2018 Web of Life



Directed by Laura Backley

during the two weekends of the Cambridge Science Festival

   Sunday April 15, 2018 at 5:30pm at the Museum of Science, Boston
   Saturday April 21, 2018 at 3:00pm at the Cambridge Main Library, 449 Broadway, Cambridge
   Sunday April 22, 2018 at 3:00pm at the Peabody School, 70 Rindge Ave., Cambridge


Web of Life is a collection of 17 entertaining and inspiring songs about biodiversity. Written by seven contemporary composers, including Andrea Gaudette, David Haines, Bruce Lazarus, Lauren Mayer, Jill Pelavin, Molly Ruggles, and Graham Treacher, Web of Life was performed by the NCFO Science Festival Chorus as part of the twelfth annual Cambridge Science Festival, April 13-22, 2018. The performances also included a medley of songs composed by Cambridge Public School students under the direction of David Haines, as part of David's CPS Songwriting Workshops, and a mini-opera composed by local kids with guidance from Boston Lyric Opera. The entire program was accompanied by a slideshow of song lyrics and children's artwork.

The 2018 NCFO Science Festival Chorus comprises more than 50 adults and children (ages 6 and up) from Cambridge and surrounding communities.

A complete set of lyrics from Web of Life is available HERE.

You may peruse/download the program booklet from Web of Life HERE.

See below for recordings of the music from Web of Life and information about the composers and lyricists who wrote it.


Andrea Gaudette

Andrea Gaudette has been playing music professionally since
age 14, when her first job carried the title "substitute organist"
for her parish church. She holds a bachelor’s degree from New England Conservatory and a master’s in music education from
The Boston Conservatory. Andrea has been teaching piano,
theory, composition, voice, choir, instrumental ensembles and
creative arts to children in a variety of settings since 1988. Andrea
lives in Cambridge with her husband and 22-year-old daughter.
They have been active in NCFO since 2006.

Web of Life features two songs by Andrea Gaudette, plus a mini-opera written in collaboration with local children:

  • Water Bear (world premiere) – Tardigrades can withstand conditions that would terminally freeze, roast, crush, suffocate, dehydrate, irradiate and starve any other animal.
    [ performance audio / performance with slide show / demo]
  • Pond Song – A small change to the ecosystem makes a very large change to the chemistry and biology of natural waters. This song was inspired by a pond near Andrea Gaudette’s house in Maine that was invaded by a non-native species.
    [ performance audio / performance with slide show / demo]
  • A Rainforest Opera (world premiere) – Our rainforests are under assault from human development, with devastating consequences for the econsystems they contain. This drama set in a rainforest was written and performed by kids with guidance from Andrea Gaudette and Lydia Jane Graeff of the Boston Lyric Opera.
    [ performance audio ]

David Haines

Trained at Bristol University, London's Guildhall School, and Banff School of Fine Arts,
David Haines has written fifteen music theater works, including The Puzzle Jigs, which was
performed by NCFO in 2003 and 2008He has worked with many thousands of schoolchildren
and has a special interest in using song to enhance the science curriculum. The NCFO Science
Festival Chorus performed David's science oratorios Lifetime: Songs of Life and Evolution
in 2007 and 2012 and Powers of Ten in 2008 and 2014. The latter was the official opening
event of the first USA Science and Engineering Festival in Washington DC. David has been the
Cambridge Science Festival's Songwriter-in-Residence from 2011 to 2017. He lives and teaches
in Teignmouth, Devon in southwestern England, a stunningly beautiful town that is well
worth visiting. If you do, David invites you to stay at his lovely Airbnb.

Web of Life features nine songs by David Haines, plus a collection of songs written by David in collaboration with young children during his songwriting workshops in the Cambridge Public Schools:

  • Bacteria – Bacteria were probably the earliest widespread life form on Earth and are found almost everywhere. Their incredible resilience and evolutionary adaptability will ensure their survival until the day Earth is swallowed up by the swollen Sun in a few billion years time.
    [ performance audio / performance with slide show / demo ]
  • Extremophiles – Archaebacteria, the oldest kingdom of life, contain no discrete intracellular organelles, such as nuclei or mitochondria. They withstand extremes of temperature, pH, salinity, pressure and lack of oxygen that most other life cannot.
    [ performance audio / performance with slide show / DH sings the melody ]
  • Flying Creatures – The ability to fly and glide has evolved independently in many different animal groups: reptiles, amphibians, mammals, birds, insects, and more. A wonderful example of the plethora of solutions invented by the blind hand of evolution.
    [ performance audio / performance with slide show / demo ]​
  • Four Billion Years – Just as new and more diverse species constantly arise, they are constantly lost to extinction as well. Through habitat destruction, climate change and direct action, humanity has accelerated extinction to a rate almost never seen in Earth's four billion year history. Solo by Laura Backley.
    [ performance audio / performance with slide show / demo ]
  • Fungi – Mushrooms, yeasts and molds form one of the great divisions of life known as the Kingdoms. It’s easy to forget how much the fungi affect our everyday lives and how vital they are to the continuation of Life on Earth. Solos by Rosemary Lindsay, Jill Pelavin and Andromeda Yelton.
    [ performance audio / performance with slide show ]​​​
  • Intelligent Slime Mold (world premiere) – Hampshire College is proud to announce the founding of the world's only academic program for non-human species. The first scholars-in-residence, plasmodial slime molds known as Physarum polycephalum, arrived from Carolina Biological Supply last month, and have moved into a dedicated office in the Cole Science Center.
    [ performance audio / performance with slide show ]
  • Lake – An ode to cichlid speciation in the great African lakes. There are hundreds of closely-related species of fish in each lake because various populations diverged genetically in the separate lakes formed during prolonged drought. When the water level rose again, these new species intermingled in the single larger lake, but could no longer interbreed.
    [ performance audio / performance with slide show / demo ]​
  • Mutate! – New species arise when the ordinarily reliable process of reproduction goes awry.
    [ performance audio / performance with slide show / demo ]
  • Taxonomy – No one knows the number of species of life living on Earth, but we have identified millions, and there are likely tens of millions more we haven’t found. Scientists organized this mass of information into a taxonomic classification system: Kingdom, Phylum, Class, Order, Family, Genus, Species. They keep adding subdivisions, but this is all we'll sing about.
    [ performance audio / performance with slide show / 2007 performance ]
  • Songs written with young school children (world premiere) – Every year David Haines works with about 50 classrooms in the Cambridge schools, guiding the students as they write a song about some aspect of their science curriculum. These are some songs that touch on biodiversity:
    • Persnickety Zoo [demo] – Most creatures have adapted to feed on specific members of their ecosystem.
    • Dandy's Song [demo] – You can find plants growing in the strangest places!
    • Gardener and Worm [demo] – Best of friends!
    • Amazon Layers [demo] – More than half the terrestrial species on Earth are believed to live in rainforests.
      [ performance audio / performance with slide show ]

