Half-Earth Day: EarthX, Dallas Symphony Orchestra to present multimedia performance about climate change

Image of Julie Benichou conducting the Way of the Rain.

On October 22nd, Half-Earth Day, the Dallas Symphony Orchestra and EarthX Film will present the U.S. premiere of The Way of the Rain – Hope for Earth, a multidisciplinary environmental performance created for orchestra, chorus, film, art, and with a special narration by Robert Redford.

Conceived by environmental artist Sibylle Szaggars Redford who collaborated with world-renowned artists Music Composer Tim Janis and Performance Film Artist Floyd Thomas McBee to create a piece that illustrates crucial environmental dilemmas through performance art. The Dallas Symphony Orchestra will be conducted by Julien Benichou. The performance is one of three days of events in celebration of Half-Earth Day by EarthX. Learn more.

More below from Dallas Morning News (October 7)

“The Way of the Rain” blends music, spoken word and more to propel its scientific message

From droplets sliding down a car window to torrential summer showers, rain makes quite the splash in our everyday lives. This month, it’ll serve as the centerpiece to an audiovisual performance for Half-Earth Day with an urgent message at its core.

Later this month, EarthX and the Dallas Symphony Orchestra will present “The Way of the Rain – Hope For Earth” at the Morton H. Meyerson Symphony Center. The Oct. 22 performance will combine visuals, music, spoken word and more to express the beauty and fragility of planet Earth as a result of climate change.

“I believe that to create long-term, sustainable change, then we have to go beyond preaching to the choir,” said Michael Cain, President of M3 Films and producer for the show on behalf of EarthX. “We’ve got to find ways to excite and motivate people to take this messaging in.”

“The Way of the Rain” is the brainchild of Sibylle Szaggars Redford, who has been an artist for almost four decades. After moving to northern New Mexico, Redford was inspired by the annual monsoon rains and created a series of watercolor paintings based on the showers. She envisioned a stage presentation based on the paintings.

Image of Julie Benichou conducting the Way of the Rain.

Julien Benichou leading an Oct. 29, 2021 performance of ‘The Way of the Rain — Hope for Earth’ at the Grimaldi Forum in Monaco.(Karsten Staiger Photography)

“After some periods of severe droughts, I realized how precious these rain showers have become,” she said via email. “My instinct guided me to honor every single raindrop, and create this collaboration with natural rainfall.”

Redford and her production team, including film collaborator Floyd Thomas McBee and composer Tim Janis, spent a summer researching the formation of the universe and the birth of planet Earth. Redford created “The Way of the Rain” based on the past and present of rain: its intergalactic origins, all the way to the rain showers of the present day.

Audience members will hear music from the Dallas Symphony Orchestra and Dallas Symphony Children’s Chorus, in-person spoken word narration from actor Robert Redford, who is Sibylle Szaggars Redford’s husband, and more. The music and narration will be paired with vibrant visuals that include fiery volcanoes and the Big Bang.

The Dallas debut of “The Way of the Rain” has been several years in the making. The performance was initially planned for the 50th anniversary of Earth Day in 2020, but was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Cain and the EarthX team wanted to revive it, but were in need of a venue.

Cain met with Laree Hulshoff and Kim Noltemy, the Dallas Symphony Association’s President and CEO, to see whether the project would be of interest for the DSO. Noltemy said it sounded fascinating, but there was one problem. The EarthX team wanted to present the performance on Half-Earth Day, a celebration of the planet in advance of April 22′s Earth Day.

The Morton H. Meyerson Center was normally booked at least a year in advance. But in a stroke of luck, an event booked at the hall for Oct. 22 ended up getting the date moved, and Noltemy was able to schedule the DSO for the performance. “It’s nothing short of serendipity,” she said.

While the performance captures nature’s beauty and uniqueness, it includes another message: a warning about the danger that climate change poses to humankind.

Image of Robert Redford.

The Way of the Rain, featuring Robert Redford.

It’s a message that can be challenging to get people on board with, said Chris Chu, an assistant professor at the University of Florida whose research includes climate change messaging.

Chu, who isn’t involved with the performance, said climate change can be a polarizing topic to discuss based on people’s pre-existing beliefs, but art can help break through using a powerful tool: narrative.

“We, as human beings, are natural storytellers,” Chu said. “So when people [are] told stories about climate change, it’s easier for them to form some more concrete understanding of the phenomenon.”

Storytelling can immerse the listener in a performance, making it easier to relate to a nuanced topic. Cain said the music in “The Way of the Rain” strikes an emotional chord, allowing audience members to do just that.

“Really great change always happens when people feel something, when people are moved,” he said. “And I do believe that music in particular moves people, probably more than any other art form.”

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