GARDEN REPORT (Part 2): A concert for sparrows

A couple of days before Christmas there was enough sun to induce me to sit outside and play some more music for the birds. I am at that enthusiastic stage of taking every opportunity to study their reaction.

Oddly enough, there were only sparrows about, and they quickly came to feed, but then stayed for “the performance”.


I played a tune that had been running round my head for the past couple of weeks, “God rest ye merry gentlemen”, that came out now in a quasi-Bach-ish version. No doubt I had contracted the spore from one of those endless ChristmasCapitalismCarol loops that play endlessly in supermarkets, starting at Thanksgiving. (At my local supermarket this “season” I found myself frequently commiserating with some of the young shelf-stocking dreadlocked-hiphopped kids working there, over the toxic diet of fake tinselled carolry.)
By the way, have you noticed that the Brenda Lee “Rocking around the Christmas Tree” –with that especially annoying built-in trademark hiccup that she affects– has been slyly elevated to carol-status. Without ANY of us being consulted? There is a line in “God rest you merry gentlemen” that goes: “That saved us all from Satan’s Power…” As far as I –and no doubt the hiphop kids– am concerned, that includes Brenda Lee.
Diabolus in musica, indeed

But, “God rest ye…” is a different kettle of fish. Its circular chord sequence comes from a time (1833, actually) way before Brenda and her insufferable pal “The Little Drummer Boy”. This is a tune that I very much enjoy having in my head and running round my brain. And when I sat down at the keyboard to identify the chords, I quickly came to appreciate what a sophisticated piece it is.


Now, sitting in the garden –the day after the winter solstice– I was trying out its lovely chords on the birds, at this stage an audience of some forty-plus sparrows. These are “my” sparrows, the regulars. But new members seem to be arriving all the time, as the word gets out.

They arranged themselves on a nearby trellis in the garden, about twenty feet away. They like this trellis, a good parking spot that suits their communitarian urges.
The structure of the trellis affords them 9 “perches” across the top of the trellis, then 8, 7, 6, 5 etc below that, in a triangular, inverted-pyramid, arrangement. Which may or may not say something about the sparrow views on hierarchy and democracy.

They have eaten, now –arranged in their inverted triangle shape–they have gathered for the recital.

They seemed especially to respond to my “Vox Humana” version –you will have noticed that I use the more scientific “respond” rather than a more presumptive “like”. I tried out several voices, such as “Shakuhachi” and “Flute” and “Vibes” and “Jazz Guitar”, but for the aethereal “Vox Humana” a literal hush fell over the avian assemblage, and they stopped twittering and jostling. (Did annoyed sparrows turn round and glare at the twitterers behind them? I don’t know: that will require study at a later date.)

But they all were especially considerate of their entertainer, and none of them pointed out that “God rest you merry sparrows” might perhaps have been…more appropriate….(considering….)


WARNING: There is a second part, to come later today, of this Garden Report –concerning the sparrows– that you will NOT believe. I could not believe it myself.

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2 Responses to “GARDEN REPORT (Part 2): A concert for sparrows”

  1. Beth

    Malachi, I do love your Garden Reports. They conjure up a magical little world that enchants your readers. What’s more delightful is that you seem to be making it a recurring feature of your blog. Most welcome! (Can’t wait to read your promised next-chapter of today’s posting on the sparrows and the trellis and “God Rest Ye…”
    PS I share your feelings about “Rockin’ Around the Xmas Tree” … But please, Malachi, go easy on Brenda Lee.

  2. Malachi

    Thank you, Beth.

    Are my Garden Reports a feature of my blog? You could say so –a commenter from Australia did say she preferred to hear about “My Garden” than “The War in Iraq”.

    Who wouldn’t?

    I started my garden last year as a source of endless fresh (and free)tomatoes and basil: I was not disappointed. But I was to come to see it as a source of sanity.

    Just think: if Mr. Bush had consulted me, I would have been able to recommend to him that he start a garden rather than a war.

    There probably would even have been room for one at Arlington.