Inspired by Birds

I’ve given this talk many times to RSPB groups, natural history societies, ornithological societies and as part of the British Birdwatching Fair’s ‘Celebrity Lecture Series’. It includes recordings of some of the greatest sounding birds on Earth, alongside bird-inspired by music by Sibelius, Beethoven, Messiaen, Vivaldi and Vaughan Williams.

I’ve been fascinated by birds, and especially birdsong, since my early teens. This talks demonstrate how listening to music and listening to birds need not be mutually exclusive, and how a full appreciation of bird sound can hugely enhance our enjoyment of birds, and also sharpen our skills as birders. From the composition of a bird-inspired orchestral symphony to counting skeins of migrating Pink-footed Geese, the talk reflects on just how profoundly bird sound can affect and inspire us.

Pole to Pole - the incredible migration of the Arctic Tern

This lecture recital was devised for a solo performance at Camden Migration Festival, and first performed at The Forge.

Arctic Terns hold the record in the natural world for the longest distance covered in a single annual migration, a round trip covering an astounding 43,000 miles, at times travelling up to 320 miles in a single day. This recital features music, images, maps and it’s packed with information on the incredible phenomenon of bird migration. I trace the route of an Arctic Tern from its breeding grounds in the Orkney islands to its wintering grounds in Antarctica, with music along the way by Maxwell Davies, Villa Lobos, Piazzolla, Petrassi, Turina and Adam Caird.

The Pilgrimage of San Isidro

In April 2010, I was stuck in Madrid with my wife after the Icelandic ash cloud stopped all flights back to Britain. Trying to kill time, we spent a day in the Prado Museum where I was knocked sideways after seeing the ‘Pinturas Negras’ by Goya, a baffling collection of paintings which are simultaneously grotesque, disturbing and mesmerising. Goya’s ‘Black Painting’ the Pilgrimage of San Isidro is all about the essential character of the guitar, and I created this lecture recital to explore how the principle themes in the painting are reflected in a number of pieces for guitar. The music is by Villa Lobos, Britten, de Falla, Petrassi, Ohana and Larry Goves.