Tuesday, 04 March 2008

The sounds of invisible birds at Grootvadersbosch

We reached Grootvadersbosch about 3 and 1/2 hours out of Cape Town, taking the route through Swellendam and Suurbraak.

Grootvadersbosch forms part of a natural biosphere which stretches along the Langeberg range north of Heidelberg. We spent two nights in a little wooden cabin called Scolopia, cut into a small hillside within arm's reach of an impenetrable wall of indigenous trees. Beyond the thick green wall of Milkwood, Yellowwood and Cape Birch the mountainside drops steeply down to what we imagined to be a spectacular valley. We took a stroll to the Birdhide,
but it seemed we were too early for the evening concert, and had to make do with dress rehearsal, provided by the invisible chorus of singers and players, nonetheless spectacular in their warm-up. The Symphony was rich and full, with a soft, thrumming, low Basso continuo provided by a bee section, or was it the residual effect of traffic noise we had left behind three hours ago in the city? It was hard to tell.
The soloist for the evening seemed to be an Oriole, but we could not be sure. His intonation was a little faulty, he was not always spot on the note, and he seemed to deviate slightly from the main theme- a jazz enthusiast rather than classically trained perhaps, but his diction was clear with an unsurpassed purity of tone and diction.
The ubiquitious dove section could have toned it down - their strident sound is far too well known to us in the city and we were hoping for something rarer.
Visually we were delighted by the appearance of the conductor on the second night - a magnificent fish eagle, swooping low over our heads on his fine feathered wings. Strangely the chorus shut up when he appeared, right down to a sotto voce.

Unfortunatley the cricket chorus then took that as a sign that they now had carte blanche to dominate, and proceeded to do so with gusto, even taking up residence in our bedroom, where one of their number had an unfortunate encounter with a slipslop.
Here is a short video of the invisible birds (about 2mb)

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