Rain, rain, go away but first let's play a little music
We had several visitors come to Percussion Play towers yesterday. They’d come along to see and play our outdoor musical instruments and so in preparation we bought a selection of instruments out onto our sunny courtyard, ready to be admired and enjoyed. Then it started to rain, really rain and it did not stop - a right British downpour. Not a problem for the outdoor musical instruments, they’re built to withstand the elements and will produce a great sound whatever the weather, especially the rain. Let’s be honest, here in the UK we’re not exactly blessed with the sunniest of climates, in fact we are known for attracting a fair amount of rainfall pretty much all year round. So you either stay inside to avoid the showers or you face the weather full on, which is exactly what we did. We decided to defy the weather, donned some raincoats, grabbed umbrellas and went and had some creative musical fun in the rain.
In fact, with rain showers comes inspiration. The weather can undoubtedly affect our moods and is frequently portrayed in both popular and classical music. Precipitation has long been the inspiration behind many musical hits whether sad, defiant or uplifting.
Rainy days set the tone, encapsulating feelings ranging from those experienced during a romantic encounter to a broken heart. Rain songs are some of the most memorable and intensely emotional. Gene Kelly's tap-dancing, umbrella-swinging performance in the 1952 musical of the same name remains the ultimate song to raise a smile on a rainy day. In contrast, The Carpenters’ ‘Rainy Days and Mondays’ truly captures the melancholy spirit of the rain.
Much classical music has been inspired by the rain. Britten ‘Noye's Fludde’ begins with the sound of the first few raindrops, before a massive musical storm begins. Debussy's piano piece captures an April shower and sets it to music and Chopin’s ‘Raindrop’ (Prelude, Op 28, No. 15) with its persistent repeated notes to sound like rain falling.
So why does rain inspire musical creativity? Maybe the pitter-patter sound of the rain itself? The soothing sound of rain drops drumming on the roof or windowsill. ‘I Hear Thunder, Pitter Patter Raindrops’ is one of the best rainy day songs for children to explore the sounds and rhythms made by the rain.
Rain is also a powerful visual to give because we all understand how it feels to be caught in the pouring rain, or sat in the warm watching it run down the window pane. It can be soothing or unsettling, depending on the situation. Or perhaps because the rain makes everything smell so fresh and clean? Like a new beginning.
Next time you're caught in a rain shower, don't curse the heavens, especially when there are so many great songs inspired by it. In fact, when you start to think about it there are loads, covering almost all of the bases from rock, pop, R&B and country. Have a think, what’s on your gloomy day playlist?
Listen to the rhythm of the falling rain– The Cascades? It's Raining Again– Supertramp? Set Fire to the Rain – Adele. Why Does It Always Rain On Me – Travis. Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head - Burt Bacharach?
I could go on…and on! My favourite? Prince’s heart-breaking ballad Purple Rain (1984) Best. Power. Ballad. Ever.