Once War Has Gone: 'There Will Come Soft Rains' - A Conversation with Composer Tom Vignieri

Mar 31, 2016

Imagine a world devastated by war but renewed by the invincible power of nature. That’s what poet Sara Teasdale imagined in the immediate aftermath of World War I, when she wrote her poem “There Will Come Soft Rains.” And that’s what American composer Tom Vignieri imagined when, much more recently, he set Teasdale’s poem to music for two Columbus-based musical organizations.

Above: Composer Tom Vignieri talks with Classical 101's Jennifer Hambrick about his musical setting of Sara Teasdale's poem "There Will Come Soft Rains."

In celebration of National Poetry Month, during April The American Sound will feature contemporary American choral works setting evocative and meaningful poetry. Tune in at 6 p.m. Saturdays and 7 p.m. Tuesdays on Classical 101 to enjoy each week a beautiful choral work inspired by poetry of some of the world’s most noted wordsmiths.

To launch this special series, Saturday evening The American Sound will feature a work commissioned and premiered by two Columbus musical organizations. Composer Tom Vignieri’s There Will Come Soft Rains sets Sara Teasdale’s poem of the same title to music for treble choir and string orchestra. Vignieri composed the work in 2010 for the Columbus Children’s Choir and the Chamber Music Connection, with financial support from the Johnstone Fund for New Music and as part of the New American Music Project. The Columbus Children's Choir and musicians of the Chamber Music Connection premiered the work in 2010 at Denison University.

Written in 1920, shortly after the end of World War I, Teasdale’s poem is at once heartrending and hopeful. The text paints an idyllic picture of nature renewing itself in the aftermath of war – of gentle rains dropping, of trees blossoming, of birds singing and flying, of frogs in their ponds. But the image has a dark side in Teasdale’s observation that all nature would go on as before, even if humankind were to perish at its own hands.

I had a chance to speak with Tom Vignieri recently about how he came to select Teasdale’s poem as the basis for his musical work, and about how his music gives voice to the poem’s intense relevance for today’s wounded world. Listen to our conversation above for a fascinating glimpse into the composer's mind, and for something of a listener's guide to There Will Come Soft Rains.

Please join me for a celebration of great music and poetry during National Poetry Month on The American Sound, 6 p.m. Saturdays and 7 p.m. Tuesdays on Classical 101.