Celebrating the Four Elements: Best Songs About Earth, Water, Air, and Fire
New ideas for your next concert repertoire
Choosing songs for your choir to sing can be a difficult decision. One way to narrow it down is to pick a theme that your choral singers and yourself enjoy. An original option could be using the four elements as a reference: a theme that can work with every occasion and that also celebrates nature and our earth!
Songwriters have always been incorporating the elements into their music. Earth, air, water, and fire have made their way into popular hits, but if you are in need of a song about one of the elements and can’t think of one, we have prepared some suggestions to help you find the right choice for your choir!
Song about Earth: Down to Earth (Peter Gabriel)
In a selection of songs celebrating the four elements, “Down to Earth” is surely a perfect start.
"Down to Earth" was released on June 10, 2008, by Walt Disney Records and Real World Records. The music was composed by Thomas Newman and English rock musician Peter Gabriel, who also wrote the lyrics and performed the song for the 2008 computer-animated Disney-Pixar film WALL·E.
The song was nominated for the Best Original Song award at the Golden Globes and the Best Original Song award at the 81st Academy Awards. It won the Grammy Award for Best Song Written for Motion Picture, Television or Other Visual Media in 2009.
The original song also features the Soweto Gospel Choir, making it a perfect piece for choirs to interpret and perform, as in this touching version by Jazzchor der Uni Bonn:
Songs about Air: Blowin’ in the Wind (Bob Dylan)
The worldwide famous and iconic song Blowin’ in the Windwas written by Bob Dylan in 1962, released as a single, and included on his album The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan in 1963.
The song poses a series of rhetorical questions about peace, war, and freedom. Often described as a “protest song”, the song changed Dylan’s career and ultimately established him as a singer portraying the reality of his country in his songs, rather than the idolized Broadway or Hollywood versions.
In 1994, the song was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame and in 2004 it was ranked number 14 on Rolling Stone magazine's list of the "500 Greatest Songs of All Time".
If you’d like to add this famous and classic song to your choir’s repertoire honoring the four elements, you could take inspiration from this choral version of “Blowin' in the Wind/ America” by the Clovis West Choirs:
Song about Water: Down to the River to Pray (unknown)
"Down in the River to Pray" (also known as "Down to the River to Pray," "Down in the Valley to Pray," "The Good Old Way," and "Come, Let Us All Go Down") is a traditional American song.
While the exact origins of the song are unknown, it has variously been referred to as a Christian folk hymn, an African-American spiritual, an Appalachian song, and a Southern gospel song.
Some believe instead it was a Native American Tribal song that was adapted to include Christian lyrics.
It is attributed to George H. Allan in the Slave Songbook of 1867, and Alison Krauss popularized it in the 2000 film, O Brother, Where Art Thou?.
Whatever the right title and origins might truly be, the deeply spiritual song is certainly about holding strong to faith in a time of darkness.
The song has long been celebrated, performed, and reinterpreted by numerous choirs worldwide so it’s hardly possible to pinpoint the best version.
Here is one of our all-time personal favorite choir renditions of “Down to the River to Pray” to inspire your repertoire about the four elements and celebrate water, the live performance by Bel Canto Choir Vilnius from the concert "Open to the World '18":
Songs about Fire: We Didn’t Start the Fire (Billy Joel)
"We Didn't Start the Fire" is a song written and performed by American musician Billy Joel. The song was first released as a single and later as part of Joel's album Storm Front in 1989.
Referred to as a “list song”, the fast-paced lyrics of "We Didn't Start the Fire" include brief references to 118 significant political, cultural, scientific, and sporting events that took place between 1949 (the year of Joel's birth) and 1989, in mainly chronological order.
The song was nominated for the Grammy Award for Record of the Year and became Joel's third single to reach number one on the United States Billboard Hot 100 in late 1989.
Here’s a lively and dynamic choir version by the young singers of the Horseheads High School Choirs to inspire you and your choir to honor the fourth and last natural element - fire:
Bonus version to honor our earth and fight climate change, too:
In 2019, students of the Torquay Girls' Grammar School re-interpreted the song and adapted the lyrics of “We Didn’t Start the Fire” and then filmed all students of the school singing the song live in order to spread an important message about climate change.
They then invited every school they could contact to take part in this challenge and send their versions to their MP - a primary example of how your (singing) voice can be used for important causes!
Choral singing is a lovely way to share the songs we love with others, and relate to common themes. Music is the universal language of the world and the four elements are the basis for everything. Isn’t that reason enough to celebrate the earth, air, water, and fire in your next choir concert and to inspire other choirs to do the same?
Our upcoming events are an excellent opportunity to meet other choirs and share your music with them!