skills whilst exploring vital environmental issues. Their perspective on the world is broadened as they empathise and tell the stories of far flung places and peoples affected by climate change, and the associated water crises. At the same time they are learning how to communicate, collaborate and co-operate with each other. Performing the piece builds their self-confidence and empowers them to speak out about the environmental concerns shaping their world.”