Sunday 3 May 2020

playing with nightingales

Listening to Sam Lee duetting with a nightingale on Radio 3 yesterday, I was inspired to join in the fun. So here is my own delightfully tasteful hommage to Beatrice Harrison, whose cello playing in the Sussex woods for the BBC in the 1920s started this whole thing off. It became something of a tradition, and when a recording was begun one night in 1942, a formation of RAF bombers on their way out to Germany flew over to add to the mix, a poignant sound you can hear here.

Maybe I'll duet with the nightingale again this evening, playing my bugle; or at least, blowing it. I can't really play it. Tan-ta-rah!
There’s something about the nightingale’s song
that makes folk determined to play along;
like, say, Beatrice Harrison’s cello on the BBC
and then those RAF bombers on their way to Germany;
or that piano orchestration from Olivier Messiaen
Which was musically interesting but a rotten impressiaen.
Still, good, bad or indifferent, they all fail
to make an impression on the nightingale,
who sings for ears that are not human at all;
if there’s no-one in the forest where its song falls
does it make a sound? Oh, bless;
the answer's an enormous yes.

(from Drawn Chorus, my alphabet of birds)

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