Bruce Lazarus

Composer Bruce Lazarus's music includes pieces for piano, solo voice,
chorus, chamber ensembles, as well as several songs commissioned by
NCFO. His works range from the 45-minute “celestial” piano cycle, Musical
Explorations of the Messier Catalogue of Star Clusters and Nebulae, to his
entertaining Carrolling: The Lewis Carroll Project. He studied composition
at Juilliard, where he earned his B.M. and M.M. in music composition and
theory, and later earned his PhD in music theory at Rutgers University.
Dr. Lazarus is Music Director for the Joffrey Ballet School.

Web of Life features one song by Bruce Lazarus:

  • LUCA (world premiere) – Life on Earth may have begun several times, and it has evolved down numerous dead-end paths. But every species alive today is ultimately descended from a single species that lived 3.5 to 3.7 billion years ago: the last universal common ancestor.
    [ performance audio / performance with slide show / demo ]

Lauren Mayer

Lauren Mayer is a California-based, award-winning writer and
entertainer, who has performed hundreds of custom-written
programs. She is a summa cum laude graduate of Yale University,
the founder of Curriculum Rocks (producing award-winning
children's educational music), the writer of several published
musicals, and a five-time recipient of the San Francisco Cabaret
Gold Award. She has recorded five albums of comedy songs and
writes weekly topical comedy songs for her YouTube channel with
almost 1,600 subscribers (thus disproving her teenage son’s claim
that she’d never get a channel going because ‘over 100 views is
viral for old people’). 

Web of Life features two songs by Lauren Mayer:

  • All About Plants (world premiere) – The kingdom plantae include all multicellular, eukaryotic, non-mobile organisms that photosynthsize. There are hundreds of thousands of known plant species, ranging from cool to really cool.  
    [ performance audio / performance with slide show / demo ]
  • Bio, Biodiversity (world premiere) – Diversity is measured by how much variation is found within a species, how many species are found within a habitat, and how many types of ecosystems there are.
    [ performance audio / performance with slide show / demo ]
Jill Pelavin

Jill Pelavin has been in four operas with NCFO, and
is pleased to sing with and contribute the "Coral Chorale"
for this year's program. Jill plays four instruments
(voice, flute, guitar, and some piano) and loves music
and science; she has a Computer Science degree from MIT
with a minor in music. This is only the third composition
of hers to be released to the public, with a heavy influence
from Little Mermaid's "Under the Sea". She lives in Somerville
with her fiance and two sweet cats.

Web of Life features one song by Jill Pelavin:

  • Coral Chorale (world premiere) – Coral reefs contain an astounding number of species, perhaps numbering in the millions. They are to marine biodiversity as rainforests are to terrestrial biodiversity.
    [ performance audio / performance with slide showdemo ]
Molly Ruggles

A native of Massachusetts, Molly Ruggles has played 
piano her whole life, composed since she was 4, and
is a vocalist and recording artist. Molly performs 
regularly throughout the Boston area. She has taught 
songwriting classes at MIT, and her music is featured
regularly at the UU church of Medford. When not singing,
playing, listening, teaching, composing, or writing plays,
she writes about educational technology at MIT and
spends time with her beloved daughter.

Web of Life features one song by Molly Ruggles:

  • E. O. Wilson (world premiere) – Edward O. Wilson has been called "the father of biodiversity." His theory of island biogeography explains why larger habitats have greater biodiversity.
    [ performance audio / performance with slide showdemo ]

Graham Treacher

Graham Treacher is a composer and conductor living in London.
He has founded or co-founded a number of organizations, focused
on the performance of contemporary music and bringing this music
to students of all ages. Among these groups are the Royal
Academy of Music Contemporary Music Group, the London New Music 
Singers, and Music for Children. Recently he has devoted much
of his time to composition and to the editing of late Renaissance
and Baroque works, including Pallavicino and Gesualdo. Graham
is also an enthusiastic mountaineer and rock climber.

Web of Life features one song by Graham Treacher:

  • The Song of the Octopus – Octopus and squid eyes look remarkably like our own, but they evolved completely differently.  Our eyes grew from brain tissue, while cephalopod eyes developed from light-sensitive patches on the skin, a classic example of convergent evolution.
    [ performance audio / performance with slide showdemo]