Arts & Culture

Four Winds will be all a-twitter with bird song this weekend

Lisa Herbert20 July 2022
A trio of innovative musicians will bring their concert dedicated to our songbirds to Bermagui next week.

A trio of innovative musicians will bring their concert dedicated to our songbirds to Bermagui next week. Photo: Keith Saunders.

The Four Winds site near Bermagui is all a-twitter with babbling, whistling, chirruping, and screeching – and that’s inside the concert hall!

On Saturday, 23 July, the outstanding Ensemble Offspring will present Songbirds, a dusk concert event that’s bound to be accompanied by the local birds of Barragga Bay.

With this collection of Australian chamber works, flautist Lamorna Nightingale, percussionist Claire Edwardes (OAM) and clarinettist Jason Noble set out to take audiences on a sonic journey that celebrates the breathtaking diversity of birdsong.

Songbirds began its life when ornithologist and composer Hollis Taylor offered to write a number of pieces for the ensemble, based on the songs of the pied butcherbirds around Alice Springs.

Butcherbirds are renowned for their complex songs, and the program grew from those first pieces to an array of beguiling musical works.

One of the most popular works from the program is ‘Lorikeet Corroboree’ by Fiona Loader.

Butcherbirds, blackbirds, leafcutter ants and frogs – Ensemble Offspring will take you on a journey into the Australian bush. Photo: Victor Frankovski

Butcherbirds, blackbirds, leafcutter ants and frogs – Ensemble Offspring will take you on a journey into the Australian bush. Photo: Victor Frankovski.

“Lorikeet Corroboree was inspired by the beautiful rainbow lorikeets that visit me every morning and who dance after a feeding frenzy,” says Loader.

It is not only birds that populate this musical landscape. Astronomy, our coastal environment and bushfires also feature in the works.

“Mungala” is the word for clouds in Yuin composer Brenda Gifford’s language. It evokes the experience of watching the clouds build across the sea from a clifftop, the clouds dance across the sky bringing thunder, and then the relief of gentle rain.

Described as a tour-de-force, Gerard Brophy’s composition ‘Beautiful Birds’ showcases birds in three movements – skittish, quirky lyrebirds and their penchant for mimicry; elegant and stately flamingos; and those fluttering, quivering souls, hummingbirds.

First Nations composer Nardi Simpson’s ‘Of Stars and Birds’ was developed from a significant Yuwaalaraay story ending in the creation of the southern cross.

“It is birds that weave this story into our dreaming cosmos,” Simpson says.

Ella Macens’ ‘Falling Embers’ was originally composed as a meditation for peace and relief from the fires that raged across the Australian landscape in the summer of 2019-20.

“Tracing a glowing particle suspended above desolate land where all has been lost and destroyed, this piece explores the idea of the last moments of something – the final glow before life burns out,” Macens explains.

Claire Edwardes, Artistic Director of Ensemble Offspring, is described as the "sorceress of percussion". Photo: Pia Johnson

Claire Edwardes, Artistic Director of Ensemble Offspring, is described as the “sorceress of percussion”. Photo: Pia Johnson.

“The flute plays a very important role as the bird in many of the pieces” says Edwardes, “however, there’s a huge range of different stylistic combinations that we create between the three of us.

“For this tour I’m bringing my vibraphone. And in one piece, ‘The Visitor’ by Alice Humphries, I create sounds from found items like cake tins, upturned wooden salad bowls and I also bow the vibraphone. These things bring a sense of a totally different sound world, and the waterphone brings underwater, whale-like sounds.

“Some of the pieces are not in Sonata form, as everyone who listens to classical music might be used to. It sounds more like what you might hear in nature, and that’s what’s really interesting. It teaches us that we can listen to music in different ways. It doesn’t have to be defined by what we are used to.

“We have played at Barragga Bay during sunrise before. This concert is at dusk and we will have different kinds of birdsong but we do relish that, when the birds get involved.”

Songbirds by Ensemble Offspring – Saturday 23 July, 3:30 pm for wine and cheese and 4 pm performance at Four Winds, Barragga Bay.

As well as the Saturday concert, the trio will be joined by cellist Freya Schack-Arnott for two free pop-up performances around Bermagui township on Thursday, 21 July, 11 am at Mr Hope Espresso, and 5 pm in the front bar of the Bermagui Beach Hotel.

Tickets are available for this concert by following the link to Four Winds website here.

Follow updates on the Four Winds Facebook Events page here.

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