Babies welcome at Spitalfields next week
I asked Zoë why she chose the lyrebird to provide very young children with their first music theatre experience. Like many of us, Zoë first discovered the lyrebird through David Attenborough’s Life of Birds. “Ever since I saw that clip on YouTube I knew I wanted to work the lyrebird into one of my shows. I was inspired by the incredible mimicry, this bird that could imitate anything from other species to camera shutters.
“It was also very moving, because this particular bird was imitating chainsaws, too, creating a record of the destruction of its own habitat.”
So how did this become the inspiration for Musical Rumpus? “I’ve been specialising in early years music, but I’ve also recently completed a Masters in Human Ecology, and I realised the lyrebird is some kind of metaphor for creative development.
“It’s an abstract piece, but it is based around the idea of the bird doing what children do, borrowing material and creating their own language. Eventually it comes together in a developing language of words and song.”
The 50-minute work casts the children as a “roving chorus”, gathering sounds from three different environments: home, city and forest, and creating their own song. Parents are invited to engage, too. Some, Zoë says, are a bit frightened, uncomfortable with letting go and simply being, but most get wrapped up in a shared experience with their babies.
Lyrebird is one of the award-winning Musical Rumpus series of interactive operas created by Zoë and her team, which includes Sam Glazer (music & musical director) and Sophia Lovell Smith (designer).
A Spitalfields Music production supported by Arts Council England, Dunard Fund, Esmeé Fairbairn Foundation and Paul Hamlyn Foundation
And for a reminder of what the real lyrebird sounds like, here's one that lived in Adelaide Zoo, imitating kookaburras, whipbirds, and a pair of jobbing builders.