One aspect of my life which I haven't written much about are the concerts at The Junction in Cambridge which I go to. One is asked not to take photos and in the intimate atmosphere of the J2 concert space I wouldn't really want to. At the strange and wonderful event that I went to back in May there was hardly enough light in the venue either.
We entered in subdued light with gentle green lights playing on the performance space. The sounds of evening birdsong floated on the air and hushed the usually talkative audience. After a while a tall, carelessly dressed young man appeared from the shadows - the English folksinger, Sam Lee. He immediately silenced the first signs of applause with a finger to his lips.
He explained that the birdsong we'd been listening to was being beamed live from woodland deep in the English countryside. Last spring Sam had been leading groups of people into those woods in darkness to hear the song of the Nightingale and to quietly sing folksongs, many of which make mention of the bird. Now he was attempting to bring the experience to audiences in small venues across the land.
In case you don't know here's what the Nightingale sounds like (turn it up Nightingales are LOUD):
You can leave it playing if you like, that's what I'm doing as I write this.
Sam meandered in relaxed fashion through stories and anecdotes about nightingales, including Beatrice Harrison's historic performance of cello pieces along with singing nightingale in a Surrey garden in 1924, the first live broadcast of wildlife by the BBC. Sadly he also had to tell us of the decreasing numbers of Nightingales in Britain in recent years. He asked how many of us had heard them singing in the countryside and seemed surprised that most of the audience had - all of us at Paxton Pits Nature Reserve, though there are less of them there than in former years.
In between talking he also sang us some of the old songs, either unaccompanied or very sparsely accompanied, in his easy, tuneful style. Like the Nightingale Sam Lee is unafraid to use the silences in the song.
Later in the evening he recieved a phone call (his phone on silent mode, of couse) from his sound recordist out in the woods to tell him that the Nightingales had commenced their nighttime song. By the wonders of technology we were able to listen in as Sam sang and his two musicians improvised along with the singing birds.
The evening came to an end with the human performers withdrawing quietly while the audience continued to listen to the birdsong coming in from the darkness. An unforgettable and unrepeatable evening.
There are some videos on YouTube that attempt to convey some of the magic but they fall short of doing it justice. We can however enjoy Sam Lee's honest and sensitive singing as he records the song Lovely Molly along with the Roundhouse Choir.
I hope some of you enjoyed that.