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Birds Of Blue Ridge

The Birds of Blue Ridge duet arrangment can be found in Sweepin' the Clouds Away and in Beautiful Dreams for Twin Harps.

A note from Anna

The variety of bird sounds Sharon and I could hear at Chimney Rock, North Carolina, was the inspiration for this tune. Some of the birds made short, chirpy sounds while others sang long, lovely serenades. As we toured area museums and gift shops, we happened onto a recording of North Carolina bird sounds. It occurred to us we could transcribe the bird sounds into musical notation! So, equipped with a soprano recorder and a harp, we set to work. It was fascinating to learn about each bird’s appearance, habitat, and native region, and then try to notate its song.  Naturally, our next step was to combine these birdsongs and write our own music. Our evening writing sessions at the cottage where we stayed became as much fun as our daytime hiking and picture-taking adventures on the beautiful Blue Ridge Parkway!

Here are some of the birds singing in our music, Birds of Blue Ridge:

Summer Tanager –The male is bright red; the female is greenish yellow. This bird is found in Southern forests. It catches bees and wasps in flight, rubs off the stinger, and eats them! The beautiful song of this bird was the initial inspiration for our song, Birds of Blue Ridge. Its long series of slurred and whistled tones was unlike anything we had heard. In our music, we wrote a two-measure pattern that begins Sharon’s solo arrangement and is found in the Harp 3 part at measures 10-11 of my ensemble arrangement.


White-throated Sparrow – This small songbird has a white throat, white and black stripes on its head, and yellow in front of its eyes. Though it breeds in Canada, it winters in the eastern U.S.  In our melody we used its distinctive descending major or minor 2nd intervals followed by a descending minor 3rd.


Whip-poor-will – With its nocturnal habits, the Whip-poor-will is seldom seen during the day. Its name reflects the rhythm of its song. The melody sounded to us like a descending major 2nd followed by an ascending major 3rd, repeated several times, which we also worked into our melody.


Red-winged Blackbird – Found all over the U.S., the male is black with a patch of red, tinged with yellow and white on its wing. His mating song opens my ensemble piece with Harp 3 playing a descending octave followed by an ascending minor 7th.


Tufted Titmouse – This sweet little bird looks like a gray-colored mini-Bluejay. It lives throughout the entire eastern half of the U.S. It joins the red-winged blackbird in the Harp 2 part, measure 3, of the ensemble version, with its very distinctive repeated descending minor 3rd pattern.


Rose-breasted Grosbeak – The male is the star, with patches of black and white on his wings, a white beak, and a rose-colored breast. He shares egg incubation duty with his mate, and they sing to each other as they trade shifts! Their song (sounding like “a robin that has taken singing lessons”) has quick, ascending major 2nds in a skipping rhythm. It enters the ensemble at measure 4 of the Harp 1 part.


Mourning Dove – Found in all terrains -- forests, farmlands, deserts, and inner cities -- this is among the 10 most abundant birds in the U.S.  It is well named; its slow, ascending and descending perfect 4th tones sound mournful indeed.  The mourning dove enters in measure 5 of the ensemble version’s Cello/Low Recorder part.


Here's an excerpt:


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Thormahlen Harps | 1876 SW Brooklane Corvallis, Oregon 97333 | (541) 753-4334 | harps@thorharp.com