Birding in Winter

by Pamela J. Marshall

for SATB

Duration 5.25


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About Birding in Winter

Birding in Winter is for SATB chorus, with a soprano divisi passage and brief solo passages near the end, which could be sung as a section. Level is somewhat difficult. Although intended to be acapella, you can use supporting doubling with piano, in full or just occasional supporting notes.

I’ve been enchanted by Susan’s poem for years. It expresses so well the cold necessities of birding in wintertime, with a subtle undercurrent of why we birdwatchers would put up with winter cold for the thrill of a sighting, whether it’s an unusual bird or an ordinary bird found in a special place.

A taste of the Susan Edwards Richmond’s poem:

“Empty yourself of expectation,
the flutter of common creatures.
Nothing will be close.

Leave behind pencil and list.
But keep the book.
Be sure your layers match the earth—”

Mostly, the music follows the rhythm of the spoken words. My setting alternates between big declarative moments and textures to evoke a mood. The declarations might slip in and out of unison/octaves (“master the cold…”). The textural sections vary between almost modal with chromatic inflections (for example, “nothing but patterns,…”) and more chromatic (the descending version of “silk sheath for ice…”). In the end, the snow and ice and feelings of cold dissolve in a musical texture of shimmering light.

View and listen

Preview score Click the big button to download a free perusal score. The watermarked PDF is disabled for printing.

Download “Birding in Winter, SATB, preview”

pjm-birdinginwinter-preview.pdf – Downloaded 2154 times – 378.86 KB

Birding in Winter was premiered in November 2019 in Somerville and Cambridge, MA, USA by Triad: Boston’s Choral Collective, conducted by Charles Turner.  Watch a video of the Triad performance, with Pam’s photos of ice and snow, on the Lucid Streaming online concert, a pandemic project by Eastman alumni.

Birding in Winter is part of Project : Encore, which promotes subsequent performances for choral music that has been premiered. You can preview scores and listen there too.

Or download the preview score above, and listen here:

Purchase options

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Performances licensed by BMI. For guidelines, read more here.

Additional information

Purchase options

Duplicate for ensemble, Single copy


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