The Birds' Lullaby

  • Composer: Katerina Gimon 
  • Publisher: contact the composer
  • Canadian Composition: Yes
  • Duration: 5:14

Program Notes:

This piece was commissioned by Ontario-based Arcady Women’s Chamber Choir. The text is by Emily Pauline Johnson, commonly known as E. Pauline Johnson, who was, quoting Wikipedia, “a Canadian writer and performer popular in the late 19th century. Johnson was notable for her poems and performances that celebrated her Indigenous heritage; her father was a hereditary Mohawk chief of mixed ancestry.”

Listen for subtle sounds in Katerina’s setting: bird whistles and moments where some of the singers choose their own tempo for a particular melodic motive. The effect is a softening of the texture, and a dreamy cloud of sound.

Conductor Notes:

SSAA a cappella

This is a very effective piece that sets, in supple and gentle style the image of birds falling asleep at the end of a long day. The basic melody has great word stress, and the tessitura is perfect for a gentle, balanced sound. This original work is moderately challenging in that aleatoric elements need to be carefully explained and temporarily removed while the voices anchoring the melody with conventional notation build confidence. There are frequent, subtle changes to melodic lines (EG: major and minor versions of the same fragment) that require attention. While well laid-out and ultimately providing all the information I needed, the structure of the score is at first daunting. It was only after I found landmarks and worked to get a different energy level in the three verses that the structure took shape and the piece lifted off the page. It was worth the work!

I would not suggest this as a choir’s first taste of aleatoric singing.

References:

This lists any discs, concerts or collections where this piece is included.

Collections:

Concerts:

Sing to us, cedars; the twilight is creeping
With shadowy garments, the wilderness through;
All day we have carolled, and now would be sleeping,
So echo the anthems we warbled to you;

Swing, swing,
And your branches sing,
And we drowse to your dreamy whispering.

Sing to us, cedars; the night-wind is sighing,
Is wooing, is pleading, to hear you reply;
And here in your arms we are restfully lying,
And longing to dream to your soft lullaby;

Swing, swing…

Sing to us, cedars; your voice is so lowly,
Your breathing so fragrant, your branches so strong;
Our little nest-cradles are swaying so slowly,
While zephyrs are breathing their slumberous song.

Swing, swing…

Poem by E. Pauline Johnson