A Nightingale Sang In Berkeley Square
Steve Whitaker, Literary Correspondent
Using the wonders of technology, Extinction Rebellion and The Nest Collective will rewild London’s Berkeley Square from 6pm today (Monday 29 April) with the song it is most famous for. By synchronised streaming of the nightingale’s mesmeric yet seldom heard courtship song via mobile phones and mobile speakers, the pop-up action will fill the park and surrounding streets with the song of a creature nearing extinction on this island.
The birdsong will be accompanied by offerings from musicians, singers, poets and anyone who wants to collaborate with the finest singer in the world.
In the midst of the heightened attention to the ecological and climate emergency, it is hoped to bring people together in celebration of the musical beauty of the natural world. This central London rewilding event aims to bring poetic focus to the shocking demise of our own native species and to give Londoners and visitors alike the opportunity to hear a once ubiquitous songbird, now nearing extinction in the UK, in its mythic notional home.
Nightingales have not been heard in central London for several hundred years, and this renowned ballad, written in 1939, tells of the impossible moment when the bird (Luscinia megarhynchos) sings in Mayfair’s famous garden square. However, through a magical communion of people and technology, Extinction Rebellion, The Nest Collective and a pop-up flash mob of nature enthusiasts, musicians and supporters will gather to return nightingale song to Berkeley Square. The public are invited to use their 3G connected smartphone devices or tablet and mobile bluetooth/wired speakers to stream the birdsong to be amplified in a sonic rewilding of the square.
Every Spring for the last five years, folk singer and nature conservationist Sam Lee has been running intimate ‘Singing With Nightingales’ concerts in the woods of Sussex, Kent, Essex and Gloucestershire, bringing audiences into ‘ear tinglingly close proximity’ to wild birds whilst in their season of renowned courtship song. Musicians and singers collaborate with the bird in a sublime duet as the finale of a woodland/campfire experience with conservation awareness at its heart. The event began as an homage to the BBC’s pioneering first ever live broadcast of 1924, with Beatrice Harrison famously duetting on cello with a nightingale. Nearly 100 years later, Sam continues that tradition with contemporary players.
Musicians are encouraged to bring their own instruments, cellists especially, to make music with this natural improviser. All musicians should play without amplification – only the nightingale’s narcotic song will be amplified around Mayfair’s iconic square.
A musical Extinction Rebellion in collaboration with ‘Sam Lee’s Singing with Nightingales’ & The Nest Collective
Today 6pm - 9pm Monday 29 April, Berkeley Square, London
A Nightingale Sang In Berkeley Square, 29th April 2019, 17:13 PM