Dawn Chorus Heralds Cathedrals Re-Opening

13th May 2021

Shhhhhh! Can you hear it?

Dawn chorus heralds the start of Exeter Cathedrals re-opening plan

Exeter Cathedral will welcome in the start of its summer events and a week-long festival of birds and birdsong with a dawn chorus on Monday when it can finally re-open to the public in line with Step 3 of the Government’s roadmap.

Specially chosen pieces of music by the French composer, Olivier Messiaen will feature birdsong – including the nightingale, blackbird, Eurasian blackcap and the yellow – in the recital at 7am and marks a collaboration with the London Review of Books (LRB) who are hosting the bird and birdsong festival week.

The recital is open to all and free of charge and will be broadcast online via an LRB livestream to festival ticket-holders.

Dawn Chorus Heralds Cathedrals Re-Opening 2

The recital will be played by organist James McVinnie and will include conversation, exploring the influences and experiences that led the French composer to create such involved and imaginative music, touching upon the impact of his synesthesia, a rare condition which allowed Messiaen to see colours in his mind’s eye when he heard sounds.

James McVinnie said:

“A devout Catholic, Olivier Messiaen was an extraordinary voice in 20th century music. He saw God’s work in every aspect of the world which extended especially to his fascination with birds. Much of his organ music includes his own representation of birdsong: he coaxes unusual combinations of sounds from the organ to portray these unique songs, many of which he notated himself from nature.

“I’m especially looking forward to performing this challenging music at such an unusual time of day and Exeter Cathedral is an incredible space – a kind of resonating chamber for music that has been described as the embodiment of a heavenly garden.

“With daylight streaming in through the stained glass in the east windows, the magnificence of the building’s roof carvings, and the vertical pillars that seem to reach for the sky, there really is no better place to be playing this music.”

And so say all of us!

The recital is free to attend in person at Exeter Cathedral. No advance booking is required but places are limited to 65 people, due to covid restrictions, and will be allocated in order of arrival (doors open at 6:45am). Anyone wishing to watch the live stream can buy a festival ticket at lrb.me/thebirds.

More big cathedral news as the Cathedral Music Trust has made 24 grants to cathedrals across the country. Click the link below.

Cathedral Music Trust awards grants news.