The Maine Science Festival and Bangor Symphony Orchestra will premiere a new musical composition this weekend inspired by climate change and the collaborative search for solutions. 

Symphony director Lucas Richman has been working on the piece, titled “The Warming Sea,” since before the pandemic. The original composition builds off climate data from the Gulf of Maine, which is warming faster than almost any other water body in the world, as well as hours of interviews with everyone from Maine climate scientists to middle school students. 

One section of “The Warming Sea” represents the rise in Gulf of Maine temperatures from 1820 to 2020 as a series of musical notes. (Image courtesy Maine Science Festival).

“It just became clear to me that the solution is that everybody has to come together to basically pool our resources and affect change in a global way,” Richman said in an interview. “I also came to understand that scientists do what they do really well, but they don't get the message out well.” 

Richman’s goal became to communicate climate science and leave the audience with a feeling of hope: that people can work together, and are working together, to solve the climate crisis.

Festival director Kate Dickerson said this is the annual event’s first headliner that’s solely focused on climate change, though the issue has always been part of event’s programming. She said her goal is to advocate for climate science and science in general as a key part of culture. 

“I have a friend who told me, ‘Artists and scientists (are) both trying to get at the truth — they just do it differently,’” Dickerson said. “Scientists haven't been able to get the truth out there with just science alone. So it seemed obvious to me the next step was, well, let's really make a statement and get the arts involved and try to reach people that way.”

The piece she commissioned includes a section that uses what Richman calls a “musician’s math formula” to translate the sharp rise in Gulf of Maine temperatures from 1820 to 2020 – Maine’s bicentennial and the year “The Warming Sea” was originally slated to premiere – into a rising series of musical pitches, with moments that highlight climate-related historical events.   

“Science is hard to feel … but the arts inherently inspire, catalyze, an emotional reaction,” Richman said. “When Kate and people like Kate are moved to bridge the two, science and the arts, that speaks to the whole idea of working together for a better whole, a better future.”

The finale of the composition, “Hope Begins With Truth,” was first recorded remotely in 2020 and focuses on ensuring the next generation is ready to face the warming planet. A chorus of women and children sing: “Have you told them?” and, “Give them hope and give them life.” 


Saturday night’s premiere at the Collins Center for the Arts in Orono will include an introduction by Gov. Janet Mills, as well as the orchestral performance, a visualization and panel discussions with top Maine climate scientists and policymakers. 

An accompanying exhibit will be on display at the Maine Discovery Museum as part of the festival, which runs through Sunday. The festival also worked with Orono and Foundation Brewing Cos. to create a “Hope Begins With Truth” IPA that is now on sale around the state.